Life around the world

Thursday, 21 November, 2013 - 15:47

British etiquette - are we too polite?!

by BronyaD

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. 

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Does your country have similar social rules to Britain?

Submitted by Paximanix on Mon, 01/22/2024 - 17:12

So, I think that Slovenians are pretty polite. We say thank you and please, but it's not always like that. I just want to point out a few things before I get to the conclusion. Firstly, I think that there are, not publicly accepted, classes. In this example, not on money or the amount of public recognition but on the job. Secondly, there is a border between being polite and being too polite. If you thank the waiter for bringing you your food, that's politeness. If you, when you finish eating, put the plates on each other or, get out of your way to make the waiters job a little easier, that is all of a sudden not considered polite. So now comes the question, which is more important; the rank or class of the individual or the politeness? Out of my own experience, I think that the class of the person really does matter. You won't see someone thanking a garbage man for doing their job every day. Or a mailman for that matter. You also need to stay in the 'polite' zone of your actions and don't go out of it. Thats where public pressure comes in. If you help someone or do something instead of them, to make their job easier, some people will laugh at you. But I think it is more important to help the people and be nice to everyone. There are, of course, a lot of exceptions. I see more and more people thank the mailman, for example. So I think that Slovenians are very polite, to some extent.

Submitted by Azel on Thu, 04/18/2019 - 02:37

Apparently,in Bangladesh,we don't utter 'sorry' for a several time.But we do not hurt anyone by saying or doing something.The people of my country are really amicable.They behave with foreigners very dearly.So,the regulation of my country has it's own passion.

Submitted by Monity on Tue, 04/16/2019 - 16:20

I belong to Bangladesh..Bangladesh is typically known as very hospitable country ...the integrity of our people is famous by worldwide.i agree British people are very tender and humble.the social customs of our country are quite similar to UK but bengalis dont like to pretend at all.our country believes in eternal piece for which it has been well recognised as peaceful country by people are very respectful towards elder and empathetic to destitute and helpless.they have always been vigilant against sinisters and man made plight.but our way to express gratitude is same as Brits.we say thank you thoroughly and don't do scruples to apologise.but the socio economical condition is getting changed due to globalization.assults are increasing.but any glimpse of ominous matter didn't encompass in our country.the civilised people of our country try their most to establish tranquillity.we don't allow any breach of annihilation.but some people who are devoid of conscience are very callous and reluctant about etiquette.they unknowingly or deliberately cause altercation and onslaughts. However we have curtailed to eveluate our clients and labourers properly for various purposes .but altogether we are holding amiability and trying to be lucid in accountability..

Submitted by May1 on Sun, 04/14/2019 - 13:16

I'm from Bangladesh and some of the British etiquettes exist also in our country but not all of them. We should say "Sorry" or "Thank you" when we really feeling sorry or really grateful to anyone. But hearing "Sorry" or "Thank you" multiple times is simply irritating. In our country, some people are cordial to others and on the other hand, some people don't even behave sympathetic in others hard times. So all kinds of people are there. This etiquettes vary from country to country, people to people.

Submitted by Ariyan on Sat, 04/13/2019 - 16:03

Yes.My country "Bangladesh" has similar social rules to Britain.We know that,Bangladesh was ruled by the British for about 200 years.So here is a great impact of British cultures.I think,a society full of polite people would not be bad. I also try to say 'thank you' or 'sorry' when it is needed.

Submitted by Ariyan on Fri, 04/12/2019 - 14:57

There are quite diferrences between britian and my country 'Bangladesh' . The people of my country usually don't say 'sorry' or 'thank you' to the poor . But I think people like bus driver, waiter, farmer, plumber are thank worthy because they work so hard for us. If we say them 'thank you' for their work there's nothing wrong. It will make them feel that they are important. They will also love their profession. So I think we all should have the habit of saying 'thank you' to ohers.

Submitted by Avantika on Thu, 04/11/2019 - 14:06

According to me,in my country,Bangladesh, there are some etiquettes similar to Britain and a few are not.Like the classes of people are judged at the dining table.We think that if anyone eats with spoons,they are upper classes and those who use their hands while eating are considered as lower classes people.Most people of our country show respect, thank,say sorry to those who are upper classes. Most of the time, a discrimination is seen between the poor and rich.We do not express our true feelings to upper classes people but don't hesitate to misbehave with those who have financial problems.

