In my previous post, I addressed the difference between the cultures from a language perspective. When you have made your move to London and are settled into your new London apartment, you will have to start getting out and meeting new people. It might be tempting to stay ensconced within your own circle of expat friends, but you will be missing out on the rich experience of meeting new people and immersing yourself in a different culture. If you are determined to get out and enjoy your time in England, then you might want to be aware of some of the subtle difference in culture and style so that you are not shocked or feel out of place if someone asks you if you would like some more “spotted dick”. It’s a pudding not an STD!
The English have different names for their special foods and if you are not careful then you might end up ordering or tasting something that you do not want to. While spotted dick might be a pudding; you should not try Black Pudding if you have even the slightest leaning towards being a vegetarian, this is definitely not a pudding at all. It is the blood of a cow that has been cooked until it is solid. Not for the faint hearted.
There are other subtle and not so subtle differences in culture that may extend to etiquette as well as manners. The British tend to be more reserved, but that will not stop a sales assistant in a shop from calling you ‘luv’ or ‘darling’ by way of greeting. They are not being overly familiar, they are just being polite. That said, Many British people tend to think that Americans are too familiar in terms of body language and personal space. The English prefer to keep people at arm’s length; literally, while Americans and other cultures tend to prefer a more intimate connection even in business dealings.
These however are relatively subtle differences between the two cultures and for the most part, you’ll find that English people are extremely friendly and welcoming of all nations to their country. London especially is a city that has a huge immigrant population and many people work here for a few years at a time, especially from Commonwealth countries such as Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. You will find that the English spoken in London is not so very English after all.
Getting to grips with living in a new city can be daunting and you might be tempted to hang out with the people who ‘speak your language’, but the best thing to do is to get out and start meeting people who are native to the city. You will make some great new friends and probably get some firsthand information about the best places for many things in London. After all, no one knows London like a Londoner.