Manners: A Glimpse of British Culture

Different countries have different it is manners.During the three months’ study in Brighton,our classmates experienced what is called culture shock.Because it was so diifferent from what we have in our own country.At first we may find it difficult to accustomed to the differences,but gradually we can adjust ourselves well to the completely new environment.In this blog ,Cathy.Joanna.Jane and Jamie took  a glimpse of one aspect of  British culure:manners.We  collaboratively  work on this culture blog .We interviewed native speakers as well as reflected on our own experience.By comparing the manners in Britain with our own,we learnt a lot.


Modern manners: queuing.

In the UK, wherever there is a mass of people you will find an orderly queue. British etiquette dictates that when you arrive, you join the back of the queue so that each person receives the service in the order that they arrived. We wait our turn’ in queues. The notion of an orderly queue relies on everyone in the queue agreeing that this is fair. It is seen as unfair if someone doesn’t join the queue and pushes in.

Queuing can seem very strange if you are not used to it however if you are seen to ‘push in’ it is considered very rude and unfair to other people who have been waiting. If in doubt ask “is this the back of the queue?” to avoid offending anyone.

A common British trait is that despite everybody in the queue being annoyed with someone who has pushed in, very few people will ask that person to go to the back of the queue.  British people do not like to cause a scene by arguing, but likewise, we like people to know we are annoyed in subtle ways.  Instead people will shake their head, roll their eyes, or have an angry facial expression.  They may also complain to the person next to them in the queue.Does the same situation happen in China? No, because from the picture on the right we can observe  that situation in China. Although it is not always but it happens often.


Many people from China find it strange that we say please and thank you as much as English people do. What may surprise you is when you are in a shop, restaurant or anywhere we are receiving customer service, people hardly thank you to the person serving us e.g.

Recently, I was standing in a queue for an automatic cash machine at a station; there were a dozen of us in a long line  of the counter of supermarket  , but no one was queuing at the next-door. I was surprised by their patience and politeness .

Eventually, ateenage girl came along chatting on her phone and, oblivious to all the preceding


Instantly, half of our queue looked at the girl with different expressions on their faces. I noticed, to observe the order in which they had been lining up before. At the same time, though, three or four people ,including myself, stayed resolutely put in our original queue, unwilling to engage in such petty advantage-seeking. After all, some of us still have standards.

Image result for don't lick the knife

There are something interesting when I have dinner with my homestay. I remembered one time I tried to lick the butter on the knife the homestay stopped me immediately, telling me not to do that because it is not polite. And if you drop your knife on the floor, you cannot pick it up for yourself for it will bring your bad luck. So next time you see someone drop the knife on the floor, please pick it up for him or her.

——————————————————- From the talk with my homestay

Manners make a man.

In China,  table manners are also very important. Although we don’t use the fork and knife, we use chopsticks. When having dinner, you should never stick the chopsticks in the middle of the rice which will bring bad luck. Never use chopsticks to point to others, which is a rude behaviour. It’s implite to put your chopsticks into the dishes to pick the food for too long a time.

When the British lay the table, they place a dinner plate in the centre of the setting and lay forks to the left of the plate and knives and spoons to the right. They place the cutlery in the order that it will be used starting from the outside. Knife blades should be facing towards the plate and fork prongs facing upwards.

Image result for lay the table


Wait until everyone is seated before starting to eat.

During the meal, never lick the knife or eat off it. Ask someone to pass the food, rather than reach across the table. If using a knife and fork together, always keep the tines of the fork pointing downwards and push the food on to the fork. Chew with your mouth closed. When drinking, it’s rude to drink noisily. Never speak with your mouth full. Before eating a bread roll, you break it into pieces with your fingers.

When you finish the meal, place your knife and fork together in the “twenty past four” position.

Image result for twenty past four" position
————————————————————————————   From the Internet

Time and punctuality

British people are very strict when it comes to punctuality.In Britain people make a great effort to be on time ,and  it is considered to be  impolite to be late, even a  few minutes.If you are delayed ,be sure to inform the person you are supposed to  meet .There are many situations when you are obliged to be punactual.For formal dinners, lunches or appointments, you always come at the exact time appointed.For public meetings, plays,concerts,movies,sporting events, classes,church services, and weddings, it is best to arrive a few minutes early.You can arrive any time during the hours specified for teas,receptions and cocktail parties.

Even though in Britain it is common to hear expressions like “drop in anytime””come to see me soon”.Believe it or not ,if you are really casual about time ,the host will end up with fury.During my stay in Brighton,I am really impressed by my hostess’s attitude towards time.Once I went back home late after dinner time without telling her.The old lady got very angry.It was the first time I realized the importance of punctuality in their mind.It is hard for Chinese like me to imagine that we need to make sure the schedule with my hostess even a week before.Compare with Chinese,our attitude towards time are much more casual,but I bet you can’t be late for an exam ,a movie or an important meeting.

Yesterday  I talked with my hostess  about time and punctuality.The old lady answered me in a serious tone.”Jamie,You know being punctual is a kind of respect ,but we are still flexiable,for example ,if you are really in an emergency or in a traffic jam,being late is ok.But you must call me in advance so that I won’t wait for you”.From this perspective,we Chinese and British are the same.We are both  flexiable about time and punctuality in terms of somehing unexpected.

Talking about time and punctuality,we still need to reflect a lot.I traveled with some foreigners during  my stay in the UK,they are Koreans ,Spanish,Japanese different nationalities.What surprised me most is that Chinese are always the last to come.It doesn’t mean that I blame our compatriots.But it really shows we need to make some improvement and we should never put ourselves in the first place.Being punctual should be a habit and a good manner embedded in our mind.


Greeting manners in Britain

 Greeting manners 

Greeting manners  is not only  to transform  information  but also to establish  social contact. when  meeting  someone  for the first time,  British people  usually  shake hands, give each other a huge, sometimes kiss each other but kisses are only exchange between close friends whom you haven’t seen for a long time . While in China it is customary to shake hands both for man and woman. we do not kiss each other. I think this is different from China.


British people usually introduce themselves by their first name , such as “hello, I am John”,  and the common response when some one is introduced to you is ” pleased to meet you”.  And British people usually address each other by their first  name no matter how old you are, such as” hello, John”. While Chinese usually introduce themselves  by their full name, such as “hello,  my name is Li Wen”. If you are younger than the person you meet, you can’t address his or her full name directly.  you should add the title before his or her last name, if not, you are thought to be impolite.

When  British people meet someone  waiting the bus at the bus stop in the morning, they will talk about the weather, such as a nice day or anything else while in China people  usually say” Have you eaten your breakfast”.  Actually the people who asked this question don’t care about whether you have eaten or not.This is just a common Chinese greeting around meal time while in Britain it will indicate an invitation to a meal. So be careful when you greet with British.

Different countries have different culture, we should keep these differences in mind. Respect each other and be open.

(From the Internet and my host  family)