Let’s face it – us Brits are a pretty odd lot. From our cheese rolling antics to our national obsession with queuing, we love to indulge in our own slice of the ridiculous every now and again. Maybe it’s something to do with our overcast days, our long and complicated national heritage, or maybe it’s just in our genes. Either way, we certainly have our…err, how to put it…idiosyncrasies?
When all is said and done, though, our quirks are what makes Britain such a fun and interesting place to visit. This week, we decided to sit down together in the office and list all the things we think make us weird. Welcome to Evan Evans official list of weird British customs. Enjoy!
I’m sorry, but this one isn’t going away anytime soon. Apologising is the default setting for the start of most interactions in the UK, from “I’m sorry, but is this Oxford Circus?” to “I’m sorry, I seem to have stepped on your sandwich”. Labelling these as an apology is actually a little misleading. You see, ‘I’m sorry’ has a much broader usage for us Brits. It’s commonly used as a way to get the attention of someone else, just like ‘excuse me’, and often used ironically to preface negative sentiments, such as “I’m sorry, but this is the worst tea I’ve ever been served. Where is the manager?”.
The May Pole
Even as a born-and-bred British person I’ve always found this one a little strange. I can understand the tradition of dancing around a pole with colored ribbons to celebrate May Day or Pentecost. After all, they used to do some odd things for entertainment back in the day. What I don’t understand is why people pursue this past time with so much fervor today. May Pole dancing is actually a lot harder than it looks, and requires some serious choreography to get right. To each their own, I suppose.
We love a good moan. It always seems to go particularly well with tea. Seriously; there’s nothing better than huddling around a teapot with a few friends and taking ten minutes out of your day to complain about…well, whatever happens to be at hand. It’s a cathartic experience and helps to bond us together in dissatisfaction – the perfect antidote to a long, stressful day.
Swimming in the cold
It is summer. We will wear shorts. We will go swimming. This is the British mindset. It doesn’t matter if it’s minus five and tipping it down with rain. It’s just another reason to break out that stiff upper lip and take a nose dive into the unknown. Afterall, you never know if the water isn’t a little warmer than it looks. Hint: it’s not.
I think this may be one of the most useful words in the English language. If you’ve never used it before, cheers means – actually, it means pretty much anything you want it to mean. From ‘hello’, to ‘goodbye’, to ‘thank you’ to no meaning at all, it’s a chameleon word that always fits in with the conversation. Use it liberally when you have nothing smart to say.
Finally, we couldn’t leave out the one thing that brings British culture global renown. Seriously, though, I couldn’t really imagine a world without queueing. It would be a hellish place full of people bumping into each other, forgetting to apologize, then not even having the decency to complain about it afterwards. Awful.
If all this sounds a little confusing, our tour guides here at Evan Evans are well-versed in British culture and can tell you everything you need to know. Spend some time getting to know them on one of our fantastic walking tours.