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Feeling nervous...

In RS's Great Britian book it says:

"Europeans generally like Americans. But if there is a negative aspect to the British image of Americans, it's that we are loud, wasteful, ethnocentric, too informal (which can seem disrespectful), and a bit naive."

He gives a tip to speak quietly in restaurants and on trains.

I want to be a respectful and appreciative guest, any other tips for travel in GB?

Thank you :)

Posted by
533 posts

My tip is: Don't worry about it. You'll quickly realize that loud, boorish Brits are actually just as common as loud, boorish Americans. Adhere to your normal standards of politeness - but even if you don't, you're nothing they haven't seen before.

Posted by
6539 posts

kschuhart don't be nervous. Most people will be indifferent to your presence. The people you interact with at hotels, restaurants, tourist destinations, shops, etc., are not looking for conflict, or spending time judging you. Good manners - saying hello, goodbye, please and thank you, make all the difference. You've already noted the key distinction, in not assuming that familiarity and friendliness are valued the same as they are here.

Posted by
223 posts

Speaking as a resident of France, some of the loudest and most boorish tourists I've encountered in
French restaurants have been from the UK. Some are truly and profoundly loudmouthed jerks.

In other words: don't sweat it. I could use a few somewhat more colorful words to describe the behavior of some Brits but I'm not sure it would pass this website's filter.

Posted by
3893 posts

Just be yourself and unless you're one of the people RS described, you won't have any problems.

Posted by
13354 posts

LOL. Some English travel-forum friends I've known for years regularly caution younger compatriots traveling to the U.S. not to be the disruptive, unruly drunks too many of them are at home! :O)

That you've been sensitive enough to ask the question means that you'll be sensitive enough to observe and adjust. You'll be fine!

Posted by
16883 posts

If you're not used to people calling you "Sir" or "Madam," it can make you straighten up and try to fit the name. On the other hand, when checking into a small, family-run B&B, hosts are usually warmly welcoming. And people in pubs can be quite chatty. (I'm sure those topics are discussed elsewhere in the book.)

Posted by
533 posts

If you're not used to people calling you "Sir" or "Madam,"

Depending on where you go, you could just as easily find that everyone starts calling you "me love."

Posted by
644 posts

Oh don't worry, be yourself and have fun. The RS book seems of many years ago. Just don't constantly chant U...S...A... U...S...A... and high 5 everyone you meet and you'll be fine. We love the Americans. Apologies for the stereotype :o)

Posted by
27480 posts

Just don't talk or catch people's eye on the tube.

Or disturb anybody reading a paper, especially on a train.

Posted by
88 posts

Almost literally everyone we spoke to on our trip asked if we were Canadian. Maybe it's because we are quiet introverts. I'm thinking if you aren't loud and sloppily dressed people will just assume you are from Canada. Don't worry.

I thought for sure we would get clocked as Americans with our Southern accents. Nope.

Posted by
3661 posts

Sometimes catching someone's eye is fun. And no nationality has the corner on the inappropriate dress market.

It was a cool and rainy day in London last June. Most people had on jackets and carried umbrellas. I was on the bus, facing a woman fairly close to my own age. We had smiled at each other already.

Soon we stopped and a woman at least 40-50 years younger than us passed between us. To say she was sloppily dressed would be an understatement. She was on the verge of a wardrobe malfunction from the waist up. No jacket, no umbrella and almost no top.

She went on out the door, and my bus mate and I looked at each other and simultaneously rolled our eyes and laughed, quietly of course.

No words were spoken or needed for that chance communication to occur and I have no idea where the other 2 women were from.

Posted by
4649 posts

Just please stand on the right when on the escalator in tube stations. Otherwise, don't worry.

Posted by
1878 posts

I don't think you have the slightest thing to worry about here. Europeans from many countries can be very loud in groups, I think the thing about Americans being loud is overblown. In some parts of the U.S. though people can be more aggressive in their speech patterns and body language. When I called out to my wife in public when she would not have otherwise heard me at louder than normal volume due to traffic noise, people looked around startled as if I just pulled out a machete or something. When rushing to make a train connection, I have also seen startled looks. Europeans sometimes have their antenna up for Americans being superficial or inauthentic in their premature friendliness. You might violate some local norms but people are understanding and they will chalk it up to your being a foreigner, so no big deal.

Posted by
10984 posts

I can't believe he still has that in his books. Sometimes I think secretly he's ashamed of being an American. It seems everything we do is no good.

Just be yourself. Be polite, show your manners, learn a few local "rules" some of which have already been mentioned and go with the flow.

The British are very nice. Chances are, however, that in most major cities if you frequent hospitality industry places--hotels, restaurants, pubs--you will probably be served by people from other EU countries. The UK is becoming, and has been, a true melting pot.

If you're not used to people calling you "Sir" or "Madam," it can make
you straighten up and try to fit the name.

Not sure how many people in London will call you "sir" or "madam." This formality thing is a bit of a myth unless you're staying in a really expensive fancy hotel. "Love" is far more common.

Posted by
27480 posts

yes, they love a lot. No ducks in London. We save them for further north.

Posted by
1172 posts

Almost literally everyone we spoke to on our trip asked if we were Canadian. Maybe it's because we are quiet introverts. I'm thinking if you aren't loud and sloppily dressed people will just assume you are from Canada. Don't worry.

As a Canadian this made me chuckle.....

