British Culture and Social Norms


British culture is a beautiful and unique mix of four countries: England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The mix of all these countries’ traditions is what makes the British culture very rich and diverse and what they like to call “cultural capital.”

British people like to think of themselves as people with class and great taste, whether about food, clothing, music, or movies.

You may already know that British people share their love for tea and the British Royal family. However, there are many things you have yet to learn about British culture, customs, and traditions.

Here are some of the basic social norms you should know about British people:

Although British people have a reputation for acting cold towards others, surprisingly, they like kisses on the cheek as a form of greeting. When greeting a good friend or family member in the UK, you do not simply shake their hand. If you are not a close friend or family member, the physical touch is perceived as odd, and a handshake or a smile can go a long way.

Social Distance

The distant personality of the British stands out when they are conversing with someone —regardless of the relationship—as they like to keep a socially acceptable distance between them and those they are speaking to. While in the UK, you can be rude if you do not respect a person’s personal space when talking to them in any social situation.


Brits are very strict when it comes to being punctual. If you are late once in the UK, you will likely not be late again. The British consider being late disrespectful and rude, especially at private dinner parties or someone’s home. If you cannot arrive on time at some place or event, make sure you let the host know beforehand.

Respect the Queue

British people love to follow the rules, especially when it comes to waiting in a queue, whether at the supermarket or the cinema. Those who dare and jump the queue will most likely be called out. If you do jump the queue for whatever reason, be prepared to get yelled at or even kick you out of the queue altogether.

Good Manners

Do you think Canadians are polite? Think again! Despite the reputation of the British people, they love to say sorry, thank you, and please. Regardless of who you are talking to, being polite is always appreciated among the Brits.

100 Million Cups of Tea Daily

It is no secret that British people love to drink tea, and they usually admit that it is their favorite part of the day. You can find Brits drinking tea at any social gathering, whether at a birthday or coffee shop. What makes English Tea special is the milk. According to research done on this matter, English people drink around 36 billion cups of tea per year.

Avoid Extended Eye Contact

British people find it uncomfortable to stare into someone’s eyes for a long period of time. Most of them feel intimidated by extended eye contact and would rather avoid it altogether.

Love Drinking 

Brits are known to spend most of their pastimes in pubs and drinking with friends or colleagues. It is hard for them to say no to a drink or two (or ten), and they take turns buying a round of drinks. You cannot leave the pub without buying drinks for people you go out with. However, if you are one to cry when drunk, avoid binge drinking since Brits do not like emotional drinkers.

Sarcasm Dominates British Humor

British humor is full of irony and sarcasm, so if you are sensitive and easily offended, be prepared when you hang out with a Brit. Their sarcasm is of high quality, so foreigners and visitors are usually confused about whether they are joking or not. British humor also involves making fun of celebrities or public figures.

Respect the Elderly and Disabled People

English people are very serious about respecting older people and love helping the disabled. Public transportation rules include giving up your seat for the elderly and the disabled. Chivalry is also a must among British people, setting an example for the rest of the world where men hold a door open for a lady or stand up when a lady walks into a room.

Gifts for Every Occasion

Giving and receiving gifts is a tradition for British people, especially when someone invites you to their homes. A symbolic gift such as chocolate, flowers, or a bottle of wine is more than enough if you do not go empty-handed.

Brits Love to Complain

Complaints about bad weather or a bad day are part of any conversation between British people. However, they choose to complain mostly to their friends or family and not actual service workers in a restaurant or any other customer service workers simply because they do not want to be rude to them. If they do complain about poor service, they usually do it politely without causing any disruption.

Gracious Losers

Brits can be a controversy when it comes to everyday life behavior. They love to complain, yet they are good losers, meaning they choose to lose with dignity. When losing a competition or a game in the UK, they usually choose to congratulate the winner and do not argue since it is considered rude and poor manners.

Fish and Chips

Traditional British food is popular internationally; many people claim to love English dishes. There are around seven main traditional dishes in the UK that the Brits never get tired of. You may already be familiar with some English dishes that you may have seen in the movies or even tried yourself. However, British food has its own spotlight when it comes to British culture.

