Peter Wright
Peter Wright

PETER WRIGHT says your trip to Britain will be richer for embracing the local etiquette and culture

The small islands of the UK are distinct from the rest of Europe. Understanding British quirks is crucial to getting the most out of your trip especially when heading from South Africa .

Money and payments

Exchange your local currency to GBP (Pound Sterling) as few UK stores accept foreign money. Shopkeepers appreciate change so try not to use £50 notes to pay for something less than £20. Rather consider a secure prepaid currency card like Travelex as most British establishments accept MasterCard. You’ll need cash for bus fares and taxi rides, though.

Restaurant etiquette

You can turn up to a restaurant and ask for a table, although you are advised to book for popular establishments. Turn up ten minutes early as Brits value good timekeeping.


In a restaurant, if your party is six or more, a service charge of 15% will likely be added. Otherwise, a tip worth 10 per cent of the bill is usual. Using a coin worth less than 50 pence (use this currency converter to find out what this is worth in your local money) is regarded as insulting.

Tips are not necessary in pubs unless you receive table service or you can see a tip jar, though you could always offer to buy the barman a drink. Tip taxi drivers 10% of the fare or round up to the nearest pound.


Queuing in an orderly fashion is important to Brits, so avoid ‘pushing in’, reserving a space for another person, or standing too closely to another person.

Social etiquette

Brits rarely strike up conversations with strangers, but as long as you approach politely, you should receive help for directions. Avoid asking locals about their salaries or talking about religion and politics – these are generally taboo topics. Conversations with Brits usually lean toward the weather, and don’t be surprised by self-deprecating humour. You might also hear a lot of slang. Here’s a great  article about British Slang for your education.