Etiquette – United Kingdom Part II

Happy Tuesday!  

Yes, there is a Part II of yesterday’s post. The United Kingdom has many manners and etiquette that should not be missed when doing business, living, or visiting.  

Here’s Part II on the United Kingdom Etiquette:

TABLE MANNERS

Photo credit: Great British Mag

Good manners at the dining table are essential in Britain. It is quite likely that you will find British table manners strange when you first arrive in the UK and it will take you a while to get used to them. Here are some pointers to help you:

  • Unless your host instructs you to start eating immediately, wait until everyone has been served their food until you start eating.
  • If you are dining in a group and food is shared, put others’ needs before your own. Offer to serve food to your neighbors first, and do not take too much; leave enough for others, and do not take more than you can eat.
  • If you are right-handed, your knife should be held in your right hand, and your fork should be kept in your left hand. If you are left-handed, it is becoming more acceptable to hold your knife and fork the other way around.
  • Cutlery should be rested on the sides of the plate between mouthfuls and together in the ten o’clock to 4 o’clock position when you are finished with prongs of the fork facing down.
  • Never talk while there is food in your mouth.
  • Do not eat noisily. In the UK, people eat very quietly, almost silently when eating. It will seem very strange if you make a lot of noise while you eat. Take small mouthfuls, keep your mouth closed when you chew and swallow delicately. When drinking, soup do not slurp.
  • Eat slowly. Eating quickly and/or overeating makes you appear greedy.
  • If you are staying with a homestay, you should wait until everyone has finished or you are told to leave the table. If you really need to leave, you can ask to leave the table.

DISCUSSING MONEY

Unlike in most countries, discussing how much you earn, something costs (anything from the value of clothes, up to the price of a house) has traditionally been a strictly taboo subject.  Sometimes British people find it embarrassing to discuss money and it can be seen as rude.

Avoid discussing money at all costs, especially if you meet someone new.  

CHIVALRY

Photo credit: ohsuzeq.tumblr.com

Chivalry is seen as a very British trait and a unique feature of a gentleman. I mean, who can resist a chivalrous man, right?

In modern-day British Etiquette, chivalry is still an admired trait. However, men must be careful that their chivalrous behavior isn’t patronizing to some modern independent women. 

RESPECT AUTHORITY FIGURES

When a teacher, your homestay, or anyone in a position of authority asks you to do something, you must respect them and do it unless it’s illegal, unethical, or immoral. It is very rude to disrespect people in authority. If you do not understand something about UK culture, then ask.

In some countries, it may be considered respectful to look at the floor when you are being told off. In the UK, this would be regarded as a rude and disobedient gesture. When people are talking to you, even to tell you off, they expect eye contact.

HANDSHAKES

A good firm, handshake, accompanied by good eye contact, is perfect. 

SWITCH OFF YOUR MOBILE

It is insulting to use your mobile when eating at the dinner table. In the UK, dinner time is a time for talking and chatting with family or friends. Also, put your mobile away when meeting up with business colleagues.  

TEA

Photo credit: Elle Australia

In the UK, tea is an integral part of everyday life. It is part of many British people’s daily routine and serves many social functions. Tea has a long history in Britain.

Afternoon tea is a big tradition in the UK, and it’s worth having an afternoon tea while you are in Britain. 

Here are some tips on the polite way to drink tea in the UK:

  • If you are in a group, you may be served a pot of tea. If the pot is placed near you, it is polite to pour tea for the rest of the group.
  • Tea should be poured first, milk, and sugar added afterward.
  • Avoid clinking the teaspoon against the china or tapping it against the edge of the cup as well as swirling your teaspoon creating a whirlpool. It should be mixed quietly from twelve o’clock to six o’clock – refinement is key.
  • If your tea is too hot to drink, don’t blow on it. Wait patiently for it to cool.
  • Never slurp tea!
  • When drinking look into the cup
  • The most common way of preparing a scone is to cut it in half, spread it with jam first, then add butter on top.

If you made it to this part of the post, congratulations! This was a long one, but worth avoiding an embarrassing moment.  

Did I miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.

Sending warm tea vibes! 💋

Feature photo credit: Instagram BPpGbd6Acec

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8 Comments

  1. Kirsty

    Hi, I’m from the UK and I enjoyed reading your post.

    If you go out for afternoon tea at a restaurant or hotel, many offer alternatives such as coffee. I swapped my tea out for coffee last time because I prefer it. I spent years thinking I didn’t like tea, when what I really didn’t like was tea with milk. Most English people drink tea with milk, but if you don’t like it, try it without and your teatime experience may be a lot better!!

    I was interested to read about the knife and fork. As a child I was always told they must be put together facing up from the bottom of the plate when you’ve had all that you want to eat, but it could be that my family got it wrong.

    I really wish my partner, friends and colleagues would follow the mobile phone rule during dinner, but sadly the vast majority of people do not!

    1. IngridMadisonAve

      Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, I totally agree on the mobile phone etiquette during dinner. It’s like holding up a newspaper in front of someone.

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