Here are the popular dishes in English cuisine that you must try at least once:

Beef Wellington
The beef wellington dish is considered to be one of the hardest dishes to cook in the UK. The beef wellington is basically a beef fillet, and the challenging part is to cook it just right since it is served medium rare, which is difficult to achieve.
Fish and Chips
One of the most popular dishes among tourists in England, and it can be found almost everywhere in the UK. However, the Brits recommend trying fish and chips in restaurants near the sea for the most delicious version. As the name suggests, this dish is either served with a single fish or fish sticks with fries on the side.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Initially cooked by a chef in Glasgow with Bangladeshi origins, this dish is one of the most popular home-cooked meals in the UK.
English Breakfast
Brits take the expression “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” seriously. The full English breakfast is popular all over the UK, especially on weekends. This popular breakfast dish includes bacon, eggs, sausages, beans, toasted bread, and various vegetables, depending on your personal preference.
Yorkshire Pudding
The Yorkshire pudding is usually served as a side dish and is served in different ways depending on the place and customer preferences. The name may fool you since it is not actual pudding, on the contrary, it is made of eggs, flour, milk, and fat.
Pie and Mash (Also known as Bangers and Mash)
If you are a carbs fan, this is the best dish to try in the UK. As with many traditional English dishes, the pie and mash dish includes sausages and mashed potatoes. They often serve it with peas and gravy on top.
Black Pudding
Once again, the UK dishes confuse the rest of the world with their food names. To everyone’s surprise, the black pudding is a sausage out of beef or pork blood. Yes, you read it correctly. Even though it sounds bad, it is one of the most delicious dishes in the UK.
Toad in the Hole
Another dish with sausages. It is very easy to make, and all you have to do is add sausages to the Yorkshire pudding and serve it with gravy and vegetables.
Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage Pie
The recipe is the same for both these pies with only one difference: use lamb meat for shepherd’s pie and beef for cottage pie.
Sausage Roll or Scotch Egg
More sausages —in this case— wrapped in an egg and other added ingredients that make it a savory pastry snack popular among all English people.
Jellied Eels
Maybe one of the most unappetizing dishes you have ever seen or tasted. This traditional food is made of chopped boiled eels which they firstly allow to cool and serve cold.
This traditional English dessert is made by adding layers of pudding on top of one another —no beef included unless you are Joey from the “Friends” series. Brits like to top it with whipped cream and other toppings of their choice and serve it in a glass dish.
Jam Roly Poly
Another traditional British dessert served as a cake, filled with any type of jam.
Steak and Kidney Pudding or Pie
This pudding or pie, however you want to call it, is a must when you visit the UK. It is typically covered in pastry or potatoes.
After Brexit, the UK’s biggest debate is whether to put the cream or jam on the scone first. You can try both and decide for yourself what you like more.
Roast Dinner or Sunday Roast
It has been established that the British love to include Yorkshire pudding in almost every meal. The roast dinner is one of them. The roast dinner also includes roasted meat (of choice), roasted potatoes, stuffing, and vegetables.
Eton Mess
A traditional English dessert made with strawberries or other berries of your liking, meringue, and whipped cream. A perfect refreshing dish for the lingering summer heat.

The United Kingdom holds the reputation of having several official languages. Although 98% of the population speaks English as their first language, the rest speak other native languages.

Here are the languages spoken across the UK:
Around 1.5 million people in the UK speak Scots, and it is the most spoken language after English. Scottish is mostly spoken in Scotland. Gaelic is also spoken in Scotland, and it is one of the founding languages.
After Scots, Welsh is also widely spoken in the UK, with around 600,000 speakers. Welsh is the official language in Wales, where they also speak English.
With more than 500,000 speakers, Polish is spoken by 1% of the UK population. In the last decade, more than half a million Polish people have migrated to the UK.
Less spoken languages
Other languages that are spoken less in the UK include Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, and Gujarati. Each of these languages has around 250,000 speakers left in the UK. Knowing the influence of India in the UK between the 19th and 20th Centuries, many people from India and Pakistan immigrated to the UK. Although these languages are slowly starting to fade, especially from the younger generation, they still speak the traditional languages in their communities back home.
There is also a number of foreign languages spoken in the UK, such as Arabic, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. These languages are mainly spoken in tourist and large cities of the UK, including London, Manchester, and Brighton.

What are the Differences Between British and American Spelling?

As most of you may know, British English has a very different spelling than American. The main reason for this is that the UK has incorporated many word spellings from the French and German languages. Furthermore, British English uses more formal words, whereas American English typically uses more informal words.

Here are some examples of British and American spelling:


British English 

American English



















Popular British Expressions and Idioms

British people are known for having unique expressions, and the rest of the world usually uses them when describing British people. Brits incorporate many idioms and everyday informal expressions in their daily conversations.

Here are some of the favorite and most popular English expressions and their meaning: 



A penny for your thoughts

Asking someone to share their thoughts.

An arm and a leg

Describe an expensive purchase.

The ball is in your court

Telling someone is their turn to make a decision.

