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Etiquette and social norms are terms for polite behaviour and it’s important to understand them.

Knowing about British etiquette will make sure you integrate well into society during your studies in the UK. 


British people swear by good timekeeping and being late is frowned upon or even considered rude by many. Of course, there are times in life when arriving late is completely out of your hands but it’s important to be punctual the majority of the time. For example, if a lecture starts at 10am you must arrive by 10am. So, plan ahead and make sure your ‘late arrivals’ are kept to a minimum.


Supermarkets, train stations, banks- you’ll see queues everywhere you go in the UK! British people are very disciplined when it comes to waiting in line patiently and anyone who tries to jump the queue will probably receive some negative comments or looks! However, most British people will happily let you move ahead of them if you ask politely and have a valid reason.


Cigarette smoking is fairly common in the UK. It’s estimated around one in six British adults smoke. It’s important to note that in 2007, smoking was banned in all enclosed public areas in England. This includes bars, restaurants and public transport. The University of Chester is a ‘smoke free’ campus but does have designated smoking areas. It’s important to check your tenancy agreement to see if smoking is allowed in your accommodation.


In the UK, tipping is common and is the norm when it comes to eating in restaurants. Although you’re under no obligation to do so, adding a few extra pounds to the bill is standard practice. There are no set guidelines on how much and when you should tip but this guide provides some good information.


International students often tell us how surprised they are by the politeness of the British public. ‘Please and thank you’ are probably some of the most common phrases in the UK and it’s important to use them when appropriate.  British people are also famous for over-apologising! You’ll probably hear people say sorry for a number of minor incidents such as bumping into you or asking you a question.

Spitting, passing wind, yawning/sneezing without covering your mouth and littering should definitely be avoided in public.


The most common form of greeting in the UK is a handshake. This is used when meeting someone for the first time and in formal occasions. Usually you’ll shake the other person’s right hand with your right hand. Hugging and kissing on the cheek is usually reserved for greeting close friends or relatives. Hello or hi are common verbal greetings and you’re also likely to hear ‘alright?’- this also means hello and is not a question.

Mobile phone etiquette

The majority of adults in the UK have a mobile phone and social media plays a huge part in British culture. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are very popular and many people use WhatsApp to communicate by text message. However, it’s advisable to put your phone away when talking to someone or eating at the dinner table.


A cup of tea is a quintessential symbol of British culture. You’ll probably be offered tea in most places you visit in the UK. Tea can also mean your evening meal in the UK so bare this is mind. Breakfast, dinner and tea or breakfast, lunch and dinner are the most common names to describe meals.

British Humour

Sarcasm and being able to laugh at ourselves pretty much sums up British humour. It may take a while to get used to this!



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