13 things every visitor to Britain should know!

So we all know that every culture has its own quirks, idiosyncrasies and stereotypes and Great Britain is no exception. From pub rules to staying safe on the streets, we've compiled our list of essential knowledge for all visitors to the UK!

umbrella1. Always carry an umbrella and sunglasses
There's no point in looking out of the window at the weather. In 5 minutes time it will probably change so be prepared! A small waterproof jacket is a great idea too if you can easily carry one. The seasons sadly can't be trusted which means that summer isn't always hot but it also means that winter isn't always freezing cold so it's not all bad!

2. Pub rules
umbrellaAlthough a drinks bar may have no obvious queue, when you arrive to order drinks it's important to make a mental note of everyone who is already stood waiting to be served. These people will get served before you. If the bar tender mistakenly tries to serve you before someone who arrived before you, tell them. There's nothing that makes a Brit more angry than jumping an invisible queue!

3. Sorry before excuse me!
British folk apologise for everything, regardless of whether they were at fault or indeed whether anyone was at fault! Whether you brush past someone in the street, accidentally tread on a toe, look at someone strangely or simply need to interrupt someone to ask a question, always start with a 'sorry', just in case!

umbrella4. Clarify the pennies
We're extremely proud of the pound but it's probably fair to say that it's not the most straight forward currency to understand! There are 8 coins to familiarise yourself with and the challenge is that the number value of the coin isn't always obvious - especially as they continually bring out 'special edition' coins. Some just have the word 'ten pence' or 'fifty pence' etc. We believe this is a ploy by the British to confuse foreigners who don't speak great English so be sure to study and learn the coins as early as possible!

umbrella5. Queuing
Queuing is not just a stereotype, it's a way of life and we love it. The overwhelming sense of justice that requires each and every person to wait fairly, in turn will compel even the politest little old lady to drag you back to your place with her handbag with a mouthful of abuse. Whether it's a bus stop, a traffic jam, a shop - it doesn't matter. Don't think for a moment you will get away with jumping the queue, that is your place and you must wait no matter how ridiculous it may seem.

6. The loos
umbrellaA 'restroom' is somewhere to have a sit down and a 'bathroom' is somewhere to take a bath. If you need to relieve yourself you need to find a toilet, a loo, a WC, a Ladies (women) or a Gents (men). Toilet doors (especially in quirky pubs or cafe's) sometimes display simply an 'M' or 'F' or just a symbol. Toilet paper can (and should) be flushed.

umbrella7. Stand to the right
Nothing is more likely to get you shouted at than standing in the wrong place on an escalator - especially in London. If you are waiting to go up, you are standing on the right. If you are planning to walk up the escalator then you may pass on the left. There is no excuse for getting this wrong and stressed out business men will ensure that you are aware of it!

8. Public Holidays
Like all countries we have a series of public holidays throughout the year. These days usually involve banks and businesses closing whilst shops are totally packed out. Pubs also get full as many use the opportunity to meet with friends and have a drink. The exception to this rule is Christmas day where nothing happens outside the home. For this one special day, the entire country falls eerily silent, streets are empty and city centres lie abandoned. Public holidays take place on the first and last Monday in May, last Monday in August, 25th & 26th December, 1st January, Good Friday and Easter Monday.

9. Thank your driver
All British children are brought up thanking drivers - be it taxi, bus or other and this tradition is passed down to their children. It's considered rude not to whether you had a comfortable journey or not.

umbrella10. Demand the Water
Our tap water is clean and drinkable. It tastes different in different parts of the country (in London for example it's not very nice) but it's perfectly safe to drink. Restaurants and bars are legally obliged to provide you with tap water if you ask for it. It's often not given out as standard unlike other parts of the world but feel free to ask.

11. Hotel expectations
umbrellaMany hotels, particularly in London have small rooms. In London this is due to the general lack of space and cost of buildings so sadly there is little that we can do about it. Outside of London we are not entirely sure why so many hotels still have small rooms but at least if you expect it you can be pleasantly surprised!

Hotel bathrooms are in interesting one. Firstly, don't expect a plug socket. You may be lucky enough to find a wired in hairdryer or a shaving plug but it's considered way too dangerous to have a plug socket in a bathroom - even though the rest of the world have them. We also have 2 taps, a hot and a cold. Home shops do sell mixer taps but for some reason we prefer not to break with tradition and make sinks with 2 taps so that you can never wash your hands with running water the right temperature.

umbrella12. Don't fear the pub
We have many restaurants of all shapes, sizes and cuisines. Curry is now our national dish and we have an absolute abundance of Indian, Chinese and Italian restaurants especially. However, if it's a cheap food and a British experience you are after, go to the pub. Unlike bars in many countries which are places for drinking alcohol and unsavoury characters, most of our pubs these days are more like family restaurants. Smoking is not allowed, children are welcome and often well catered for both in menu and facilities and the food is cheap. Most pubs will do a lunch time or evening deal and this is the place to get a big meal of good food at a low price in a relaxed environment. You will likely need to go and order your food at the bar though. Chip shops are a great option if you're on the move. A standard fish and chips or pie and chips will be of a similar standard wherever you go and it's the cheapest hot meal you will find anywhere - usually costing between 3-4 pounds for fish and chips.

13. Metric or Imperial?
Technically Britain has gone metric. Children are taught the metric system and many only know metric measurements. However, despite our metric boasts, we still drive in miles per hour, we still tell the doctor our weight in stones and pounds, and we have no idea whether a tonne is a metric or imperial tonne. Brits have a secret code for all measurements, we are intuitively programmed to know whether a measurement is in imperial or metric and we don't like to publish the code (I heard the government don't allow it) so the rules are, don't assume either way, just ask.


By Ruth Lancey, GBT Team member

Date: 2017-11-28 13:12:59