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Alright mate. I’m Dan from Dansenseienglish.com and welcome to another episode of the DanSensei British English Podcast. The podcast for intermediate, and advanced level English learners, who love the UK and wanna learn more about British culture, British life, and of course British English.
Today’s episode is things that you should know about UK culture. It’s a two-parter. The first part is today. The second part is next week and over the two episodes, I’m gonna show you 10 unique aspects of British culture that you should know if you want to live in the UK, or you’re going to live in the UK, or if you are living in the UK right now.
Now, we all know that British people and British culture can be a bit strange sometimes. It can be very different from what you’re used to and some of it won’t make any sense and it kind of contradicts itself sometimes. So today I’m gonna give you a bit of a crash course to make sure that you can understand what’s going on in UK people’s minds.
We love to apologise:
The first one I’ve got for you today is that Brits love to apologise. I’m pretty sure that sorry is the most commonly used word in the UK, and if you spend any time in England or Scotland or wherever, you’re probably going to hear this word multiple times a day. But why? Well, I think it comes from the fact that British people are too bloody nice and we are trying to be polite to everyone we meet, and we’re trying not to inconvenience people with our actions, right?
So, it’s like this. I’m walking along, somebody bumps into me. I’m probably gonna say sorry for being in the way. And if I’m on a crowded train and I’m trying to get past someone, cause it’s my stop and they’re in my way, I’m gonna apologise for them being in my way and I need to get somebody’s attention, so that’s inconveniencing them somehow. So I would start with, sorry.
It’s a weird thing. So you might find that when you’re in the UK. You are being apologised to a lot for things that could be your fault or that just don’t matter in the grand scheme of life. So yeah, be prepared to hear the word sorry a lot if you’re in the UK.
Queueing is important:
Another thing that us Brit’s proper love is a good queue. Can’t get enough for a good queue us Brits. If you’re not sure, queue is the British English word for a line. You know, you stand behind the person in front of you waiting for your turn to do something. Now, I can’t imagine a better Saturday than standing in a massive queue waiting to get to the front of the line so I can complain about something. Now that is quintessentially British!
It’s an unspoken rule that these queues exist and you don’t push in the queue. You don’t go in front of your mate. You don’t push to the front. You don’t make a crowd trying to get on the train. You get in the queue and you wait your bloody turn because that is what polite, well mannered gentleman do.
However, you will find sometimes that there’s always one dickhead that decides that they’re not gonna play by these rules and they’re gonna push to the front. British people are too polite to tell them not to do it. You know, if you try it, you’re probably gonna get away with it, but everybody else in that queue will hate you and they will be livid.
And you can tell that British people are mad cause you’ll hear a tot. *tut* That is the highest level of anger in the uk, especially folded arms. *tut* what a dickhead, you know? So please don’t do that. If you see people lining up, get to the back of the queue and follow the rules. Otherwise, you’re gonna piss off a lot of British people.
Talking about the weather can’t be avoided:
Now when it comes to small talk, Guess what British people love to talk about. That’s right. It’s the weather. British people, for some reason that I don’t understand love talking about the weather, which is strange for a country that basically just has grey and raining as the default weather conditions, however, we love to talk about it when we meet people, you know, in an elevator or we are waiting for the bus or with somebody we don’t really know, but we are trying to make polite conversation with.
You can guarantee that the weather is gonna come up as a topic of conversation, and it’s probably gonna start something like this. See, it’s raining again -or- I wonder if it’ll ever stop raining -or- It’s August, and it’s raining. You know, something like this is probably gonna come up a lot.
I don’t know… for me, it’s the most boring topic of conversation that you can possibly have with another person. Yet British people love to do it, and I don’t really understand it. The joke in England though, about the weather, of course, everyone’s image is that it rains a lot and it does, but we do have four seasons in England.
The problem is you can experience all four of those seasons in the same day. You know, you wake up, it’s a nice spring morning. By lunchtime it’s kind of sunny and warm and you think, yes, I’m gonna have a barbecue today. You go to the supermarket and it starts getting a bit grey, a bit colder, cause Autumn’s there, and by the time you turn the barbecue on in the evening, guess what? It’s winter, it’s raining, it’s cold. So you just give up, go back inside and just cook all the food you bought in the oven like you would do for any other meal. I suggest you’ll learn some expressions for like, it’s cold today, isn’t it? You know, very basic expressions to talk about the weather.
