Climate: more than one-half of the days are overcast
Population: Approx: 63 million
Religions: Christian (Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist) 71.6%, Muslim 2.7%, Hindu 1%, other 1.6%, unspecified or none 23.1% (2001 census)
Government: constitutional monarchy
There are tremendous cultural differences between the US and the UK, despite having many similarities. People talk differently, and not just in the accent or the words, but the general tone and meaning. They have different ways of making friends, interacting at the office.
Language in the UK
The United Kingdom does not have a constitutionally defined official language. English is the main language (being spoken monolingually by more than 70% of the UK population) and is thus the de facto official language.
Other native languages to the Isles include Welsh, Irish, Scots, Cornish, Gaelic and British Sign Language.
The terms 'English' and 'British' do not mean the same thing. 'British' denotes someone who is from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. 'English' refers to people from England. People from Scotland are 'Scots', from Wales ‘Welsh’ and from Northern Ireland ‘Irish’. Be sure not to call someone Welsh, Scots, or Northern Irish ‘English’.
A Multicultural Society
Formerly a very homogenous society, since World War II, Britain has become increasingly diverse as it has accommodated large immigrant populations, particularly from its former colonies such as India, Pakistan and the West Indies. The mixture of ethnic groups and cultures make it difficult to define “Britishness” nowadays and a debate rages within the nation as to what now really constitutes being a Briton.
The Stiff Upper Lip
The British have been historically known for their stiff upper lip and “blitz spirit” as demonstrated during the German bombings of World War II. This ‘grin and bear’ attitude in the face of adversity or embarrassment lives on today.
The British are very reserved and private people. Privacy is extremely important. They expect others to respect their privacy. Even close friends do not ask pointedly personal questions, particularly pertaining to one’s financial situation or relationships.
There is a proper way to act in most situations and the British are sticklers for adherence to protocol. The British are a bit more contained in their body language and hand gestures while speaking. They are generally more distant and reserved than North and South Americans and Southern Europeans, and may not initially appear to be as open or friendly.
- Unlike many European cultures, the British enjoy entertaining people in their homes.
- Although the British value punctuality, you may arrive 10-15 minutes later than invited to dinner. However, if going to a restaurant, be on time.
- Table manners are Continental, i.e. the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
- The fork is held tines down so food is scooped on to the back of the fork. This is a skill that takes time to master.
- Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat.
- Do not rest your elbows on the table.
- If you have not finished eating, cross your knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife.
- Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate.
- Toasts are given at formal meals.
- When in a pub, it is common practice to pay for a round of drinks for everyone in your group.
- If invited to a meal at a restaurant, the person extending the invitation usually pays. Do not argue about the check; simply reciprocate at a later time.