If you’re planning to visit Britain, here’s a great page dedicated to things you should Never say to a British person.
In many cases your trip to Britain should be fantastic, there’s lots of world famous landmarks, attractions and locations – equally the British are also accommodating, funny and friendly! From Buckingham Palace to Stonehenge, the Angel of the North and more! There’s never been a better time to visit Britain – here’s some things to think about before visiting!
Understand the Geography
Britain, British, English, UK, Scotland, United Kingdom? There’s so many different words and names, and they don’t all mean the same thing. Firstly, you need to realise that the United Kingdom (UK) and Great Britain are not the same thing. It irritates A LOT of people when tourists get this mixed up.
The UK officially stands for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – this is four separate countries joined together as a union – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
‘Great Britain’ is simply the largest island, which has the countries of England, Scotland and Wales (excluding Northern Ireland as that is on the island of Ireland) – the map below highlights this in more detail:
You should also remember that people the England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are quite proud of their nations, culture and heritage – For example, this means a Scottish person won’t be happy being called ‘English’. The same can be said for the Welsh, Northern Irish and English too – they generally don’t like it when people confuse their nationality.
To make matters a little more complicated the word ‘British’ is generally OK for use in England, Scotland and Wales – as these countries are part of Great Britain.
However in Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK, but not Great Britain) the word is sometimes used by ‘Unionists/loyalists’, who were/are mostly Protestants, and are descendants of settlers from Great Britain, thus wanting Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom. ‘Nationalists/republicans’ also live in Northern Ireland, they will NOT like you to call them ‘British’ as these were/are mostly Catholics, and want Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom and join a united Ireland.
There’s more to Britain than London
To many tourists are London-centric – this can be particularly annoying for people in other parts of the country. Even though London is a fantastic city and arguably one of the best in the world, it’s not the only place to visit in Britain.
There’s LOTS of other cities, landmarks and landscapes to visit as well. From places such as Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, Newcastle and so on, to the Lake District, Peak District, New Forest, North Yorkshire Moors and the superb British seaside resorts.
Case Study: WHITBY
You’ve probably never heard of the North Yorkshire town called Whitby, it’s located in Northern England and has a great reputation as one of the UK’s most scenic harbours. The town itself has a population of around 13,000 and attracts thousands of visitors every year.
On the East Cliff, is the stunning Whitby Abbey, which is a ruin, in a Gothic style. The abbey was Bram Stoker’s inspiration for “Dracula”. Nearby to the Abbey is the Church of St. Mary, which you can reach by climbing all of the 199 steps from the town below!
Also in Whitby is the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, this was the house where Captain James Cook once lived, it displays paintings and maps. Captain Cook was a British explorer and captain in the Royal Navy. He is famous for making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, during which he recorded the first European contact with the east coast of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand.
Bad Teeth – It’s a OLD Myth!
Although the majority of the world still thinks the British have bad teeth, dentistry has come A LONG WAY over the past few decades. Did you know? The UK’s cosmetic dentistry industry is valued at £2.2 billion and is expected to increase by 8% by 2021 (Source: Oral Health Foundation, 2019)
Equally that’s not all “In the UK it’s estimated that consumers spend £100 million on whitening toothpastes each year”. (Source: Redmires Dental Care, 2019)
To further highlight that bad teeth in the UK is on the decrease, a study in 2005 by University College London documented that “levels of dental decay in UK children at five and 12 years are among the lowest in the world”. (Source: UCL, 2019) The report also highlights that “the proportion of UK adults who have no natural teeth has fallen from 37% to 12% over the past four decades”.
Of course, just like anything in life there’s room for improvement – but overall the general dental care and hygiene of UK citizens has come a long way from ‘outdated’ perceptions and myths.
It’s called FOOTBALL…. Not Soccer
This is mainly targeted at American and Canadians, who might be visiting the UK. The most popular sport in Britain is Football (Soccer), with famous clubs such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and so on having a worldwide fan base. It’s extremely important that you don’t call football soccer – as this can easily irritate the local population.
Football is much deeper than a ‘game’, it’s a cultural phenomenon and can literally divide regions, cities and families. For example it’s not uncommon for husbands and wives to support rival teams – the husband may support Manchester United and the wife may support Manchester City.
Even though most football games are on Saturdays or Sundays, during the football season from August to May – games can also be played on evenings during the week too. This means for around 9 months of the year, working life, family activities, friendships and so on will usually involve football dialogue in some form or another.
We’re not related or know the Royal Family
It’s quite funny when tourists believe that the average person is related to / or knows a member of the Royal Family. In England there’s around 50 million people, in the UK as a whole, it’s around 70 million – so the chances of knowing a member of the Royal Family are quite small as you can see.
Equally the Royal Family are heavily guarded, so the average member of the public has very little opportunity to see or even speak to them.
You can usually only speak to a Royal when you’re personally invited to an event (such as a summer gardening party at Buckingham Palace) or on the ‘off chance’ one speaks to you during a visit they make around the country.
In a way, it’s similar to walking to the front door of the White House and asking to speak to the President – it’s not going to happen! So just remember, even though the Royal Family is loved throughout the country, the chances of a person meeting them is quite small for most people.
Written by locals, Fodor’s Essential England is the perfect guidebook for those looking for insider tips to make the most out their visit to England.
With its irresistible mix of storied heritage and cosmopolitan charm, England will wow you with its history, culture, and must-see towns and cities. Fodor’s England captures the most memorable sights and experiences in dazzling color, from fabulous historic houses and quaint villages to cosy country pubs and London’s cutting-edge food, art, and nightlife scenes.