English Culture: Manners & How to be polite


Hi, everyone. In this lesson we're going to look at manners in England.

Here are the things that are considered polite, and the things that are not considered polite. So this is

a talk about the culture, things that people do here in England, and the things that traditionally

have been the most acceptable behaviour.

Let's start with the things that are very important. So, I'm sure you already know this one:

English people and queuing. "Queuing" is when you stand in a line when you don't...

When you want something. You don't just, like, run up there to the front or push. You queue

in a line. So, we queue up at the bank, for example, or we queue up when we want to get

on a bus and there's some other people already there. Now, of course, in London because there

are so many people and also not everyone is English so they have their manners from where

they came from, you won't always see people queuing to get on the bus or on the tube,

but you do generally still see people queuing up in a shop when they need to buy something.

Next we have: It's very important to bring a bottle, and that means when you go to somebody's

dinner party you take a bottle of wine when you go to the meal there. If you don't want

to bring a bottle of wine, you can bring dessert or you can bring some flowers or some chocolates,

but the general phrase and the general idea of it is bringing a bottle, as in a bottle

of wine.

Next we have RSVP. This is a term that comes from French: "Répondez s'il vous plait",

and this is a much more formal invitation that you get. If you're going to something,

a special event like somebody's wedding... Because weddings are really expensive and

they have to be organized so long in advance, people having the wedding really want to know

if you're coming. So when you RSVP to the invitation it means you're definitely going,

you will be there. So once you've RSVP'd, it's very, very impolite not to go. You must

go if you RSVP.

Next, I think that in England it's very important to be on time. We do tend to be punctual people,

attend... Attend meetings at the right time, turn up to our jobs at the right time, or

meet friends at the right time, most of us. Of course, there are those people who are

always late for everything, but most people in general do things on time or even, like

me, I always end up being 10 minutes early. I just can't help that. So I waste a lot of

time being too early.

Now let's look at table manners. Some of the things in the table manners' section are changing

as people become more relaxed about eating and eating out. But these were all... These

are all manners that people follow in more formal situations. Perhaps at home or with

your very close friends it would be different. Now, I don't mean it's different for this

first one. I'm not saying it's ever acceptable anywhere to slurp, burp-I can't do a burp

noise. Anyway, you know what a burp is-and fart. Fart is noise from the other end. These

things are never acceptable at the dinner table. Mm-mm, mm-mm. So, no eating noises

or doing that when you eat. It's not acceptable.

Elbows on the table, in a formal situation you're not going to do that, but relaxed with

friends a lot of people do put their elbows on the table these days, not such a big deal.

Drinking before... Just drinking your drink before somebody said: "Cheers" is considered

impolite, but it's also a sign of being familiar with people. If you're familiar with them

you don't have to go: "Oh, cheers for this drink and opportunity to drink with you."

So it depends who it is.

Using a mobile in the restaurant or when you're eating socially with people is considered

rude, so to be like:

"Oh, hold on. Let me just take this call. I'm so important, I've got to, you know, talk business",

or something is considered rude, or to be like all the

time texting on your phone. Of course it happens, and young people and teenagers are definitely

going to do it more than older people, but on the whole it's considered impolite.

Eating with hands, that's something that's changing, as I suppose we all get more used

to a fast food culture and different kinds of foods that are just easier to eat with

your hands, like burgers, chips, chicken wings, and some Mexican food - easier... It's easier

to eat with hands, so... It depends what you're eating, but traditionally it would be considered

rude to eat anything other than a sandwich with your hands.

Okay, let's talk about what's impolite now, what's opposite. No, it's not the... These

are more things that are impolite, but different situations. Let's imagine the situation of

being on a train. It's impolite to talk really loudly on the train, and just have your really

loud conversation on the phone that everybody can hear for hours, the whole time you're

on the train. It's impolite and it's really annoying. Also, if you haven't noticed, trains

in England, if they... Particularly ones that go long distance, they have a silent carriage,

and that means a part of the train where: "Don't talk here. Do not talk here." Nobody

wants to hear you talking. So there's always that refuge, that place you can go on the

train if you don't want to hear people, but it's only one small space, and the rest of

the train is really big.

It's also impolite to push in. "Oh, I've got to get on this train now", so: "Poo, poo, poo".

That happens all the time in London.

It's impolite to eat smelly food on the train. Now, a sandwich is okay, you get hungry.

