Travelling in another country can be a culture shock. But in Great Britain, especially, the ‘Brits’ are an eccentric bunch. From funny town names to tricky accents and fluffy Yorkshire puddings – there are some quintessentially British things that visitors often need a minute to get used to. So if you’re looking for the perfect pre-trip preparation to immerse yourself in Britain – here are 11 quintessentially British quirks to look out for.
Quintessentially British things you’ll learn to love
Tea… lots of tea!
No matter the mood, weather or time of day… tea is always the answer in Britain. About 61 million tea bags are consumed a year (with many people drinking 4 cups a day). So whether you’re unwinding with a jigsaw puzzle on a rainy Sunday afternoon or keen to catch up with colleagues on Monday morning – a hot ‘cuppa tea’ is what you need. To live like a local, we recommend you try Earl Grey, PG Tips or Yorkshire Tea when you’re here. It’s time to put the kettle on!
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Accents are everywhere
Despite being small in size, Britain is large on accents. And to be honest: these can be baffling for tourists and even people who live in different areas. But each holds a certain charm and fascination. For example, did you know that ‘Blaain a hoolie outside’ means it’s terrible weather in Newcastle’s Geordie accent? Or that Welsh locals love to say ‘lush!’ to describe something they’re fond of? Or that ‘Dragged through a hedge backwards’ refers to someone’s messy appearance in Liverpool’s Scouse? We could go on… and guarantee you’ll love them.
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The Royal Family
While you might think Queens are only for history books, the Royal Family is a respected part of British culture. Many families gather around home television screens to watch Queen Elizabeth II’s Christmas Day speech every year. In 2022, locals in Britain are enjoying a four-day bank holiday weekend (2-5 June 2022) of celebrations to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee marking 70 years in royal power.
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‘Sorry’ is an instinctive response
In Britain saying ‘sorry!’ is way more than an apology. Brits are overly polite and blurt it out (almost as a reflex action) daily. For example, when nudging past people on the underground escalators, to get someone’s attention and ask a question, and especially when it’s not your fault. You’ll hear people say sorry even when someone else has bumped into them. So often you’ll hear two people say sorry at once! This is definitely one of the funniest quintessentially British things to enjoy.
Crazy for sun
This one is difficult for visitors to understand, particularly those from warmer countries. Even the smallest sprinkle of sun (for example 18°C) sees armies of people charge outside in vests, tank tops, t-shirts, shorts and flip flops. Desperate to soak in every possible ray. You can expect to see parks full of topless sunbathers, often with a beer in hand. And t-shirts slung over shoulders in the streets. So if you want to blend in… maybe leave the jeans at home?
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Fish and chips
Ahh… fish and chips. The answer to hunger in any season; equally perfect eaten as a warming winter takeaway, pub lunch or during a summer evening stroll. There’s something about these huge pieces of piping hot (battered) fish, salt-and-vinegar chips and mushy peas – served wrapped in newspaper or in boxes – that makes you smile. And with the first fish and chip shop opening in the 1860s, this is one of the tastiest quintessentially British things for your food list.
Grand sporting events
Brits love the big occasion – and nowhere is this clearer than the annual sporting calendar. Wimbledon tennis attracts millions through its gates each year, many in desperate search of strawberries and cream and Pimms. Similarly, rowing at Henley, cricket at Lord’s, rugby at Twickenham and horse racing at Royal Ascot have become peoples’ stand out events for years. I think this calls for Champagne!
We’re obsessed with weather
If you ever need a conversation topic when in Britain, the weather is your go-to. No matter who you are with – family friends, colleagues, taxi drivers, first dates – the weather is deserving of attention. And often complaint. It’s an itch Brits just have to scratch. So to get you started with your weather-related chat, try phrases like ‘It’s throwing it down outside’ or ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’ (to describe heavy rain). And remember to check the forecast.
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And the pub…
The pub is the social safe haven of Britain. Meeting a friend? Pub. Drink’s after work? Pub. Fancy a Sunday roast? Pub. You guessed it: pub is the answer for any mood. And before you experience it for yourself… remember that ‘one quick pint’ never turns out to be that; expect to settle in to a cosy corner (or bask in a beer garden) with a creamy Irish Guinness, smooth ale or ice cold lager for hours. Often in quintessential British pub names like The Red Lion, The Crown and The Queen’s Head. The Brits love a drink!
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Ridiculous place names
Britain’s street, town and village names can get weird and whacky. Rude. And downright hilarious. Just look to the ‘Brown Willy’ in Cornwall, ‘Sandy Balls’ in Hampshire, ‘Scratchy Bottom’ in Dorset, or ‘Cockbush Avenue’ in London? Nope, we’re really not making these up!
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Easily one of the most quintessentially British things, the ‘roast’ rose to fame during King Henry VII’s reign in 1485. Today, it’s a Sunday staple up and down the land. Expect a colossal plate of hot food containing meat (usually beef, or lamb, pork or chicken), crispy roast potatoes, fluffy Yorkshire puddings, stuffing and vegetables including parsnips, carrots, cauliflower, peas, broccoli and brussels sprouts. Complete with a healthy helping of gravy and condiments like red currant jelly, apple sauce and horseradish. Scrumptious! And worthy of a nap after.
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So there you have it! Why not tell us your favourite quintessentially British thing in the comments below?