Submitted by Shoshi on Thu, 04/11/2019 - 06:57

Yes, there are some social rules in Bangladesh which are similar to the Britain social rules. In Bangladesh, people are quite polite. But they aren't too polite as British. They greet people when they meet, their behaviour is humble. But they don't thank people or say sorry without any reason. Actually they don't pretend like Brits. They express their feelings whenever they need. Otherwise they don't. Moreover, in our country, being too polite can be harmful because people can take advantage of our too much politeness.

Submitted by Anushazz on Thu, 04/11/2019 - 06:55

Nice article.there are quite differences between Britain & my country ,Bangladesh.Here people don’t say ‘thanks’ or ‘sorry’ every time.But they are so helpful & polite for all the time.Our people love to follow traditional,cultural and religional manners.
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Submitted by MR9 on Thu, 04/11/2019 - 04:35

Here in Bangladesh, there are lot etiquettes,but not like the Brits.I actually think that the etiquettes in our country Bangladesh is quite different from UK.We usually don't say 'Sorry' or 'Thank you' if we really aren't. But I think sometimes it is better to not hurt people’s feelings and be polite.In our country,we are very sensitive about other's feelings. we are very respective to our superiors.We also like to thank those ones who actually help us even if we have to thank him or her several times a day.But honestly saying,whenever we say Sorry , it comes from our heart ,not because of some artificial etiquette.Being polite is a part of our culture for thousands of years.Ancestors have been teaching this to their descendants for thousands of years. From my point of view, to be polite towards the people means to respect them but it never means to be fake.Now I am gonna finish my comment by sharing a funny experience. Once I was passing through a empty road at night . A man was coming from the opposite side of the road . I smiled at him and said "Hi".He became so scared that he shouted loudly and ran away.It was really a funny experience.

Submitted by RaiyanIrtezaAlavee on Thu, 04/11/2019 - 04:04

Yes.My country has similar social rules to Britain.In Bangladesh,some people follow the rules of so-called etiquette and some don’t.Bangladesh was ruled by the British for about 200 years.So here is a great impact of British cultures.Again,there is also the impact of Muslim cultures,too.Like we say ‘Assalamualaikum’ (May peace be upon you) instead of saying Good Morning,Good Evening etc.But we say Thank You or Sorry if we really don’t feel so like the British.But Bengali cultures have their own way to express own feelings.Like,if we really feel contented,our eyes and smiles express it from the core of our heart.Again,if we really feel sorry,our silence and sulky face express it automatically.Bengali people are always simple and straightforward.There goes a Bengali proverb: ‘It’s better to have a straightforward enemy than to have an evasive enemy .’ Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,the sole leader of Bangladesh,our idol and reason of all our hopes,also was an simple and straightforward man.He mixed with people like they were his relative.Like him,we Bengali are very simple,straightforward and say what is truth.But we don’t hurt anyone by our words.Again,we have our own etiquette while we eat.So,there is a mixed etiquette of ancient Bengali,Muslim and British cultures in Bangladesh.

Submitted by aaryaibtedafoyez on Thu, 04/11/2019 - 03:33

It's very pleasure to see I am not alone. I do the same things but people are (trying) to be polite with me as well. I think we should pay particular attention to everyone, to make them smiling us back. :)

Submitted by Loganjames on Wed, 04/10/2019 - 20:45

To people outside Britain their etiquette seems quite exaggerated. In bangladesh we also have etiquette, but we don't say thank you or sorry that often. But we also respect and encourage politeness in our own unique way. Though the British etiquette is quite different from us, I like their manners because a society full of polite people wouldn't be bad. I also try to say thank you or apologize when it is needed.

Submitted by Mahee on Wed, 04/10/2019 - 17:46

No, it doesn't...After making any mistake we usually say "sorry''.But in our Country sometimes they really don't care about it. They leave the place like they don't know anything. In the UK people use spoons or other materials to eat their meal. But our culture is to use our hand. People in our country are so trendy. They discuss a trend more than enough. We are very positive but our Idle people are letting us down. But we are improving. The government also taking steps to fix it. I am very hopeful about it.