OP, the fact that you are asking about this leads me to think that you are not the person RS is referring to in his books ;)
I hope this does not offend but I think the other thing to be cautious of is that you will not be in America so do not assume that everything will be like it is 'at home'. Food will be different, accommodations will be different etc. I think people get annoyed when visitors compare everything to how it is in the US.

Posted by
88 posts

I kept comparing everything to America and saying "oh look how much nicer this is than it is in the U.S."

All of the Brits were complaining about the train system and the breakdowns and such. We did experience a problem on our trip to Eastbourne, so I do understand it and how that could be a real pain on a daily basis. But at least they provided a bus to get us to anther station. In the US, Amtrak would have shrugged and offered us a hard wooden bench and a vending machine full of junk food to make use of until they got the problem fixed. No discount or refund or other way to get to where we were going.

Posted by
21 posts

Thanks all for the advice and encouragement.
I am fairly quiet, however, my husband is a middle school band teacher who is used to yelling over a bunch or loud kids and blaring instruments. I am most worried about him, LOL. I will be kicking him under the table a lot I fear :)
So excited for our visit to GB!

Posted by
6258 posts

I've been visiting GB for over 40 years. Primarily London but also" smaller " places such as Durham, Boscombe, Salisbury and Lincoln.

All you need to do when there is to respect the differences and not compare anything to the USA. Two different countries.

Once witnessed a 40 year man from Nebraska rant that he couldn't find a Snickers bar. Wouldn't try a Cadbury chocolate bar instead. Wanted his Snickers and made everyone in the shop aware of it. Clerk was more than polite in dealing with this person as the tourist proved stupid is as stupid does.

Things you will notice and should respect is the quiet on the tube trains, standing to the right on escalators, talking loud in museums isn't the norm, don't jay walk (something you'll realize can cost you your life if you do), crisps are potato chips, french fries are chips, tipping is not expected by your bar person, smoking isn't allowed in any building. If you find a queue (line) wait patiently, don't complain. If wish to use a restroom ask for the toilet or loo. You'll often find them downstairs in building basements.

The bottled water concept isn't as prevalent there. If you want unfizzy water, ask for still. Petrol is gas. If driving get used to roundabouts and understand kilometers.

I keep returning because London is always changing yet always the same. Exciting, innovative city.

I also love the train systems which takes you away from all the hustle and bustle out into the country.

As it appears you are traveling through out GB you'll need to get used to the various accents.

Don't fret. Enjoy.

Posted by
504 posts

When I was quite young in the 1980s, I visited London 3x. On at least two of those visits, my English friends and I went on a pub crawl. I drank quite a lot of cider and sang aloud (Billy Bragg songs, in a fake English accent). No one even batted an eye.

Ah, youth.

You'll be fine.

Posted by
12953 posts

We have spent a lot of time in the UK, especially in London, and have never heard "Sir" or " Madam."

As noted several times above, "Luv" is a common term of address for women ( maybe mainly older women?) especially from food servers. As in "what can I bring you, Luv?". Have to say I like it!

Posted by
2312 posts

Especially during commuter rush hours, the streams of people in the tube stations, and even on nearby streets, can be pretty intent and intense on getting where they are going. If you need to consult your map or a book, or converse, do get out of the way and over to the side, and not stop in the middle of the stream. I suppose it would be polite to not comment that all the cars are driving on the wrong side of the street! It's just their side, not the wrong side. I must admit that the one adaptation I was not able to make was when I approached an intersection, my instincts never knew which way to look for the oncoming traffic. At some busy intersections, there were helpful signs on the street to guide my non-British eyes.

Posted by
10984 posts

I don't know how many times in London I almost walked into the person in front of me because they stopped abruptly to read or send a text.

I'll repeat a few things already stated and some more you may not be aware of:

--on escalators and moving sidewalks-- stand on the right, walk on the left;
--if there is a queue (line), don't cut it. Get in the back;
--if you want a bag at a market or store, it will cost you 5p;
--if you go to a takeaway shop/food store and you decide to eat on the premises be prepared to pay more as they have to charge different VAT if you eat in;
--if using a chip and sign credit card (most U.S. cards these days) , be prepared to show ID.
--condiments in fast foods restaurants cost extra;

and most importantly:
--mind the gap

Posted by
1874 posts

A good thing is that prices include taxes - so the price you see, is the price you pay. The Brit’s find it really annoying that this is not the case in N. America!

Posted by
1063 posts

" If driving get used to roundabouts and understand kilometers."

Eh? It's miles in the UK, kilometers in the rest of Europe.

"Signs show speed limits in miles per hour (mph) or use the national speed limit (NSL) symbol. The speed limit is 70 mph on motorways, 70 mph on dual carriageways, 60 mph on single carriageways and 30 mph in areas with street lighting (restricted roads)."

Posted by
6258 posts

Chagrined and apologetic. Drove to and around the Cotswolds last year. Should have remembered. Sigh. Maybe I was thinking of Northern Ireland.

Posted by
2108 posts

Claiming that many Europeans (names please) like to see the price you see is not the price you pay is stretching a point to almost to breaking point. But top marks for MrsEB for trying. LOL!

Posted by
80 posts

When you go to a pub you order at the bar and then sit down. Don't sit down and expect to be waited on. I can never get used to this.

Posted by
2818 posts

I have yet to meet any European who likes seeing the cost of an item go up 10% over the tag price at the cash register when they are Innthe US. That is what sales tax adds here in Washington. Yes the tax is stated separately on the receipt, but what good does that do them? It is not like Canada where they can get a refund for the GST when they leave.