If you are visiting England for the first time you may be wondering what you need to know before you arrive. What things should you do (or not do) when you are visiting the country. To help you plan your first trip to England I have put together some of the best tips I know to ensure you have the best time and avoid any faux pas along the way.
I was born in England and have spent most of my life living in the country (the North-East/Midlands and London) as well as traveling the world. This (hopefully) gives me a great perspective on things visitors should perhaps avoid doing when visiting.
1. DON’T PUSH IN (OR INVADE PERSONAL SPACE)
A big no-no in England is to push in. We have mastered the art of queuing patiently and expect everyone to follow the rules. Join the back of the line and wait!
If you do accidentally push in chances are no one will directly challenge you but there will be a lot of tutting and stares!!
2. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE ENGLISH LOVE OF TEA AND TEA BREAKS
Coffee may be popular in England but tea still rules supreme. If you are working in England you will find that everyone takes turns to make the tea. Don’t go and make a cuppa without asking the rest of your workmates – it is not the done thing!
3. AVOID TRAVELING DURING RUSH HOUR
If you can avoid traveling during peak times (in London) or any major city it will not only save you money on fares but also possibly your sanity. If you have to travel when it is busy try to make sure you have a ticket (*an Oyster Card in London) and take note of point 9 below!
4. UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE UK AND GREAT BRITAIN AND ENGLAND!
England is part of the UK and Great Britain. So is Scotland and Wales. They are all countries.
Northern Ireland is part of the UK but NOT Great Britain. It is also a country.
None of them are independent. Yet. Lets see what happens after Brexit…
5. DON’T ATTEMPT OUR REGIONAL ACCENTS
Unless you are a world class mimic you may try but you will fail!
Also please don’t try to guess where our accent comes from (unless you are fairly sure!!) If I had a £1 for every time someone asked if I was Scottish I would be living a life of luxury right now.
There are many different regional accents in England and some of them you may struggle to understand particularly when speaking to an elderly person. I remember my friend from Liverpool staying with me in the North East and struggling to understand a word my Grandfather said!
You may hear Brummies. Yam Yams, Scousers, Geordies, Cockneys amongst others. If you are in the UK long enough you should be able to identify the different accents after a while. Check out the video to give you a flavour of the accents you may hear!
6. DON’T JUST STAY IN LONDON
There are so many wonderful places to visit in England so please don’t stay in the capital for your entire holiday. If you are looking for ideas there are lots of posts to read in this blog including 80 things to do in England which is a great starting point for planning.
For history lovers (Hadrian’s Wall/Castles) – Northumberland
For nature lovers – The Lake District
For walkers/hikers – Ingleton Waterfalls Trail in Yorkshire
7. KNOW HOW TO RESPOND WHEN SOMEONE SAYS ‘YOU ALRIGHT”
You will hear this in a few different contexts!
As a greeting. Expected response – Yes thanks!
To enquire if you have been served at a bar/shop. Expected response – depends if you have already been served!!
To ask if you are feeling ok. This will sound like a question which it is. Expected response – depends how you are feeling!!
I have had great fun in Australia with this one and have had to explain it is a greeting not the Spanish inquisition about their aches, pains and general health.
8. DON’T REFER TO FOOTBALL AS SOCCER
Football was invented in England. It involves 11 players kicking a round ball up and down a pitch for 90 minutes.
The ball is not oval. The players aren’t dressed head to foot in padding. And it isn’t called soccer!!!
Football is extremely popular in England with matches most Saturday afternoons. Most people support their home team unless its rubbish then they will support Manchester United/Liverpool/Arsenal.
9. DON’T STAND ON THE LEFT SIDE ON ESCALATORS
(OR INCUR THE WRATH OF THE COMMUTER! THE LEFT IS FOR PEOPLE IN A HURRY BECAUSE THEY SLEPT IN)
This is important if you want to avoid basically annoying the entire population of London. Keep to the right so the fitter, younger or late commuters can rush past you at 100 miles an hour.