Beat around the bush

Is avoiding a certain topic of conversation.

It takes two to tango

It takes two people to make something happen.

Chuffed to bits

When someone is feeling pleased.

Brass monkeys

Cold weather.


Describes someone who is exhausted.

Throw a wobbly

Describing a tantrum or actions of an angry person.

Here are a few things you should avoid when speaking to a British person:

Generalize the UK Accents.

As mentioned above in this article, there are a number of accents spoken across the UK. Each region has a distinctive accent, and Brits find it offensive and disrespectful to assume that the “British accent” is the only accent in the UK.

Another foreign habit Brits find annoying is saying you can do a great British accent. As previously mentioned, according to the British people, there is no British accent. Secondly, those who claim that they do a great British accent are usually the ones who are not as good as they believe.

Saying, “Cheers, mate!”.

British people hate it when tourists or foreigners greet them with the saying, “cheers, mate!”. The reason it is considered disrespectful is that they do it too often, and it is no longer welcomed as a pleasantry.

Tell them you think British people live in Europe. 

People from the UK take every chance they get to explain that they do not consider themselves as part of Europe. Brits like to establish that the UK is an island separate from Europe and wish to be called British instead of European.

Assume every British person lives in a castle.

If you are planning on visiting the UK anytime in the near future, please restrict yourself from asking British people if they live in a castle. Brits are not part of an old kingdom movie, so the answer to this question will be “no,” at least 99% of the time.

The Western influence is very distinctive among British people, especially in how they dress. Moreover, Brits love to follow fashion trends and fit in with modern society’s latest clothing movements. However, Brits can still be very casual in their day-to-day lives, where you can see many people wearing jeans and t-shirts with a trench coat on a rainy day (which is almost every day).


Here are some of the most popular clothing items in Great Britain:

Trench Coats
As you may already know, the trench coat is a must for Brits and everyone who lives or visits the UK. Aside from the obvious reason for the rainy weather, they started wearing trench coats way back in the 19th Century during the First World War. They started wearing trench coats only as part of the military uniform, and now it is part of the standard wardrobe in the UK.
Tweed Jackets
It first started as a form of protection from harsh elements, and it is now peak fashion among the Brits. Both men and women wear them and you can wear them up or down depending on the event, whether on a fancy night out or a smart-casual event during the day.
Jeans are the most worn clothing item among Brits. You can see men and women wearing jeans and pairing them with all sorts of clothing pieces. Jeans are also a good item to wear up or down. However, most British people like to wear jeans as part of a casual outfit.
Leggings are considered to be a guilty pleasure clothing item among women in the UK. However, they mostly wear leggings in the gym or as part of a casual outfit. Pair leggings with an oversized sweater and your favorite trainers, and you become a true Brit.
Trainers (Sneakers)
British people claim to have a love affair with sneakers. They are always looking for a great pair of sneakers, and women are always in with the latest sneaker trend. You can always find British people wearing the most popular sneaker brand.
Bodycon Dresses
Regardless of the weather, British women love wearing a bodycon dress on a night out, especially at the club. Furthermore, women in the UK like to show off their clubbing outfits, and they refuse to wear a coat to cover their outfits.
British men, on the other hand, will always find a reason to wear suits. Classic suits are always in fashion among the Brits, and they like to pair them with a pair of jeans for a more casual look.
Grey Joggers (Sweatpants)
Brits love to be comfortable, and they never try to hide this fact. Aside from the casual Sunday, they wear sweatpants when hanging out with their friends or even at the pub, if you are bold enough.  
You cannot leave the house without an umbrella in the UK. Considering it is almost always raining, the umbrella has become a part of the Brit’s everyday outfits. Therefore, British people usually try and match their umbrellas with their outfits.


There are many stereotypes surrounding the Brits, but they are very cheerful people and love to have fun. Not surprisingly, they gave the world a number of famous and unforgettable artists whose impact has greatly shaped this industry. Also, music concerts are a common thing in the UK. Some of the biggest music events are organized in the UK.

People often assume that the classical jazz genre of music dominates the music culture in the UK. However, this is no longer the case. You may recognize a lot of popular British musicians such as The Beatles, Elton John, Pink Floyd, The Spice Girls, and many more. However, nowadays, the music industry has changed a lot in the UK.

