The United Kingdom has been growing in popularity as an expatriate destination. The UK has a rich history and some of the most deep-rooted traditions – which is why it’s highly recommended for expats to learn well about the culture in order to blend in smoothly, and avoid some of the most typical cultural faux pas.
We have gathered this list with the 6 top tips for American expats in the UK, to help you fit in with ease:
1. Use correctly the London Underground
If you are living in London, you may be aware of the particularities of the tube etiquette. If not, be conscious that there are certain rules that visitors are expected to know and respect. There are plenty of articles online to check out some of the golden rules of the London Underground - some of the most important ones: walk on the left and stand on the right when using the escalator, respect the queue, and don’t block the flow of traffic.
2- Stick to the buying rounds etiquette
It is customary for friends in the UK to go out and buy rounds of drinks for all friends present. If you go out with a friend and you’re offered a drink, don’t assume that your friend is buying you drinks because he or she is overly kind or rich – bear in mind that you will be expected to buy the next round of drinks. It may be considered rude not to return the favour.
3- Always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’
Brits are known for their very polite manners. The best way to fit in with the protocol is to ensure you make good use of the expressions ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and using these in conjunction with ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘excuse me’ will be even more appreciated.
4- Watch your hand gestures
While a ‘peace sign’ with your palm facing inwards towards your body is a completely harmless gesture in the US, it does not represent peace in the UK – It is highly offensive and inappropriate.
5- Learn to make tea the British way
Britain has perfected the art of tea-making, so if you are going to make a cup of tea for a British friend, make sure to follow some basic rules: Ask your guest how he or she takes it (with milk and/or sugar), then boil the water – don’t just heat it, and add the boiling water to the tea bag. Most Americans do the last step the other way round; adding the tea bag to the water, but this way does not allow for the tea to properly brew. Finally, let the tea brew in the cup for at least two minutes, or longer for a stronger taste, and add milk if desired.
6- Be conscious of language alterations
You may have already updated some of your vocabulary and introduced the word ‘trousers’. But apart from that, you may want to take note on the differences in spelling. Many verbs and words are spelled differently in the UK, like ‘centre, ‘colour’, ‘organise’… the list goes on. As a general rule, it is fine to use either US or British spelling, but try to stick to one rather than mixing both.
If you have recently made the big move to the United Kingdom, keep in mind that it may take a bit of time getting used to the new culture, but that over time and through daily life, you will be likely to master culture shock and feel at home very soon in your new country.
Much like any other big life event, becoming an expat can be stressful, so a sense of humour is of paramount importance. Be willing to laugh at the situation when you get things wrong. Settling in a new country is an exciting step in your life, so take it all as it comes and embrace the change.
Have you figured out your health insurance?
As you master the culture in your new location and immerse yourself in the British lifestyle – don’t forget about your health and ensure you have the best cover.
At Cigna Global we specialize in expatriate healthcare, offering a high level of care facilities for expats in over 200 countries and territories, with the flexibility to choose from three levels of cover and optional additional benefits, including outpatient care, medical evacuation, and vision & dental care.
Find our more about our plans or get a no-obligation quote here.