Submitted by Pheebs on Wed, 04/10/2019 - 17:13

Well Here in Bangladesh people r quite polite and kind to the people no matter they r Bangladeshi or foreigners. Here our behaviour is the same as well as it is sort of different. Sometimes We express our apology by saying sorry nd please by saying Thank you. But most of the time we do not do that. I think we need to be more polite towards another’s and be helpful to all instead of gossiping. On the contrary we are really very hospitable. I think saying sorry nd Thank u over and over again made an abortive effort to others whom we r supposed to be really very sorry or be kind to them. So to sum it up is we should be more polite and be patient towards others.

Submitted by G_G on Wed, 04/10/2019 - 16:56

In our country, not exactly same but we do have similar social rules. We are taught in our childhood to be polite. But it's not applicable in all forms of society. The lower class don't practice these manners. But the upper and middle class do practice these manners. Though we don't say sorry so many times as Brits. But we do thank people and say please.
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Submitted by R_R_R on Wed, 04/10/2019 - 16:03

In Bangladesh we have a number of noteworthy customs that can make communication and showing respect easier. The use of the right hand is the first and most important custom to remember when dining or in business. If passing a dish, handing over a document or accepting anything, use only the right hand. In the Bangladeshi custom, the left hand is considered to be unclean, and therefore the right hand is used most of the time. Men will shake hands as a greeting, but in general, casual or business, woman will greet with a polite nod of the head. Even in business, do not extent your hand for greeting a woman, wait to see how she greets first, and then return the greeting. When visiting or meeting people for the first time, most foreigners are accustomed to taking a bottle of wine or a gift, but in Bangladesh there are a few points of etiquette involved here. When offering a gift it is given with both hands. Generally, no alcohol is given as a gift and when giving foods, it is important to remember that meat has to be halal. It is safer to take sweets or chocolates. If wanting to take flowers for the lady of the house, any flower is permitted as long as they are not white in color, as white flowers are only used at funerals. Money is never given as a gift, and when receiving a gift, it is considered rude to open the gift in the presence of the giver. Always try to accept an invitation to supper, and if attendance is impossible, never turn down the offer out right. Rather tell your host that you will most certainly try to attend. And in Bangladesh, it is etiquette that everyone eats with their hands, so ensure that you wash your hands before eating. Fortunately, no-one will take offence or consider it rude if a request for utensils is made. Meals are always served in a few rounds and it is easier to pace yourself when eating than declining an offer for another helping. Also, remember to wait for the oldest person at the table to start eating first, before taking your first bite. We do thank people regardless of what job they do either its a bus driver or cashier. It is our custom. We respect the human being. Its true that right now in our city some of us does not show respect to others if they don't get the respect and values but our culture is to respect all people in all societies.

Submitted by Nehasumaya on Wed, 04/10/2019 - 15:17

Etiquettes are very different between our country and British countries.There are some social rules and manners which we follow strictly.But all the people don't do it from heart..they do it to satisfy the other one.From our childhood we have been learned to follow some social rules.Young people tries to follow them but they always can't do it properly.They don't do it because they want,they do it because circumstances compelled them to do it.But many of them follow our cultural,social rules from their heart.People of our country are very hospitable.They are nice to people.But they are not well behaved with the others sometimes.As people now knows the importance of etiquettes.They are working on it.They are trying to be more polite.They are improving.The cultural of our country is different from Britishes.Though we are not like them,but we are enough good in our sides.times are passing so fast,people are also changing,these changes can be good or bad,it depends on the person how he or she changes themselves.But the inspiration of elders can help them about developing their behaviours.people are being polite from their past.i think we are polite,but we need to be more.

Submitted by Fisher on Wed, 04/10/2019 - 14:31

Well in my country Bangladesh,it is different. Here people usually dont say sorry.But in England people say sorry for almost everything.Maybe their too polite,they like to express their true feelings.By saying 'Sorry' and 'Thank you' they like to express their politeness. And by these words they can make a person happy. So etiquette can change a person and bring happiness to the society.