A packed lunch that you've brought from home, maybe you've got some cold pasta left over

or whatever you made at home. It's fine. But if it stinks, it's not fine. You know foods

that stink? It's usually fast food, like McDonald's or from a fried chicken place or something.

Impolite to eat this on the train and impolite to even take it on the train because it smells

so strong. But anyway, people do it.

Impolite to sit there in your chair or all nice and comfy when the poor, old, old person

is like, with their walking stick, and you know, they're going to fall over when the

train slows down. It's impolite to leave them standing while you sit down. The same applies

to pregnant women and to disabled people. So, if you haven't noticed on the tubes...

I don't know if they're on the trains, but on the tubes there are special seats. So if

you sit in those you must get up for the elderly people or the disabled people, but if you

really don't want to give up your seat to anyone, don't sit in one of those chairs.

You can sit more in the middle on the tube, and you're very... In a very unlikely situation

anyone would expect you to get up.

Next we've got holding the door open. This isn't... This isn't something that happens

on the train. This is when you're coming out of a building, the door is heavy, and as you

come out you hold the door open and you just wait one and a half seconds so that person

behind you comes. You hold it until they come, and they take over. You don't have to... You

don't have to, like, look at them a long time, or it's not a big deal. You just hold the

door open, and then you carry on. You hold the door open for them. Not like:

"Oh, I'm so busy I can't wait one and a half seconds", "Boom" in the next person's face. That's impolite.

Next we've got not apologizing when you bump into someone. This is when you walk down the

street and you didn't mean to, but someone, you know, like walks into you. That's bumping

in or more pushing. If you don't say anything, like: "Oom", then that's rude. You're meant

to say: "Oh, sorry. Sorry about that", and carry on. It happens sometimes in a busy city,

so you're going to bump into someone, but the point is whether you are polite after

you say something.

Next, it's not polite when you have a friend with you, and you meet somebody else you know

and you talk to them, but you ignore that other person there, like leaving them to just

wait while you have a long conversation without introducing them. What's polite is to say:

"Oh, Julie, this is Sarah. Sarah, this is Julie", and then you can carry on the conversation.

Next, let's talk about things to do with the body. These are the kind of things that are

more likely to make people disgusted actually and feel sick, and like: "Ahh, that's so gross."

Starting with spitting. Spitting on the floor, spitting in public. I've even seen spitting

inside one or two times, which is pretty gross and disgusting, and pretty shocking when I've

seen it, but yeah, you see things like that around London, spitting on the floor. But

it's very, very bad manners and it's also a health hazard. Not... It's not cool, makes

people sick.

Next is body odour. Now, I'm not talking like...

There's different degrees of body odour. Right?

Some people are just really, really stinky and they don't mind. That kind of stinkiness

is considered impolite, and especially if you're kind of stinky and you're on the tube

and you've got your arm out like that, and you know, someone else is standing there having

to smell your stinkiness. It's not very nice. It's impolite.

Next we've got shoes. So, it's kind of the opposite here in England about shoes. If I

know you really well and you're a good friend, you can come in my house, take your shoes off.

If I know you really, really, really well and you're part of the family, you can

be barefoot in the house. Right? But if I don't really know:

"Please keep your shoes on. Please keep your shoes on. Do not touch my floor with your feet."

So it's the opposite

to how it is in many countries. So, from the other people's side they might find us really

gross because in English homes, not so much more now, but traditionally we always had

carpets in our houses and it's not like the carpet's always being washed and cleaned.

It's being hoovered, but not actually washed and cleaned, and we walk around it with shoes

on so a lot of people find the idea of the English floor in their house really gross

because in other countries there's a floor that's easier to clean, you know, with water

or a mop, so it'd different here. Anyway, don't take your shoes off unless somebody

offers you or... Well, it's not really an offer, unless someone invites you to take

your shoes off because that's the rule in their house. Okay? So don't... Don't just do it first.

And by the way when I... A little story here. It was one of those hard-to-handle cultural

experiences when I was living in Turkey and a workman came to fix a window or something,

and I didn't know how to say in Turkish: "Keep your shoes on." I wish I did, because he took

his shoes off and... In Turkey they're meant to give you slippers if you're not... If you're

just visiting they give you slippers to walk in the house. I'm glad I didn't give this

guy slippers either. His feet was the most stinking feet, oh, it just smelt so bad. And

he fixed the window for about one and a half minutes, and I was cleaning the floor for

about two hours to get this stinky foot smell out after. So, if I did give him slippers

they'd have to go in the rubbish bin. So, if it hadn't been their rules there, had been

the English rules, he'd have kept his shoes on, I wouldn't have smelt his stinky feet.

