Culture and etiquette

Get started with our short guide on British culture and etiquette.
  • Most people shake hands when they are first introduced but as you get to know them better they may greet you with a kiss on the cheek or a hug.
  • Being late is seen as bad manners in the UK. Aim to arrive five minutes early for classes so there is time to sit down before they begin. If you are going to be late for an appointment, let the person you are meeting know. The only time you can be a little late is if you are going to someone’s house for a party or dinner.
  • You will often hear the words ‘excuse me’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ and it’s good to use them yourself.
  • People like a lot of space around them so don’t stand too close to them.
  • Try not to ask personal questions, for example, about age, their salary, religious beliefs or politics until you know them very well.
  • We queue (stand in line) for everything here; for buses, to pay in shops, for toilets and sometimes even to enter class. People will be annoyed at you if you do not wait in the queue. If someone is there before you, let them go first. If you forget to queue, just apologise.
  • The British sense of humour can be ironic and confusing. Don’t worry. As you get to know the people better, you will start understanding the jokes. If you are not sure, just ask.
  • Some people, clubs and societies meet in pubs (public houses). All pubs serve non-alcoholic drinks so you don’t need to drink alcohol. It is legal to drink alcohol if you are over 18 in the UK. Alternatively, people meet in the many cafés in Oxford.
  • We only usually tip when you receive table service for example in cafes or restaurants. Tipping is normally around 10%.