And you will notice that British English, we’ve got a million different words and a million different ways to talk about basically the same weather. So I suggest you spend a bit of time learning it so you can have that conversation with people that you’ve never met and be polite, and even though it’s proper boring.
Fancy A Cuppa?
Now, if I said to you, what is the UK’s national drink? Your first thought is probably a bloody, lovely cup of tea and you would be right. British people in general love drinking tea. I don’t get it. I prefer coffee. I’m not much of a tea drinker to be honest, but I’m not a very good British person. But, Over the UK apparently we drink like 60 billion cups of tea every year.
So you will find that if you spend any time with British people, they’re probably gonna offer you a cuppa, which means a cup of tea. A cuppa, or they might offer you a brew. We sometimes call it a brew, a cuppa, they both mean a cup of tea. And you’ll be offered this all the time, even if you’ve just finished drinking a cuppa.
The second that empty cup hits the table, they might be like, “Hey, do you fancy another cuppa?” I don’t know. It’s just something that we do. I think British people feel a bit anxious if they’ve got a cup without tea in it, but you know, it is what it is. Anyway, you’re probably gonna be offered a cup of tea at every possible opportunity, and it’s not just about the drink.
It often goes hand in hand with like sitting down, having a break, talking to your mates, having a bit of a chinwag, a bit of a natter, and we drink tea while we are chatting and catching up on all the latest gossip. And it’s a way that we kind of bond with people. If you go to your mate’s house, you’re probably gonna have a cup of tea and maybe if you’re lucky, a little biscuit and you’re gonna spend a bit of time chatting together. It’s just the British way.
Spelling is a bit weird:
Another thing that tends to confuse people when they go to the UK is that the spelling of words might not be exactly what you expect, and this is all because of our cousins over the pond, the Americans, messing up English, right? Basically, they took British English and they looked at it and they were like “oh my God, this is so confusing! Colour has a u. Let’s get rid of the U – C O L O R color” . I apologise to any American listeners. My American accent is pretty rubbish, but the point stands! They took standard English spelling and they changed it to make it easier, I guess. But I’m not having that. I want my English to be as confusing as possible. So put the u in colour.
Another one that confuses people is the fact that words like theatre or centre are r e, not e r. So they’ll look at that word and be like, Centra? Theatra?. No, it’s theatre and centre, but we spell it differently. Mainly because French and German, you know, these kind of languages affected British English a lot, and we took a lot of spelling and stuff from those languages. So Americans tend to be a bit more phonetic than British English. So don’t be surprised if sometimes you see words spelled a little differently to what you expect, and don’t tell us it’s spelled wrong, like “Um, actually, Mr. British person, it’s spelled c e n t E R.” No, it’s not mate! It’s spelled centre – R E because we’re in England, so get used to it, friend.
And also, as you’re probably very aware at this point, American English and British English, we’ve got loads of words that are completely different. And I think it’s because Americans kind of tried to simplify things. For example, in England we have a bin and you put stuff in the bin. But in America that was too vague for them. They were like, “A bin? what’s that?” So they called it a waste paper basket, so they knew that it had to be waste paper that goes in the basket. This is not my joke. It’s a joke by a British comedian called Michael McIntyre. Look him up on YouTube. He does a much better job at telling that joke than I do.
But yeah, I guess one day I’ll probably make another episode. All about differences between British English and American English. But for now we are just talking about England, so forget them Americans, it’s just all about us Brits.
So that is everything for part one. Next week is gonna be part two, so make sure you check back for the other points. But I’d like to know, what do you find interesting about British culture? Let me know. Send me a. Drop me an email, leave me a comment, whatever. I’d love to hear what you think is weird about British culture and who knows? Maybe it’ll make it into the next episode.
Now, at this point, you might be thinking, Dan, where’s my vocabulary list Usually you tell me some important vocabulary words at the beginning of the episode. Well, I’ve kind of decided to stop doing that because some people found it really annoying. So instead, you can download the free vocabulary sheet that goes along with this episode. The link is in the show notes and the description.
Click the link, put your email address in, and I’ll send it you directly. You can download it and use it to follow along with this episode. And of course, if you want the full transcript. It’s over on dansenseienglish.com. Every single word, exactly how I said it written down so you can follow along. It’s good for practicing shadowing and things like that.
And if you wanna go one step further and support me, check out my Patreon. It’s patreon.com/dansensei. You get bonus content, you get extra stuff. You can also join the study squad community and practice your English with me and other people. It’s well worth a couple of dollars, but that’s it for today, so I’ll catch you in the next one.
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