It would have been much better the English way, but anyway, I didn't know the language

to say that.

Next let's talk about baby changing. Baby changing... Baby changing is for in the baby

changing room in, or where the toilet is, there's normally a place to do that. And baby

changing doesn't happen around places where you eat food. Again, I'm reminded of Turkey

here because I did see a nappy, a baby's shitty, poohy... Poohy nappy being changed on a restaurant

table which I thought was really gross, and I never knew it happened before I went there.

But anyway, I haven't seen it here in England, but in the restaurant table, but point being

there are special places to change the baby here.

The next one is an issue that people... People have strong views about and people disagree,

which is breastfeeding in public, feeding your baby milk in public. Some people don't

like to see that and they consider it to be something that the woman should do with a

scarf over the baby, or they think you should do it in a quiet place, and other... Other

people say it's natural you should be able to do it wherever you want. And people argue

about this. Depending on where you are, you'll either see it a lot or you won't see it at all.

Yeah, so in London in certain... In certain areas where there's... Let's say a very middle-class

kind of area where there's lots of middle-class moms and their babies, breastfeeding you will

see, but in just the general local area you wouldn't necessarily see a baby being breastfed

in public.

Next one is noisy sex. Obviously noisy sex happens, but there's degrees of it.

I've lived in shared houses with young people, so I've definitely heard sex, but it was absolutely

not in the same league of how loud it was to what I heard when I was in Peru staying

near the Amazon... In... Somewhere in the Amazon Jungle in a hotel, and then I heard

the noisiest sex I've ever heard in my life, so it's degrees of how loud it is, I suppose.

In general, it being England, it's not, even when it's loud maybe it's not so loud as some

other places.

Next, in the toilet, when you do your business in the toilet, especially if it's a poohy

business, try and flush that away. If you do a poohy business in somebody's house but

I think anywhere, and it gets all brown in the toilet, there's the brush next to the

toilet which is to clear away the poohy stuff in the toilet. That's why it's there. Some

people, I don't think they realize that, what's... What the brush is for.

And yeah, so you might also be puzzled when you go to the toilet: "Where is the water?

Where is the water here? There's no water for cleaning myself?" There isn't in the English

toilet. I don't want to get into it, really, other than that. But if you're surprised about

where the water is, let's just say it's not there. Maybe you bring your own is a solution,

but don't leave a mess after.

Next is stinky perfume. Now, on the one hand we've got stinky people who don't make any

effort to smell good, they... They enjoy it, I suppose. And then on the other hand you've

got people who think they smell nice by putting on loads of perfume, but they put on so much

perfume they actually smell stinky so that when they walk you can smell them like two

minutes behind. That is... That's what stinky perfume is. And I guess here, because it's

such a strong smell, that's why people don't like it and don't find it that polite.

Next let's look at social etiquette. When you're meeting a friend, generally because

the arrangements, depending on the person, are made a few days in advance here in England...

We're not so spontaneous and easygoing, most people, so they plan before. And if you make

that cancellation right at the last minute, many times, unless it's a real problem that

you had, people will always think: "Fair enough, you had a big problem, it's okay",

but if you didn't have a big problem and you cancel right at the last minute the person will think

that's really rude that you did that. And if you cancel one or two times in a row with

that person, they might be angry with you and they might not want to make another arrangement

with you because they're just saying: "Uh, unreliable."

Next we have showing up unannounced. This is a... I've shortened "unannounced", here.

That means just coming to somebody's house, ringing the doorbell anytime but they didn't

know you were coming. Here, I would say it doesn't happen that much, only with friends

who have known each other a really long time and... Like, people I know who do that to

my mom, for example, her neighbour friends that she's known for years and they don't

show up and then like sit there for three hours. Maybe there was something they wanted

to say for five minutes or a short time. It's not like:

"Hey. Here I am. Now let's hang out for hours."

Generally that doesn't happen a lot, but it might happen if you're a student

or a young person. If you think it happens, let me know in the comments. But I would say

traditionally and for older people it just doesn't happen much.

