English etiquette and politeness is unlike any other that I have witnessed. It is so extreme that their need to exercise great self-restraint and display duteous politeness can sometimes be confused by other cultures, even Australia’s, as unemotional or rude.
Besides always displaying a “stiff upper lip” (probably why they don’t smile in public very often), the one thing that epitomises the English above all else is their etiquette and the pride they have in their manners.
Many foreigners come to London for travel, to experience the culture or to work, but no one arrives expecting the phenomenon of the English queue, the unspoken rule that you cannot speak to others on the Tube, and the biggest topic of all conversations — the weather.
But no matter what the season or time of the day, the English will always mind their Ps and Qs. They will politely ignore someone acting strangely in public and go out of their way to open doors for women and even hold them open for men.
While some might think it normal, English people would never dream of talking to a random person in the street, or tell someone they had green spinach in their teeth, for this would make others uncomfortable.
Have travellers confused this with being artificial and unfriendly? Are Londoners too polite to be considered friendly?
Visitors to London, if you are trying to make a friend in London, my recommendation to you is to be amused at their persevering politeness and simply start a conversation about the weather, nothing gets English folk more excited than talking about the unrelenting rain or unseasonable sunshine.
Brits and their rare sun
Speaking of which: another peculiarly British practice you may find amusing is when the sun comes out. At the first sign of sun English people strip off jackets and socks, roll up the pants and the sleeves and find a piece of grass, a wall or a bench to sit and bathe in the glow of the rarely seen sun. Such sunbathing seems to be a pastime that comes a close second to drinking tea, usually in the late morning, early afternoon or both, and sometimes served with scones and cucumber sandwiches.
Read more of Jacquie’s experiences as an Aussie expat in the UK:
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