The Quirks of The UK-Things You Should Know Before You Visit

Words: Jo Elliott

All countries have their own unique quirks, those little things that make perfect sense to them, but seem a little strange to outsiders. The UK is no exception to this rule.

If you’re planning a move to the UK, or even just an extended visit, here are a few things you might want to know about us before you arrive here:

Tea

Everyone knows about the British obsession with tea…..but did you know that there’s a specific phenomenon of the National Grid topping up electricity for big events because so many people make tea at the same time? It’s called TV pickup and was introduced because the National Grid could not cope with the demand for electricity in big events.

In the UK, tea can mean both the drink and the evening meal, so check when you are offered.

All The Queues

Other countries might do queues, but none are as obsessed with it as we are. Queuing is a national pastime. We queue for everything, even the bus! And the British will bring down their wrath on you if you ever commit the unthinkable offence of skipping the queue. Well okay, we don’t like confrontation, so we’ll just “tut” at you…..but that’s basically the same thing.

Accents

There is no one single “British accent”. If you come to the UK expecting everyone to sound the same, you will be wildly disappointed. As well as the differing accents for the different nations of the UK (English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish), there are also many different regional accents within that. Even regions in close proximity to each other can have wildly different accents, so beware, a “British” accent might not be what you think it is.

Tube Etiquette

It’s an unwritten, unspoken rule that when travelling on the Tube (London Underground), you do not speak to anyone. Even people you know. It may look or feel awkward, travelling in complete silence, but do not try to break the silence. You will make it worse.

TV Licenses

You can’t just buy a TV, turn it on and be done with it. In the UK, in order to watch live TV, you need a TV license. This is a £150 charge to cover the running of the main broadcasting network, the BBC. If you do not pay this, you could face a hefty fine, or even jail time.

The Weather

The UK is obsessed with the weather as a country. If it is even slightly different from the norm, then it will make national news. If it’s too hot, or too cold: expect your resident Brit to note it, and complain vigorously.

Apologies

Someone bumps into you? You apologise. Waiter gets your order wrong at a restaurant? “I’m sorry to bother you…”

We will apologise for anything and everything, even when it’s not our fault and it can lead to a chain of apologising. In the end, you’re honestly not sure who was meant to apologise in the first place.

Politeness

Manners are incredibly important in British society. We will be polite to everyone, even if we are being rude, we will still do it in a polite way because we don’t like causing a fuss. We will wait for you to open a door, but if you do not acknowledge our politeness, then we will remind you by saying “Thank you” or “You’re welcome” or yet worse….the dreaded British “tut”, the highest sign of disapproval.

Measurements

We can’t decide whether to use the metric or imperial system, so we use both. Why have one, when you can have both after all? So whilst we might use Celsius for temperature, we will still use miles for our speed limits and feet and inches for height rather than metres and centimetres. And you may even find people who swap and change between the two. If it confuses you, don’t worry, it confuses us too.

Congratulations, you are now one step closer to becoming an honorary Brit. We’ll have you apologising for no reason and constantly complaining about the weather in no time!

Originally Published at https://capechameleon.co.za/the-quirks-of-the-uk/ on January 21st, 2020.

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