If you are heading to Britain in the near future, whether that’s for a city break in Edinburgh, a hiking trip in the Lake District, to take an English course in London or enjoy a seaside holiday in Devon, you will probably have many preconceived ideas about the Brits. Britons, like most nations, have picked up some common stereotypes. Whether they are true or not, it is worthwhile finding out what the myths are and how to approach them. This is the first step to getting to properly know the Brits, before you get to witness the hearsay through your own eyes.
Brits drink a lot of tea
This myth is completely true. The vast majority of Brits drink tea (that´s English breakfast tea with milk) everyday and usually more than one cup. On average every Briton will drink 2.3 kg of tea per year. And, although drinking coffee is becoming increasingly popular, most Brits still love a good cuppa. To try to get to know the Brits, ask people to “come round for a cuppa” meaning to invite somebody to your home to have a cup of tea and a chat. Such kindness is likely to go along way… especially if it’s accompanied with a chocolate biscuit.
Brits always form an orderly queue
This is another true stereotype. The British will form an orderly (usually no more than three abreast) in any situation. That means at bus stops, in supermarkets and, even, whilst waiting to get into a nightclub. Those who don´t abide by these unspoken social rules will not be kindly received. However, most Brits are not likely to shout anything at you (that would be very un-British) but instead look and huff and puff about the “rude” queue jumper.
All Brits are heavy drinkers
A common attitude towards Brits abroad is “come on, you’re British, you´ll want to have plenty to drink”. This to some extent is true as a strong binge drinking culture has developed, especially amongst students and young people. However, not all Brits get drunk on a weekly basis. Many people choose not to drink or only to drink small quantities. It is worth remembering however, that a very popular pastime is going to the pub for a pint.
Brits love to talk about the weather
This is a very widely known stereotype, which actually transpires to be true. Most Brits will speak about the weather at least once a day and this is because it is the most popular small talk topic. Brits are a little obsessed about the weather due to the long cold, dark winters and the often very wet summers. So, when you want to strike up a conversation with a Brit, the weather is a safe subject of choice… either that or football.
Brits are football hooligans
This unfortunate myth is strictly not true. Although it may have been the case in the 1970s, only a small number of British football fans engage in hooligan-style behaviour nowadays i.e. fighting and overly-aggressive behaviour. However, football is the national game and strikes up large amounts of local pride and unity and forms an important part in millions of the people´s lives. Going to Premier or lower league football match, especially if it is a derby (two teams from the same area) is a great experience full of passion and excitement.
Brits have a good sense of humour
The popular opinion amongst some foreigners and the success of British comedy franchises would indicate that this is the case. The British tend to try to make light of the majority of situations and to be able to get to know them, you must try to not take jokes too seriously. Taking the “mickey” out of your friends is a normal occurrence and is done in an affectionate manner. British sense humour is very sarcastic, ironic and self-deprecating, give it some time and you might start to see the funny side too.
Brits are evil
Although it may be the way the Americans create evil characters in the movies, by using a strong English accent to make the actor or animation appear more “evil”, the British are, in reality, not necessarily unfriendly or nasty people. Of course there are a few and everyone has bad days, but many Brits are very kind and thoughtful. Remember that when you try to make new friends.
Brits are polite and reserved
Most Brits are very polite and the culture of saying “please” and “thank you” is instilled in every child from a young age. The average Brit is also quite reserved and is relatively shy meaning it is usual for people to strike up conversation with strangers (unless about the weather). Public transport in particular is a strict no-talk zone. Good manners and polite use of language are expected by Brits and those considered to be “rude” will be very ill received.