Submitted by Ovi on Wed, 04/10/2019 - 08:53

Before answering the question by my comment, I want to discuss about social rules. Social rules indicate social etiquettes, manners etc. Social etiquettes mean the customary behaviors of members of a society towards each other. And social manner mean standards of conduct cultured or product of mind in a society. So, it is impossible to undergo totally same social rules in two different nations of two different countries which are situated at a very far place from each other. But it can be similar (in different cases). In other words, it can be said; overall social manners and etiquettes of two different nations must be different but they may have common exemplary. Let us discuss the subject-matter with some examples. In case of marketing, haggling is a phenomenon which goes through our nation. The aim of haggling in case of marketing is to reach a decision of price of a commodity where both seller and buyer can be satisfied. Which can be better solution of a problem where every person is satisfied who are involved? Again, it can be said that the aim of haggling may not be to make people satisfied but to continue a polite culture. So, ultimately, we find that we do haggling in case of marketing where every person is satisfied involved in marketing and continue a polite culture. Again, to know social rules of a nation we must look at the person who is considered as the best of a nation. Because the best person of a nation must follow his nation’s manners, etiquettes, cultures, social rules best. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is considered as the best person of our nation. He established our nationality: Bangladeshi. He raised up his voice firmly, he took sturdy steps against government of Pakistan as we (then East Pakistan) did not get proper judgments or rights of anything. So, what I want to say is our ideology, our manners, our etiquettes, social rules are based on righteousness and totally against of impropriety. So, the nation whose social rules, manners, etiquettes are based on righteousness; can manners of that nation ever teach to hurt anyone’s feelings, dignity? So, impoliteness is banned in our culture by basis of our nationality. Therefore, our nation’s basis of etiquettes inspires us and teaches us to be polite, to be respectful towards others’ feelings. Summarizing, we can say, as we are established on base of righteousness; we accept all good ideologies as our manners, etiquettes, culture and social rules. And obviously, our nationality does not mean “to be against of impropriety” as “to lurch someone”, rather its one teaching is to help the helpless people. Our social rules and manners inspire us to bear good qualities of human being. Let me share a very short story about this. Yesterday, when I was in the bus, saw a old woman to enter into the bus. As the seats were booked in the bus, a young person stood up and let the woman to sit in his seat. And he visited the rest travelling by standing up. We should try to draw an image of such beautiful scenery inside our heart. So, lastly, my answer is “Yes”. We are also polite and respectful to each other’s feelings but it is quite in a different situation, in a different environment compared to British environment.
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Submitted by jonstark on Wed, 04/10/2019 - 10:38

Well done...Though it is huuuuugggggeeeee!!!!!! I learned a lot of things from this

In reply to by Ovi

Submitted by Yeekra on Wed, 04/10/2019 - 08:28

Well here in Bangladesh, the etiquettes are quite different from UK. People here are polite and nice. But sometime, they are far from manners. Like, we don’t say “sorry” several times a day. We only say “sorry” when we really are and feel ourselves guilty. In case of thanking someone, we feel great and maybe we really mean that. Because sometimes, we thank someone just to make sure that the person is pleased. Some people in our country like to keep a fake politeness in their face though it’s a silly thing. But the people of my country are kind of serious in greeting others. Also, there are some religious and fundamental manners. People follow these manners very carefully here. Like, apologize if you accidentally touch someone with your feet. It's impolite to point your feet at a person or a religious institution while sitting. But nowadays, people here are really being careful about social etiquettes. Well, they have to because this is a modern generation and time is passing by. So, gradually things are changing.

Submitted by Felix on Wed, 04/10/2019 - 07:03

Well, in Bangladesh it's pretty similar to Britain culture but at the same time its not the same. We don't say "Sorry" or "Thank you" everytime if its not needed. But we don't hurt anyone's feeling and also we don't fake our feelings. Bangladeshi people are so polite and friendly with foreigners specially. Their hospitality is so enchanting. If they see foreigners anywhere they try to build a relationship with them. And of course we respect our elders. We always take care of our neighbours. We don't go against our elders order. Well sometimes we have to go against them,it depends on the situation. We try to understand others feeling. But there are some people out there who judge the poor one's for their poverty and they don't even feel sorry for that. But not everybody does that. We must apologise if we do something wrong intentionally or mistakenly and if someone take care for our feelings and comfort we must give a heartiest thanks to him/her. Because it will make our relationships more healthier and happier.
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Submitted by Lucifer on Wed, 04/10/2019 - 03:03

