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Social Etiquette in the UK

The British are famous for their language, sense of humour and, of course, politeness. So, when you are in the UK, make sure you respect the social etiquette in the following situations:

British people are quite reserved when greeting one another. A handshake is the most common form of greeting when you meet someone for the first time. It is only when you greet close friends or relatives that you would kiss them on the cheek or give them a hug. The British may also call you by many different ‘affectionate’ names, such as dear, chuck, mate, guv, son or madam. Do not be offended, this is quite normal.

The British like their privacy, so not all topics are safe for small talk. Avoid asking people about their age, religion, politics, marital status, weight or how much they earn. Instead, acceptable small talk topics are family, films, television, sport, studies, food, hobbies and of course, the weather!

When you visit people, at home, make sure you are on time. It's also nice to take a gift for your hosts, such as a bottle of wine, a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates. A British person might say “come and see me soon” or “drop in anytime.” However, you must always phone before you visit someone.

4. Explain the words/phrases in bold. Use some to complete the sentences.

1 You mustn't be rude to your teachers. You should......them.

2 Lucy gave her parents a......and then went to bed.

3 Being impolite to others is not......behaviour.

4 Apart from the ....... he didn't know anyone at the party.

5 She kissed her daughter on the ...... before she left for work.

5. Now answer the questions in Ex. 3 about your country.

6. Project: Write a short article for an international school magazine explaining what someone should do to greet people, make small talk or visit people in your country. Use your answers from Ex. 5.

  • Greeting people
  • Making small talk: “The weather’s terrible, isn’t it?”
  • Visiting people at home
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