Some of the stations are deep underground and the escalators steep and long. With the chaos of rush hour and hundreds of busy commuters it pays to know exactly where to stand so you aren’t in the way.
Oh and don’t make eye contact with anyone on the tube. If you are traveling alone take a book or pick up a free newspaper to ensure no unnecessary eye contact with your fellow passengers!
10. BE PREPARED TO TALK ABOUT THE WEATHER (A LOT!)
The English are pretty obsessed with the weather and will talk about it on a fairly regular basis. If temperatures rise above 16 degrees expect to see people in T-shirts and shorts and above 23 its a heatwave and people will tell you a million times a day that its too hot. Take an umbrella. Most days you will need it.
Also be prepared for the weather to change rapidly. Sunshine one minute and snow and wind the next. And that is just in summer. Think carefully about your packing list for visiting the UK – in fact you can read my recommendations in this post “How to prepare for visiting the UK – a complete packing list!”
11. SOME ENGLISH PLACE NAMES ARE NOT PRONOUNCED THE WAY YOU MAY EXPECT
Some of these places I have to think twice about myself. If you pronounce the names the way they are spelt you will probably hear a few giggles. The list pretty extensive but here is the correct way to pronounce the following:
Torquay – Tor/key
Leamington Spa – Lemmington Spa
Loughborough – Luff/burrah
Cambois – Cam/iss
Alnwick – Ann/ick
Bicester – Bister
Plymouth – Plim/uth
Stroud – Strowd
Morecombe – Mork/um
Berwick – Ber/ick
12. DON’T TALK ABOUT MONEY
Brits aren’t particularly comfortable talking about money. It can seem quite brash and show-offy if you share how much you earn/have spent etc. It is a sure fire way to alienate the English middle/working classes who associate wealth with the upper classes.
And definitely don’t do it in the north of England.
13. TIPPING IS VOLUNTARY
Tipping is not expected in most places England. If you want to leave a tip for good service in a restaurant a 10% tip is generally the rule of thumb.
If you are taking a London cab just round up the fare as appropriate depending on the length of your journey.
14. DON’T TALK TOO LOUDLY IN RESTAURANTS
Just a little suggestion but visitors from some countries have a reputation for being a little too LOUD. Best to try to keep the conversation with your friends/family/partner between yourselves and not share it with the entire restaurant.
Pubs can be a lot more relaxed though with music, quizzes and a more relaxed atmosphere.
15. DON’T MENTION BREXIT
The country is fairly evenly split between remain and leave and whatever you think about it I would suggest not talking about it. Passions run high on the subject so its best left alone. I would also avoid the capital on days when there are marches planned (particularly by leave supporters)
If you are soon heading to England (the UK or Great Britain) hopefully these tips will give you some idea of the things to do/not do. One little bonus extra point to remember is that most of us actually don’t know the Queen. In fact I haven’t even seen her in real life and have never been invited round to the Palace for a cuppa. Not yet anyway.
FURTHER INFORMATION FOR VISITING ENGLAND
I have lots of great posts to read all about travel in England to help you plan your visit. Lots of tips
- For food lovers check out my top 20 dishes to try when you visit.
- For book lovers take a look at my top 9 recommended reads which cover the best fiction, non-fiction and travel books.
- If you have an interest in UNESCO World Heritage Sites I have a number of posts offering tips and advice for visiting some of the best known places including Stonehenge, the Lake District, Kew Gardens and Blenheim Palace.
- Travelers to the North-East can find lots of information about the Northumberland Coastal Route (a great road trip) as well as things to do in this beautiful county.
PIN FOR LATER! VISITING ENGLAND FOR THE FIRST TIME – ESSENTIAL TIPS
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Tracy has lived and worked in 7 countries on 4 continents and travelled to over 50 more. A qualified school teacher with an interest in history, reading, photography, nature and wildlife she is always planning her next trip (preferably by train)
With a lifetime of travel experience, and a network of friends all over the world, she is also able to share genuine insider guides, recommended best book lists and train journey inspiration to help you travel authentically to some of the most beautiful places on earth.
Come and join me as I travel the world one country (and train journey) at a time!