Every country has its cultural taboos. The United Kingdom is no exception. British people are not as fond of religion as we may think but there still exist a few taboos though. Some of them may be shared by other countries. From one country to another what is unacceptable here may be completely fine on the other side of the world. When it comes to British culture, the right behavior could lie in one simple sentence: respect my personal space!
Queue jumping, a cultural taboo
No one likes to wait and what is even worse than waiting, is not being able to see where the waiting line ends or starts (depends on your viewpoint). If you are used to jumping queues or squeezing into a tight group of people in front of the door to be the first to enter, in the UK, forget it! British people, like in a few Asian countries, have a deep sense of order. When you see a line of people find the back of the queue and join it. If you don’t and think that pushing to be closer to the entrance is a good idea you’re wrong. You will only put yourself in trouble as British people will rightfully stock together against you.
British people can be very touchy when it comes to personal space. They cherish it a lot. They will not dare to reject you if you get a little closer but they will for sure feel uncomfortable around you. Respecting a quite large personal space is part of the cultural taboos. It’s particularly striking with physical touch. Kissing on the cheek or hugging may be seen as welcoming and normal in many western countries. The U.K is the exception then. British people are not at ease kissing people they don’t know. A nod or better yet a handshake is enough and shows you are not any danger to them.
Money is a taboo
Another topic part of the cultural taboos in the U.K is money. If in some countries bragging about your income or the money you put in an expensive item is acceptable, this is not the case in the U.K. British people avoid talking about sensitive topics like money as much as possible. You will be considered rude if you ask for example how much someone paid for his/her house. The wealthier you are the more discreet you should be. This cautiousness applies also to gift-giving. It is usually nice to bring something when you are invited somewhere. However, be mindful of your host’s social position, because an expensive gift to a wealthy or powerful man can be seen as a bribe.
Politeness in the cultural taboos
Politeness is a must in every part of the world and maybe even more in the U.K as it has an almost special place in the British cultural taboos. If you planned to live in the U.K be ready to hear the magic little words your mom taught you all the time. The rule is simple: you say “sorry” even when you have nothing to be sorry about. If you want something from someone start with “excuse me”. Finally, no matter if someone just did his/her job because you paid for him/her or it, you must always start the conversation with “please” and finish with “thank you”. Getting this habit of being overly polite won’t cost you too much effort but it can really make your British life better.
If you are from that 80% part of the world where people drive on the right side, know that you’ve been doing it wrong the whole time. At least that’s what you may hear from your British fellows. This has been a never-ending debate for generations. So, for the sake of your relationships do not start complaining about having to drive on the left side. If you are in Rome do like the Romans they say then in the U.K you must accept that the right way to drive in on the left side. No further debate.
Unless you have had a few drinks already you have no reason to be loud. British people appreciate discretion. When you are in a state to control yourself, do so! This is what is expected of you. Blending in must be your number one goal as it seems to be for the majority of British people. No matter what happens, do not stare at anyone and remain quiet. This would bring you more smiles and kindness from the people around you. Definitely more than laughing or talking loudly as if you owned the metro. This behavior can be considered as an invasion of their personal quiet space.
Not being gross can be considered part of some universal cultural taboos. The difference lies in the definition of what is gross. In the U.K, some people would say that pretty much everything is considered gross. You should not burp in public, pass gas, and pick your nose. Also, avoid spitting in the street, talking while you’re eating, yawning or coughing with an opened mouth, and eating off a knife when having a meal. That should be all. Some of those are quite common in other western countries but not in all countries. For example, talking while eating can be fine in some African countries, and in China spitting in the street is acceptable.
A cultural taboo is not something that can be easily debated as it is often part of the customs of a cultural group. Accepting differences, being tolerant, and open-minded are very important in our cosmopolitan world. However, if you are planning to live in a foreign country like the U.K for example, you might need to get rid of some of your home habits to fit in more into that new society. This is a little guide for you to appear a little more British.