Please sign in to post.

Good Etiquette (non-ugly American sort) in the UK...help!!!

Okay, I'm a 31 yeard old American guy who is taking a vacation to the UK and Ireland (Dublin) this year. I myself do not typify what people call the ugly American at all, and not as if I want to 'blend in', but I want to meet and converse with the wonderful people of these cities and beyond, but I want to make sure as soon as the dreaded "A" word comes out my mouth that I"m not viewed in a bad way (unless I've given them reason to, which I plan on NOT doing)...If anybody could help me with general etiquette for this kind of that that would be much appreciated,...Either somebdody who's been there or somebody from there would be great....i prefer my real email which is phaseshifter180@yahoo.com but you can tag me here as well...Thank you all very much in advance! Any help would be greatly appreciated...

Eric

Posted by
2779 posts

Eric, we're in the same age group. Just be real, be yourself and you'll be fine. Realize that European countries have been well-functioning countries (most of them at least) for much much longer than the US. You will be fine!

Posted by
8995 posts

The one thing that seems to bother Europeans the most is how loud we tend to talk; even in one-on-one conversations. Also in the UK it is considered a bit rude to ask a local what they "do for a living"; its best to let them bring up the topic of work first.I find a good way to get the locals to open-up is to bring up soccer; even with the ladies:) Women like to talk about national teams; men like talking about club teams more...let them educate you. If you want to hear a funny monologue about loud Americans on the Paris Metro go to this site: http://tinyurl.com/3doorw Click "full episode" and fast forward to 44 minutes. BTW, its not a good idea post your email address on a message board; you'll will be bombarded with spam very quickly.

Posted by
12040 posts

Oh, yeah, the XX-XY factor. A rather large cultural difference is that in Europe, "pub" is short for "public house", not "meat market". If you're looking for the latter, don't confuse it with the former!

Posted by
658 posts

I'd love to help you out. The trouble is that no matter how well you behave you still can't avoid the fact that you're going to encounter plenty of English ( and Scots and Irish and Welsh ) who are ignorant moronic buffoons.

Sadly the USA does not have a monopoly on loutish bores

Posted by
479 posts

Eric, learn to say things like "dontchaknow" and "aboot" and then you could pass for a Canadian. Living so close to Canada, the people around here (including myself) have a Canadian accent. Sometimes it comes in handy in Europe.

Posted by
12040 posts

With the exception of one specific time period in Macedonia, I have never encountered any real anti-Americanism in Europe. "American" is not a "dreaded A word". In my experience, most so-called "anti-American hostility" in Europe is really either hostility to obnoxious behavior by Americans, or related to some kind of scam to get money. I can give one European-wide recommendation: Keep your voice volume low, particularly in restaurants and on public transportation. Otherwise, just approach everything with a good, patient and humble (but not apologetic) attitude. But you didn't need me to tell you that, did you?

Posted by
479 posts

I'd echo what Tom said. As he said, you don't need to be quiet and humble because you're being apologetic. It's just that most other Europeans don't talk nearly as loudly in public places. Also, it's just part of American culture to be big, bold and take up as much space as you can. It's not part of European culture. Ultimately, just treat people with the same amount of respect as you would if you were spending the time at a dear friend's house. Also, Americans tend to go overboard with their expectations from the service sector. Americans want to have every single need catered to at every turn on the map. This is not a European value. So keep that in mind. If you want to have every waking moment served on a silver platter then you'd be best to spend the time on a cruise ship in the Caribbean.

Posted by
990 posts

Relax--as long as you are open-minded and willing to try local activities and foods, you'll be fine. My experience is that complaints by foreigners tend to make locals anywhere defensive."There's no ice in my cola!" "The beer here is warm and there's hardly any fizz in it." "Why are all the sausages so bland and greasy?" are not good conversation starters. Even if you think those things, there's no need to share your thoughts publicly. Likewise, "Cricket is a stupid game" is probably not a good gambit, whereas "I really can't seem to understand cricket at all" may well encourage your British conversation partner to respond with, "Don't bother. It's a stupid game."

If you would like a good picture of what the ugly American in the UK would look like, check out the old Fawlty Towers routine where a middle aged American loud-mouth tries to order a Waldorf salad from Basil Fawlty. Priceless...

Posted by
582 posts

Don't even ask nicely for ice in your drink! This sounds weird, but they just hate it when Americans ask for ice!! Their the ones that their voices go up when you want ice. They have fits!! This has happened to me a number of times! They can't understand why we want a watered down drinks and want it extra cold.
Sometimes however, a place will bring you a drink with ice because they know You're American and want to please. I LOVE ice in my drink!! LOL!
Have Fun!!!

Posted by
805 posts

I agree with all that has been said. I have always treated European travel as a reason to try completely different things than I do in the US and as a result I've always had a great time and been treated well. Accept that cultures are different and just roll with the flow.

Posted by
219 posts

I'm surprised the guys who responded haven't mentioned it so far, I guess I, a woman, must. If you're trying to start a conversation w/the gentler & sophisticated 1 w/the XX sex chromosome, be a gentleman no matter what, esp in a foreign country. Her SO & his friends may be lurking nearby. And if she's single, still act like a gentleman. From any woman's perspective, it's always nice to be treated with respect & dignity instead of a potential..... You fill in the blank.

