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THE UK: Destination Guides - Must read

Common cultural misconceptions about the UK

As much as we try to, it’s hard to shed preconceived ideas of a place when we get there to see it for ourselves. Here are three common cultural misconceptions about the British, their behaviour and way of life you should know before studying abroad

Queuing in the UK
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When most people think of Britain, they conjure images of gents in top hats, sipping tea and speaking the Queen’s English. They imagine warm pints, endless queues and people too conservative and polite to take seriously. This narrow idea of British life is damaging and prevents us from understanding what living like a Brit really means. Dispelling the following myths will no doubt make it easier for you to understand British culture, and make British friends abroad.

 

Everyone takes after the Queen

While the Royal Family are adored by many in the UK, you may still encounter a small proportion who aren't fans of Charlies, William and Kate too and just enjoy the day off from work when there is a big Royal celebration. That is not to say that you should badmouth the Royals as coming from a foreigner, this might not be taken well.

Also there is a misconception that that the Brits either speak like the Queen or cockney (which automatically covers everyone who is working class). You'll find that there is a whole spectrum in between, covering regions around the British Isles - some of the most identifiable include the Liverpudlian, Manc and West County accents. Plus, if you're at university, you'll come into contact with students from around the country (and the world).

Take a look at this video tour of UK accents up and down the country. What are you likely to encounter?

 

Conservative

Brits are commonly classed as being ‘too polite’ or ‘too reserved,’ especially in relation to their apparent love of queues. Even the famed British sense of humour can be taken as lacking in warmth.  To an outsider, British social behaviour can seem unfriendly.

But really, it’s just a new set of rules for how things are done and understood in British culture. British people do not love queues; they are simply taught to form them as a measure of politeness and respect for each other. Just because a Brit seems standoffish at first, it doesn’t mean you won’t become steadfast friends in the future, granted you’re a little patient. Appearing ‘too forward’ or ‘too pushy’ is a big no-no for Brits, particularly in the world of dating.

The ‘dry’ British sense of humour relies on sarcasm and irony, and often contains pop-cultural references that may be hard to digest for someone new.  But once you know your new friends are just being sarcastic and mean no offence, you can take what they say in jest.

 

Queue Enthusiasts

Forming an orderly queue and patiently waiting your turn, sometimes for hours, are also considered typically British habits. This "love of queuing" is often assumed a product of perceived British conservatism: being too polite and reserved to upset the delicate social order.  Whether waiting for the train, bus, bathroom, or turn to use the kettle, queuing is simply considered polite, and ties in with British values of respect for social convention and others. Brits resent waiting in a queue as much as anyone else, but the difference is that politeness teaches them to be aware that everyone else in the queue is miserable, too. With this in mind, we can understand how in Britain, queue-jumping is considered the height of all rudeness.

 

Now that you know a little more about the UK, browse courses available in the UK

 

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About Author

Queuing in the UK

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.

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'Study in the UK' eBook

Enjoy what you’ve read? We’ve condensed the above popular topics about studying in the UK into one handy digital book.