Here is what music genre is popular among the Brits today:
  • Punk
  • Pop
  • R&B
  • Rock
  • Garage
  • House
  • Hip Hop
And here are the most popular British music artists lately:
  1. Harry Styles
  2. Ed Sheeran
  3. Adele
  4. Dua Lipa
  5. Billie Eilish
  6. Coldplay
  7. Rita Ora
  8. Sam Smith
  9. Calvin Harris
  10. 10.Lewis Capaldi

British architecture is one of the most unique in the world


It is highly influenced by the 15th century and is home to some of the most historic building styles in the world. Below are some of these architectural styles that dominate British architecture and add to the British appeal.


The name Tudor is derived from the period in which these buildings were built. It started between the 15th and 17th centuries during the Medieval period of architecture. The features of this architectural style include a low arch, angled roof, grouped windows, and masonry chimneys.

Elizabethan Architecture

The Elizabethan architectural style derives from the period of Elizabeth’s reign when many houses were built in this style, and only the wealthier people lived in it. The glass design dominates the exterior as a way of filling the house with natural light.


Baroque architectural design is mostly influenced by Italian architecture, and Italian designers started to build them way back in the 17th century. Examples of such architecture include St Paul’s Cathedral and Greenwich Hospital. The Baroque architectural style was mostly adapted by English churches.


Roman architecture was the greatest influence during the Georgian era, around 1780 and 1820. The classical exterior architecture is what makes the Georgian period unique, along with a detailed interior design. What makes the Georgian design special are the high sectioned ceilings with characteristic colors such as lavender, pink, pea green, and light blue.


The post-war period in the architecture of British buildings set a new era of architecture by moving on from older building styles but incorporating some bits and pieces of vintage architecture. Some old buildings were renovated and embodied modernism along with international style.

Old castles also share a proportion of architectural heritage in the UK.

Among many of them, some of the most beautiful and most visited by tourists are Windsor Castle, Edinburgh Castle, Leeds Castle, Alnwick Castle, Cardiff Castle, Bodiam Castle, Stirling Castle, Caernarfon Castle, Warwick Castle, Bamburgh Castle, etc.

Playing and watching all kinds of sports is Brits’ favorite thing to do, especially football. There is a range of popular sports in the UK, which foreigners also recognize as British sports.

Here are some of the most popular sports in the United Kingdom:
Football is among the most popular sports in the UK and the world. Some of the most popular football teams and players are from the UK, and there is the Premier League which includes the top 20 teams from across the UK. Some of the most popular teams in the UK are Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, etc.
Cricket is one of the oldest and most popular sports in the UK, going back as early as the 17th century. There are 18 cricket clubs in total named after all historic counties of the UK. Every year there is a First Class County Championship held over a period of four days.
Another very popular British sport is divided into Rugby Union and Rugby League. These two different championships differ in the number of players and some game rules.
Badminton is continuously becoming one of the most popular sports in UK history. British people and other badminton fans call it Badminton England, and it is a member of the International Badminton Federation.
Sports tournaments are one of the most favorite entertainment ideas among the British people. The most popular tournament in the UK is called Wimbledon, which started way back in 1877.
Art is an important part of British history and culture

Many British artists created irreplaceable artwork whose appeal influenced artists from around the globe.


The religious theme dominated British art during the middle ages, which was displayed and best illustrated through wall paintings in churches and religious books. Even in the modern days, the works by famous British artists are shown in famous galleries across the United Kingdom.

These famous galleries in the UK include some of the following:

  • The National Gallery
  • Tate Britain
  • Tate Modern in London
  • National Museum in Cardiff
  • National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh

Most of these galleries display contemporary art.

Traces of British art development take us back to the pre-historical periods. Stonehenge, built around 2600 BC, is among the oldest British artwork we know until now. The influence of the Roman conquerors and other preceding historical ages is still present in the UK. Old churches and cathedrals have the same illuminated manuscript and sculptures as when they were built centuries ago.


Famous Names in British Art

Throughout art history, the UK produced some of the greatest artists ever. Names like William Blake, J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, Samuel Palmer, and so forth made a strong basis for artists that would come later.

The 18th century also saw a number of brilliant British artists best represented by the names of Hans Holbein, Anthony van Dyck, Nicholas Hilliard, Robert Peake, William Larkin, William Dobson, and John Michael Wright.

During the second part of the 18th century, the art movements that took place in the UK resulted in the expansion of distinguished artists like Sir Joshua Reynold, George Stubbs, Thomas Gainsborough, and Joseph Wright of Derby.

Artists like Joseph Wright, James Wright, Samuel Palmer, Richard Parkes Bonnington, and so on, were some of the best during the 19th century, or the Romantic period as it is known.

During the 20th century, artists like John Singer Sargent, Sir Jacob Epstein, David Bomberg, Lawrence Atkinson, Dora Carrington, and others climbed the elite of artists in the UK.


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