One of the first things you discover when you move to England is that it is, on the whole, friendly. The climate is never harsh, the landscape is never forbidding, and the people are—on the whole—very nice.
Yes, even in a post-Brexit world, England is full of gentle, polite people who are happy to help. Get past the crippling shyness and fear of embarrassment—which often seems like rudeness—and people are lovely.
Beer helps. Or just a little persistence. But whatever you do after you move to England, don’t do any of the following:
1) Allow any silences in your conversation
Once you start talking to an English person, you’re not allowed to stop. If silence creeps into your conversation, it draws attention to the empty abyss of your false relationship. So either don’t talk to them at all, or keep yapping until you’re a safe distance away (approx. 20 metres). Even if this means saying ‘bye’ five times.
2) Jump the queue
Never, ever jump the queue (or line). This is easy when there’s a clear queue, like at the Post Office. But you must obey this rule even when there is no queue.
The English have queuing so deep in their DNA, they queue mentally even when there is no physical queue. Then they get tested on it. Barbers and bar staff shout, ‘Who’s next?’, and everyone tries to answer correctly. ‘Her, then him, then me.’ Go with it. Respect it. Don’t be the one to mess with the order of nature—or chaos will come, and reign forever.
3) Fail to apologise
If you accidentally brush against someone in England, say sorry (at least three times).
If they bump into you, you must also say sorry (but only twice).
If you’re quite annoyed at someone, start your reproach with: “Sorry, but.” (Once will do.)
On no account, ever, should you let someone apologise without apologising back.
4) Stand on the left
Be careful where you stand still. On moving objects like escalators in tube stations or those flat thingies at Heathrow airport, you stand on the right. This allows people to move freely on the left. Don’t stand on the left, or the polite person behind you who can’t get past will secretly want to kill you. And definitely mutter something under their breath when they finally get to stomp past. After they’ve said sorry.
5) Invite yourself over
This may be more true for the South of England where, oddly, people tend to be a little less warm than in the North. But basically, the English value their privacy. A lot. If you ‘pop round’ to their house, they will half open the door and attempt to speak to you in the doorway. Even if they’re your sister. They might feel obliged to invite you in—if, say, they’re letting the heat out. But they’ll still find that very hard to do if it’s not in the calendar. So let them know in advance. Days in advance. That way, they can prepare to fill the silences.
Better still: meet them in the pub.
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