Next is name dropping. Name dropping is when you're always saying about all the famous

people you know, and... Well, sometimes it isn't even about the famous people you know,

it's about when you saw the famous person or you worked somewhere where you helped the

famous person, but that's like the low level of name dropping. The high level of name dropping

is always about: "Oh, my friends are so important, and I'm always with these special people",

and they... They get a bit boring because they're always talking about these special

people they know.

Next is something that I have done a few times in my life-well, more than a few-it's called

French leave. Right? This, I don't believe is the English term for it. This is how I've

known people in other countries talk about it to me. Right? I don't believe we have an

English word for it, but this means when you've been hanging out with some people or you've

been at a party and instead of saying: "Oh, bye, I'm going now", you just leave. You don't...

You don't say you're going, you just decide to go. Now, why does such a thing happen?

In my opinion you've been at a party, the host is there, but there's so many people

there you don't really need to go and say good bye to the host because they're still

going to have this party for hours. If you go and say good bye, then other people might

try to make you stay and things like that: "Nah, leave it. I'll just... I'll just go. It's fine."

That's why I personally do it. It would be really... Doing a French, you

know, not saying good bye when it's just you hanging out with one other person, I think

that's quite a different situation. I've never done that before. I mean in a situation where

there's a lot of people there. Okay.

Next one is talking over somebody. Some people have a thing about this that if you're talking

and somebody interrupts and starts speaking at the same time, some people think:

"Oh, that's so, so terrible. Oh no. They've spoken",

and what some people do when that happens

is they just stop talking.

So you spoke over me, I cannot speak anymore. But it's not very

effective because if somebody talks over you, they don't care and they're not going to stop,

you will just be listening. So my... My thoughts on this: Okay, yeah, it's impolite. But sometimes

you never, ever get a chance to speak if you don't talk over someone because other people

don't stop. So depending on the people, how much they talk, sometimes you need to talk

over people. Or sometimes if you've got an idea that you really need to say, then you

can talk over it. That's what I think.

Next is unruly kids. This is when the parents just, like, ignore the kids and the kids are

all like: "Yay!" jumping on things, and running around, and shouting, but in a place that's

not the playground or the park. They're doing it in another public place, like a café

or a restaurant, or a train or a bus. If your kids are unruly like that then it gets annoying

to other people, really, really annoying.

When I was on the bus yesterday actually there was some unruly... Well, they... I suppose

they weren't unruly. It was just a bit odd because the mom was talking to her kids really

loudly in such an extra way, saying: "Okay, let's play I Spy now",

and: "I spy... I spy 't', oh, it's tree." But this went on for about 35 minutes on the bus, like:

"I don't care. I don't care about how much of a good parent you are. I don't care about how good

your parenting skills are." So those kids weren't really unruly. It was just more the...

You couldn't... You couldn't forget that there was some kids on the bus because it was being

made into, like, a big, big fun bus trip.

Next there's littering. Littering is when you get your garbage and you just go:

"Oh, I don't care", and you walk off and you leave it there. It's not nice to be a litterbug,

leaving your rubbish around. And especially never, ever in any kind of natural area like

a park or a beach... However, it's a very different situation in Dubai because I used

to live near the beach there and walk on the beach every day, and there the local... The

locals would come... Come to the beach with their McDonald's or whatever, eat the McDonald's

on the beach, and just leave it, just leave it there on the beach.

"Oh, we're finished eating. Let's go now. Someone will clear it up after me." Well, someone obviously did

always pick it up after them, but if you try and do that here, that's like a... That's

a sin against nature, it's terrible.

Okay, and last one is playing music loudly from your speaker, so that would be sharing

your music with everyone who doesn't necessarily want to listen to what your music is. So you

didn't ask everyone: "Oh, hey. Do you want to listen to my Dubstep or whatever, my Drum and Bass?"

You just start... You just start playing it loud, like: "This music is... This is cool, this is cool",

but everyone else is like: "I can't stand your music."

It doesn't have to be Dubset. It could be, like, pop music or even pop music that's so loud from

your headphones that other people can hear. That's pretty annoying, and that gets boring

after 20 minutes on the bus, having to listen to it or whatever.

So yeah, here are the things that are considered polite, impolite, and bear these in mind

next time you come to England, London or the UK. Now you can take the quiz on this lesson.

I'll see you again soon.