Visiting the UK for the first time? Here are 12 amazing cultural facts you should learn first before traveling to the UK.
1. England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom are different things
These three terms tend to be used interchangeably, but confusingly, they do not mean the same thing. England refers to the country itself. Great Britain includes the mainland (England), Scotland, and Wales. The United Kingdom (UK) includes Northern Ireland under its umbrella.
So when we say “things to know before visiting the UK”, we’re including trips to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland too.
2. Tea is the answer to everything
Feeling down? A cup of tea might lift you up. Feeling happy? Let’s celebrate over a cup of tea. Feeling angry? Perhaps tea can help you calm down. Tea is their national drink and their love for this beverage shows everywhere you go. So if someone offers you a cup of tea, take that as a way of saying “I care”.
3. “A quick pint” isn’t quick at all
If someone invites you to the nearest pub for a “quick pint”, prepare to cancel the rest of the day’s plans. Having a “quick pint” means sitting in a pub and drinking numerous pints of beer until the wee hours of the night.
4. Be prepared for odd greetings
Don’t be offended when someone calls you a duck in the UK: it’s common to hear a variety of strange greetings when you meet local people. “Alright pet” is a common greeting in Newcastle; “Ey up duck” is the standard greeting in Derby”; and “Hiya” is an informal greeting used throughout the country.
5. Expect rainy days
The weather in the UK is quite unpredictable. Avoid letting your day out be ruined by packing an umbrella, waterproof shoes, and water-resistant layers just in case you’re caught in one of the UK’s famous drizzles.
6. Universal etiquettes are a big deal in the UK
There are universally-applied social norms around the world. These include holding the door for the next person, letting people go off the train, bus, or elevator before making your way in, standing on the right side of the escalator to let rushing people use the left side, and falling in line patiently. In the UK, these are mandatory and you’ll get angry stares if you don’t comply:
- Don’t but in line or skip a queue
- Don’t pass through a door without holding it for the next person
- Don’t stand on the left side
- Don’t be late
- Don’t rush your way into the train, bus, or lift without letting people go off first
- Don’t sit at the dinner table unless you’re asked to
- Don’t be loud in public places
7. There’s no such thing as a standard “British accent”
The lovely “British accent” we hear in British history-drama fiction movies is actually more diverse than we initially throught. All across the country, multiple regional accents are recognisable and diverse. To name a few, we have Scouse, Geordie, and Cockney dialects.
8. The names of regional cuisines may be confusing
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see a “black pudding” label in a breakfast buffet in a hotel in Sheffield? You’d probably think you’ll enjoy some sweet, soft, and jiggly dessert. Unfortunately, black pudding is blood sausage, made from pig’s blood.
So if you’re dining in the UK, be mindful of these terms:
- Yorkshire Pudding: A batter souffle, often served with gravy alongside roast beef.
- Full English: A hearty breakfast consisting of bacon, sausages, beans, egg, mushroom, grilled tomato, black pudding, toast, and hashbrowns.
- Brown sauce: A sauce made with tomato, dates, apples, tamarind, spices, molasses, vinegar, and spices.
- Welsh Rarebit: Contains 0% rabbit. A great version of cheese on toast.
9. People drive on the left side of the road
Renting a car in the UK? It doesn’t matter if you’re a great driver: if you belong to the 70% of people in the world who drive on the right side, then you’ll get confused. The English nation drives on the left side, with the driver’s seat on the right side of the car. If you’re not used to this setting, it might be safer to hire a driver or take the public transportation instead.
10. Train prices are expensive
Speaking of public transportation, the train fares in the UK are quite pricey. Believe it or not, you can actually save more by hiring a car or a coach.
11. Master the two taps
The rest of the world uses one tap, which may be installed with a heater to offer hot and cold water. In England, they use two. Expect for freezing cold yet drinkable water streaming from the cold tap and scalding hot water streaming from the hot tap. Hopefully, this piece of information saves you from accidentally burning your hand when trying to wash using the hot tap.
12. Pub food should be ordered at the bar
In restaurants, you’re expected to sit and have the server come to your table to take your order. Pubs, unlike restaurants, require you to approach the bar to order your food. Then, you need to remember your table number. Hopefully sooner or later, your plates of warm and hearty fares will be delivered to your table.
Author Bio: Carmina Natividad is a self-proclaimed foodie and content writer who hates being locked up at home. She may be an awkward introvert but she’s got a lot to say about travel, food, and cultural appreciation. To know more about hotels and travel blogs, you may visit Leopold Hotel Sheffield.