Anyone who has an interest in British culture (and even those that don’t) have probably heard about some of the more common traditions here, like being offered a cup of tea everywhere you go and being told to “mind the gap” (or your head, or the step, etc.) But I’ve been completely taken by some that I wasn’t aware of before we moved here a few months ago. I hope to share some of my favorites as time passes.
Here are a few observations I’ve made so far:
Lending libraries: I think this is my favorite, perhaps because I use them frequently. Occasionally, at a shop’s entrance or exit, you’ll find a little stack of used books along with a jar for spare change. You’re invited to pick up a book and keep it, as long as you drop a few coins in the bucket (usually 50 pence is suggested) for charity. You’re also encouraged to share any used books you’d be happy to part with for the next person. My village shop has one, but I also see them at big box stores like Home Base. I think it’s equally adorable, generous, and practical. I’ve picked up a few good reads this way.
The courtesy wave: One of the more challenging aspects of driving here (I’ll save the rest for a separate post!) is that many two-way streets only have enough space for one car at a time. So you’re often stopping in the middle of the street to let the car coming at you space to get through. The accepted practice is to give the driver who stopped a wave.
Calling children “cheeky.” This is one I often hear, given the naughty nature of my two little boys. I love when people can accept children’s abundant energy and laugh off some of the crazy behavior with a simple, “what a cheeky little boy!” Kids will be kids the world over… leave it to the British to have such a charming term for it.
“Anti-social behavior.” Speaking of charming terms, guess what public intoxication is called here? Anti-social behavior. The first time I heard it, I couldn’t fathom it as a way of describing what are typically lewd acts! And you might even argue that a few too many pints at the pub is quite social, not anti-social. Ha!
Signing off with “xx.” Perhaps this is new with the dawn of social media, but all of my British friends and acquaintances sign off messages with “xx.” It reminds me of what I might have written in a note to a boyfriend in middle school: xoxo. I think it’s a lovely little way of showing someone a bit of written affection.
What are some interesting British cultural observations that you’ve made? Let us know in the comments!