10 fascinating facts about British life and culture that no one tells you
Updated: Jun 30
You're coming to Britain to work/study and wonder what British people are like and how you can settle in and quickly adapt to a new environment. This post is especially for you.
I came here to study and then stayed here for work. It took me a while to learn the British life and appreciate the cultural differences. Truth to be told, I'm still learning new things every day. Here are top 10 fascinating facts that I've observed and learnt from my time living here and hopefully they will help you in your journey here.
They are overly polite You'll notice that British people say 'sorry' a lot. They apologise even when it's not their fault. A friend of mine recently apologised to me for having a small bleed on his face because it wasn't nice for me to see (!?). What does it mean for you if in your country people tend to be straightforward and not diplomatic? This means that you may come across as rude in some situations if you're not subtle or observant enough. But don't worry too much, all it needs to to pay a little extra attention.
They drink a lot of tea British people drink a lot of tea. Some people drink 10 or even more cups of tea a day and I'm not talking about small sized cup, I'm talking about a massive mug. Excessive, I know. They, however, beg to differ. So don't be surprised if you are often offered a cup of tea.
They look at you as if you were from another planet if you don't drink tea with milk I initially thought I should link this fact with number two. However, I decided that it deserved a paragraph of its own. British people would look at you as if you were from another planet if you said that you would like a cup of black tea - which means no milk and no sugar. I used to ask for black tea when my colleagues offered to get me a drink. Every single time they looked surprised and double checked 'you're sure you don't want any milk or sugar?'. And when I said 'I'm sure', they gave me a weird look. After having the same conversations with so many different people and being given the look so many times, I grew really tired of it and decided to have my tea with milk. Guess what, it actually tastes nice!
They argue about how to have cream tea - jam first or cream first? To understand this fact, you should know what cream tea is. A cream tea is a light meal which consists of tea taken with scones, clotted cream and jam. This traditional specialty comes from Devon and Cornwall and both regions claim that their way of having cream tea is the best. In Devon, people put cream first whereas Cornish people put jam first. It seems like a silly thing to quibble over. But you'll be surprised to see how much people are divided over this, especially people from Devon and Cornwall (there is always a bit of rivalry between these regions and it's not just over cream tea!). My personal opinion? As long as I have a lot of clotted cream on my scone, I don't care.
They love to queue They queue for everything. It doesn't matter how long the queue is, they'll patiently queue. And when somebody cuts the queue, they would get really annoyed and complain to the people around them about how rude the person is but most of the time they don't confront the queue jumper (maybe too polite?).
Everyone is out when the sun is out If you live in England, you'll soon realise that the weather is very unpredictable and more often that not it's grey, rainy and windy, even during spring and summer. So when the sun is out and it's warm outside, everyone rushes out to sunbathe. Case in point, during lockdown, a lot of people ignored the lockdown rules and went out to enjoy the sun.
English people love their pets Of course, not everyone loves and has pets, but in general, having a pet is very common here and pet owners really love their pets. In other countries, it may be common for pets to have a passive role in the family. For example, people have dogs to guard their house off burglars and cats to scare mice away. Things, however, are different here. Pets are considered companions or family and they have a much active role in the owners' life. People embrace their pets in their lives and some even in their mouths. I have cats of my own, absolutely adore them but I would never share a drink or food with them or kiss them on the mouth. Cultural difference I suppose?
They love quizzes Britons are obsessed with quizzes. If they are not in the pub competing with their neighbours, they are probably at home watching TV quiz shows. At work there are always some sorts of quizzes going on to give you a break from work and also to test your brainpower.
They have a drinking culture Most Britons I've met enjoy drinking and they drink at a lot. This is probably why people love pub quizzes so much because they come with the two things they love: drinking and quizzes! Sometimes it feels like unless you have a drink on your hand you won't have fun. And it's fairly normal to see people drink way beyond their limit. I struggled with this for quite some time as my country is more of a food culture.
They drive on the left side of the road I found it very confusing when I first started driving here. It took me a while to get used it but sometimes I still walked to the passenger seat. But as the Britons would say, they definitely drive on the "right" side of the road (Did I mention that they also love to make a pun? )