Posted by
710 posts

My husband always seems to get into long converstions in pubs with the locals. My husband is well read in history and current affair. He suscribes and reads an Enlish magazine called "The Economist". There always seems to be somone from all walks of life that enjoy talking their politics and ours. From my own experience most English are more well read about our country then I am of theirs. I just sit back and have fun listening to their conversations. In Ireland we tended to run into families or fellow travelers at the local pubs and had fun trying dart with them. I've had some interesting conversations in laundromats and grocery stores and over breakfast when we stayed at bed and breakfast. The people in the countryside seem to be more open and friendly. I've also had some fun conversations sitting and relaxing on a park bench waiting for my husband. Just be open, friendly, and above all a good listner. People love to talk about themselves.

Posted by
19 posts

Hi Eric,

It bears repeating - speak softly!!!

Also, Europeans generally seem to have a much broader global awareness. Proximity to the continent, the EU, and cheap travel options mean that they seem to be more "sophisticated" about events in other countries than the "average" American. Many folks you encounter will be able and willing to discuss a wide range of issues; be prepared to hear some very different perspectives than you tend to hear from the US media. Do some reading about European events generally and UK and Irish issues specificially so you have some idea about what is on people's minds when you're there. Read some of the books Rick recommends too; a decent understanding of UK and Irish history will serve you well. Keep an open mind and a curious spirit; you'll have the time of your life and maybe make some life long friends.

Posted by
61 posts

When I was in London there seemed to be more cell phone etiquette than in the US. I think the use of text messaging is much more popular there than here. That may fall within the "be quieter in general" category. ( in case you have a cell)

I also think that as American's we tend to get impatient if things aren't fast, fast , fast. You're on vacation- slow down and enjoy it.

And last, please and thank you go a long way- but you already know that too.

Posted by
11973 posts

The only Anti-American sentiment I've run into was from other Americans who were LOUDLY telling the world how much they loathed being American as if that was supposed to ingratiate them to the locals (Closely followed by those pretending to be Canadian).

Speaking softly is a good start.

Knowing please and thank you, sir and maam in the local language and using them often is another good idea.

Understanding that most Europeans can't afford what we're used to is also important. I'm embarassed when I hear American's complaining about paying for a second cup of coffee, not enough ice in their drink, the bathtub being too small or the hot water going cold in their shower after only 15 minutes.

To some it all up, you are a visitor. Behave as a visitor and you'll do well.

Posted by
24 posts

It's my opinion that those concerned with not being an "ugly american", usually are not.

Posted by
808 posts

I've seen some "Ugly Canadians" as well...But I'm not sure what we call them!!
I'd say that mostly just remember that you are a guest and behave accordingly...I too am 30ish and in most cases, you're still young enough to be seen as a son or a daughter to older people and therefore forgiven for most trivial transgressions...Or at least that has often been my experience in the UK and Ireland...
Just keep in mind common courtesy and mind your manners and you'll be fine! I wouldn't worry too much!

Posted by
190 posts

One thing that no one has mentioned yet is that there are some differences in language. Just Google UK/American language differences and enjoy what you find!! So don't call your money belt a fanny pack! Or get offended if someone asks you for a fag or offers you a faggot!! But the vast majority of differences are just funny.

Posted by
211 posts

You'll have a great time, a few things
Usually if drinks are being bought in the U.K. it's done by rounds, instead of each person getting an individual drink.

When you are saying cheers with a drink make sure to look the person in the eye

And thirdly although this may be a generation thing, avoid using the world "love" as an everyday expression. North Americans tend to say I love that, or I love this, or even I love you to a person they don't know all that well, while Europeans tend to use it much less often, as they find it a very powerful word, that if used to much lessens the effect it has.

As an example at my residence in France, the europeans started jokingly saying "I Love You...The American Way" as a way to say that they generally like someone

Posted by
95 posts

Hi Eric, Courtesy & respect goes a long way, regardless of where you are. I've just read an interesting book regarding the behaviour of the Brits, the English especially. It can be quite a comical read, but may prove invaluable to you to help understand (and be prepared for) the behaviour you're apt to witness over there. It also compares several cultures, American included, and may very well provide some insight in greater detail to what the others have posted here. The book is by Kate Fox, titled "Watching the English". Relax and enjoy your trip.

Posted by
359 posts

Wouldn't hurt, Eric, to check what's happening on the soccer (sorry, football) pitch before you go. Great ice-breaker if you know the names of a few of the premier league teams and how they're doing. If you're in a city with more than one team, check the team scarves hanging over the pub's bar to see whose 'patch' you're on. Kinda kidding here, and I wouldn't even suggest you try to figure out how cricket works, but if you're in an Arsenal pub in London and say that Tottenham's your team, it could cost you a pint or two. Don't know when you're heading over, but the UEFA cup (European Football) matches are on right now and you should be able to get scores/standings on ESPN. From reading your post, you won't have any problems whatsover; so long as you don't head to the 'loo' when it's your round at the bar, and follow the advice of the other posters. Have fun, TTFN.

Posted by
8 posts

I'm an American who's lived in England, Italy, and Germany via the military. We love Europe and don't have problems with the people. Here's my advice: Talk softly, if you catch yourself using a British accent...stoooop (I don't know why it happens to some Americans but it does). Europeans are people watchers (they are going to stare but they are not being rude, and you did not grow a third eye...it is entertaining to just "watch people"- what they are wearing, where are they from, will that couple last, etc). Europeans love to have dicussions and debates even with people they barely know (great fun!) However, do not get sucked into enviromental discussions (the US does not fair well at the G8 conferences and europeans are very passionate about the subject) or discussions involving "the war". Anything else is fair game. (Kind of like you don't discuss politics and religion in the US because you will never get the other party to see your point of view)Just be yourself and be polite.