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Manners Maketh Man – How important is politeness in the UK?

April 3rd 2018


politeness in the uk

One of the best words that would describe British culture is politeness. But, how important is it in the UK? Here you will find a very useful, 5-step guide to having the manners of a Brit!

The expression “Manners Maketh Man” was first used by William Horman in much of his writing. It means that politeness and good manners are essential to humanity.But, what does politeness mean to a Brit?

Here are five easy steps to understanding it:

  1. Punctuality:

British people value punctuality. It is considered rude to show up late to an appointment. If you are running late, or you can’t attend, you should let the person know, taking the time to contact them. Even being five minutes late to the pub is not considered polite!

  1. Three Magic Words:

While talking with British people, the words that you will hear the most are “sorry”, “please”, and “thank you”. People use these words in many ways. It is common to say “sorry” if you accidentally bump into someone (even if it wasn’t your fault!). Also, you should say “thank you” to any one that is giving you a service such as when the waiter gives you your coffee. You should even say thank you to the bus driver as you get off the bus.

  1. Tipping:

It is not compulsory to tip someone, as it often is in the United States, but it’s commonly done to appreciate good service. When getting a taxi, for example, customers usually round up the price (e.g. the taxi costs £8, the customer gives £10 and says “Keep the change”). The standard amount to tip in the UK is usually around 10%.

  1. Greeting:

When meeting new people, the normal form of greeting is a firm handshake – whether you are meeting a man or a woman. In the past, this form of greeting would have accompanied a “How do you do?”, which is not a question and should be answered by another “How do you do?” Nowadays, it is more common to simply say “Nice to meet you”.

  1. Visiting:

It’s important to arrange times to visit people and not just arrive whenever you want with no warning. It is very common to hear British people saying “Pop in for a cup of tea whenever you want” but it is generally understood that the other person will not do this without warning.

To conclude, The British are very polite when compared with other cultures. This means that people will use the “three magic words” or standard “nice to meet you” greeting, even if they don´t mean it. At the same time, British politeness reduces the risk of confrontation that may occur in other cultures in scenarios such as when someone jumps the queue!

I hope this guide has helped you to have a closer look at British culture and guide you through some of the situations that you will face in the UK.

Can you think of any other situations in which you’ve encountered British politeness? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow us on social media, so you can enjoy our content!