Magazine topic: 
Life around the world
Total votes: 106

British etiquette - are we too polite?!

by : 

Almost everyone who has studied English has been warned about the way Brits love their manners. It is part of our national identity, as much as fish and chips or complaining about the weather. Recently I have been wondering where this comes from and I read online that we say sorry up to eight times a day. Probably the same amount of times that any other person says “hello” or “how are you”. It is almost like to greeting to us! It was only when I was explaining how there are five steps of saying thank you when you buy something from a shop to a Mexican friend of mine that I realised how mad it sounded.

After some research (googling) I have not been able to find any specific reasons why we are the way we are. I suppose for centuries manners and how we eat at the table and talk to other people has been one of the barriers between the lower and upper classes and represents your social status. Britain has traditionally been a quite conservative and reserved country. There are many articles suggesting that this seemingly polite attitude of always saying please and thank you is quite false because it is impossible to always feel that you want to thank someone or say please.

Maybe it is for this reason that people are going one of two ways: they are incredibly polite and hold back on their feelings or not polite at all, and express their true feelings. Some Brits are fed up of pretending that they are always content and having to please people. Sometimes because we feel we have to be polite we are prevented from saying what we truly think. Some people feel that the hard truth is the best way to be. Do you think it is better to not hurt people’s feelings and be polite or to let people know the truth? In your country what is the custom? How about with bus drivers? Or cashiers? I know in some countries if someone is considered to be doing their job, the clients think that they do not need to be thanked. 


Does your country have similar social rules to Britain?


sona's picture
sona 4 January, 2016 - 17:44

Yes, my country has similar social rules to Britain. The people in Albania are very polite and don't express their feelings and thoughts,because they don't want to hurt other people. We are known for our hospitality, which is a form of politeness. We always say thank you and please. However,there are people who say everything they think and tell the truth,even it may hurt somebody.

30 users have voted.
Monisa's picture
Monisa 2 November, 2014 - 05:57

In my country, people who understand manners are very polite, but those who don't sometimes end up in hurting others.
Being polite and speaking softly is, certainly, something which everyone should try to posses. But you also need to be clever/ intelligent and, perhaps, little bit hard at the right circumstances. I don't know if you can be very polite to a notorious criminal.!

28 users have voted.
justcricketforme's picture
justcricketforme 30 January, 2014 - 13:05

Well, here in Pakistan, there are some who do some who don't. Mostly people here think the poor aren't humans. They never greet them nor be polite with them. Being polite here is like being a Martian. If your very polite here, people are like that maybe she's mad or something. I have a friend who is from Britain and everyone from seeing her mannersand being polite, they are like she's mad!

32 users have voted.
Harabeli Supersweet's picture
Harabeli Supersweet 27 November, 2013 - 13:27

No, it doesn't. People are not too polite here. I try to be polite, but I end up being missunderstood. For example, I was waiting in the queue of a store to buy something. When my turn came, I smiled and said "Hi!" to the seller. She looked at me and yelled "What do you want?". It was strange. Even when I see somebody eating, I say "Enjoy it!" and they see me like I'm from another planet. I think that these social rules should be part of every culture. To be polite doesn't mean to be fake, nerd, geek or stupid, the terms that society use. It means to respect yourself and the others.

34 users have voted.
Lorriee's picture
Lorriee 8 April, 2014 - 14:12

Good to see I am not alone. I do the same things buuut people are (trying) to be polite with me as well. I think we sould pay particular attention to everyone, to make them smiling us back. :)

43 users have voted.
Jelenaa2's picture
Jelenaa2 26 November, 2013 - 14:18

Great article. Umm, I think that being polite is a part of British culture and tradition so why changing it? It's always nice to ask someone questions like 'how are you?' or 'what are you doing?'. There's nothing bad in it. Example: Every time I get of the bus or leave the store I say: 'Thank you. Goodbye.' That's my way of showing how much I appreciate their work.

33 users have voted.