Advice about living in, visiting or
moving to the UK
■ British people are generally friendly - just don't come on too strong with them. Ensure you give them time to open up, and you will find that they are just as friendly and welcoming as those back in the United States.
■ Keep your voice down! You need to understand that British people generally tend to prefer quiet voices in public places. Avoid being loud and brash, this will not only draw attention to you, but it will portray a bad image for you and your entire country - you may even end up in trouble with the law!
■ Avoid wearing t-shirts or hoodies with offensive language or jokes on them, as you can be arrested for an offence ranging from 'disturbing the peace' to 'anti-social behaviour'. U.K. offenders are given an ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) by a judge in a court of law and it is considered to be a criminal record! At the court's discretion, you could be sent home.
■ The stereotype that English people are pompous and live in large houses tended by servants is wrong. Remember to call any two-story dwelling a house, and in the UK, apartments are referred to as a flat. The ground-level floor is called the "ground floor" - not the first floor. The next floor up is called the first floor, and so on. This is especially important when using elevators (which the British call ‘lifts’).
■ Don't fake an accent trying to fit in, as you will sound stupid to the locals and some people may be offended. It’s perfectly acceptable to use UK slang, but only in the correct context; wait until you have picked up enough to use it confidently and always ask if you’re unsure. The English know most American slang terms, so speaking naturally will make you fit in more than faking it.
■ Although the UK is part of the European Union, it’s best if you do not distinguish the English as "European" as most English people do not consider themselves to be European. Refer to the rest of Europe as "Europe".
■ Some major differences, such as driving on the left, may take time to become accustomed to, and can be daunting at times, but as long as you pay attention and grow into these changes it should not be a lengthy problem. Using a cellphone (‘mobile/mobile phone’) whilst driving is illegal. That includes texting, and smoking in public buildings is also against the law.
■ Some hand gestures which are common in the U.S. are offensive in the UK. For instance, when signalling to someone you want two of something by holding up your pointer and middle finger, be sure to do it with your palm facing the person. Doing the same sign with the back of your hand facing the person is very offensive.