Yes, my country also have similar social rules as Britain have. But there are some people in Bangladesh who are maintaining these rules and some people aren't. Some of them can hold back on their feeling's and thoughts because they actually care about the feeling's of others & some of them can't do so because they think it will be not right to prevent their feeling's. Actually they both are right, I think sometime we shouldn't go against our thoughts & sometime we should. As we should respect the feeling's of others & our also. It will be depend on the situation that what we should do or not. In our country, there are also some people who doesn't care about the poor one's because of their proverty. They hurt their feeling's & even they don't feel sorry for them. But if we hurt someone's feeling we must apologise to them. But not for the every time. And we shouldn't try to hurt people intentionally. If something goes wrong by us we should feel sorry. And if someone cares for our feeling's and comforts. We must say thanks to them. Because it can bring a smile on their face.

Submitted by Jeana on Tue, 04/09/2019 - 19:26

In my opinion,culture means a group of people,who have their own rules and rituals.So naturally their rituals don't match to other cultures.And that's why we have our own culture.Even though our culture is a bit different than Britain's.But it doesn't mean that we are rude.We don't want to hurt people either.If someone does anything that is unacceptable or awful,we let him/her to know that,only if he/she is our close ones.Because we don't want our close ones to have any bad quality.But for others,it is quite difficult.But in some position,we are ought to say.In my country,maybe we don't say 'Hello','Please'or'Thank you' that much but we do when we need.We are not allowed to say any rude comment to elders though.As human beings we can't live without in my country if anyone helps other,he/she will be very grateful to him/her.But after all there are some narrow minded people. This is probably what I think.It completely depends on persons way of thinking....

Submitted by Sam6293 on Tue, 04/09/2019 - 18:08

Well, in our country we do not always say sorry and thank you to others. While say so, sometimes we mean it and sometimes we don't. Our family and society teaches us to be polite and supportive to others. Saying thank you is now a days being practiced a lot among the educated people specially in urban cities. In rural areas though people do not say thank you often but their willingness to support others mean a lot and they really mean it.

Submitted by jahan_osh on Tue, 04/09/2019 - 17:09

I actually think that the etiquettes in our country Bangladesh is quite different from UK....We actually don't hurt our close one's feeling by saying the bitter truth but not every time because we aren't polite to the criminals or to those who do something wrong or illegal.... & we actually say 'sorry' when we do something wrong unintentionally but we don't say it eight times a day like in UK.......& we r very respective to our superiors...... We also like to thank those one who actually help us even if we have to thank him or her several times a is my point of view but the other people of my country may think actually depends on one's nature,personality & the way he or she thinks.......
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Submitted by jonstark on Tue, 04/09/2019 - 16:53

Well...In my country the manners are different...We usually don't say 'Sorry' or 'Thank you' if we really aren't.. I think politeness is very important but faking yourself is a foolish work...We show ettiquette through treating others...Not only by saying 'Sorry' or 'Thank you' all the time...Though it's important to express our true feelings,we should express them politely....Sometimes saying 'Thank you' can bring someone's smile and ettiquette can change ourselves as well as the society for good....

Submitted by Smm on Tue, 04/09/2019 - 15:31

WELL, here in Bangladesh, there are some etiquettes. But not like in the British way. We are not too polite like them. We don't say "sorry" like them every time. In Bangladesh, we have to give greetings especially the respective person. I think being polite is good but not every time. Sometimes it can create many problems. From my point of view, to be polite towards the people means to respect them but it never means to be fake.

Submitted by Elina on Tue, 04/09/2019 - 14:59

In our country if any of us try to speak In a polite tone then most of the people thinks that we are trying to be oversmart,we are forgetting our own tone or we are showing off.. and a very small amount of people take that In a polite way... if I am trying to say "thank you or sorry" in every matter then sometimes I became uncomfortable or they feels uncomfortable. In the case of cashiers or bus drivers if they shows their manners most of the people thinks they have a cunning motive thats way they are buttering by their behaviour..!!!
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