by Expat Focus columnist, Toni Hargis
If you’ve read my book, you’ll know that I go to great pains to keep Americans apprised of British customs, sayings and manners. Not that we all take tea at precisely 4pm every day, or consort with the Queen on a regular basis, but there are some things that while minor, make all the difference.
If you’ve yet to read Rules, Britannia, let me recap a few of my tips:
Please – While the meaning of “please” is usually implied in the tone of an American request, the word itself is not always used. In the UK, its absence will draw audible intakes of breath and small children may well find the cookie, or toy they are requesting withheld until they “ask properly”. The word “please” is used by everyone regardless of background; it is said to everyone regardless of station, so that includes waiters and other people paid to serve you.
He/She – Again, while no harm is meant in the US by referring to a person as “he” or “she” while they are standing right in front of you, it’s considered very rude in the UK, and often elicits the rhetorical and shocked question “Who’s she? The cat’s mother”. Seriously. If you can’t remember, or don’t know, the name of the person you’re talking about, simply say “We were just discussing…..”.
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