PEARTREE LIFE: Experiencing Languages

British etiquette and good manners

When travelling it is important to be aware that what is considered good manners in one society may be rude to another. The British are reserved, which may cause them to appear cool and indifferent or overly formal. Actually, they are very friendly and helpful to foreigners!

British etiquette dictates courteousness at all times, which means forming an orderly queue in a shop or for public transport (do not violate a queue, it is considered very rude to push ahead in a line), saying ‘excuse me’ when someone is blocking your way and saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ for any service you have received.
Whether it be in relation to speech, body language or dining, politeness is key, since good manners and etiquette are seen as a sign of respect.

When you first meet someone, it is considered polite to shake hands. Hugging, kissing and touching is usually reserved for family members and very close friends. Do not stand too close to another person or put your arm around someone's shoulder because you may make them feel uncomfortable.

Another example of the British etiquette is the importance placed on punctuality. Being late without notice is considered quite rude. Even if you are going to be late just for five minutes, it is polite to call the person you are meeting with and apologize for your lateness.

Communication is about more than sharing information – it’s also about establishing relationships between people. A helpful hint is using ‘softeners’. These are words or expression that ‘soften up’ your interaction with others. Some examples are ‘would’ and ‘could’: we use them both to soften a request, while we use ‘could’ to also ask permission to do something as well as ‘may’ and ‘might’.
Ex. Open the window. 
       Could you please open the window? POLITE
Ex. Can I..?
       Do you think I could…? POLITE
       May I…? POLITE
Sometimes the higher the degree of politeness the longer the softener.
Ex. Do you think it would be alright if I…? 
Softeners are particularly important to introduce a refusal, an apology or any kind of bad news.
‘I am so sorry…’ / ‘I am afraid that…’ / ‘Wouldn’t it be better if…?’ 
Some other useful softeners, usually used to give an opinion, are ‘possibly’ / ‘perhaps’/ ‘maybe’/ ‘you might consider’ / ‘when you think about it’.
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About Peartree Languages

Peartree Languages is a language school located in Cardiff.


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