Contrary to what other travel guides may tell you, England does not stop for afternoon tea every day, although its residents do consume a lot of the liquid (hot, with milk). It doesn’t rain all the time, and sometimes even England’s green countryside dries out, with hosepipe bans being applied. Whatever cliches you may have heard, don’t place too much confidence in them. Discover the country and its people for yourself, and you’ll soon form your own impresssions of Britain and the British.
Here we present a random assortment of advice from residents to help visitors find their way around our country, from transport tips to manners.
The famous British politeness is widespread, and (with the possible exception of London) it’s normal to greet, thank or apologise to shop assistants, bus drivers, and people who tread on your feet. If reciprocal civility extends no further, don’t mistake reserve for hostility. ‘Minding your own business’ is a virtue, and over-familiarity is often taken as rudeness (although in some parts of the country you’ll be addressed as ‘love’ by total strangers). Conversational tones are usually quiet and loud conversations and noisiness in public spaces (such as trains) can be frowned upon.
Try eating pub food – a good country pub is one of the few places outside a family home where you’ll find traditional British food and puddings.
Use telephone helplines for advice on public transport, museums and so on. Many of these lines are free, and carrying the details around with you, or programming the numbers into your mobile phone, can help you out in many situations. In London, for example, you can ring up London Transport, explain where you are, and be told how to get to your destination, when the next bus or train will arrive, and any service updates.
When travelling by train, investigate ticket options in advance – you can save large amounts of money by booking ahead, or by avoiding peak times.