Quintessentially British Things That Make No Sense To Us

By Nick Hadji 7 months ago

"You Alright?"

Image Source: FacebookThe perplexing British greeting of "You alright?" can lead to confusion for newcomers. Unlike asking about one's well-being, it's more of a casual greeting, often leading to an awkward five-minute conversation before realizing they aren't questioning your health. It's as if the Brits have their unique way of checking in on each other without explicitly asking.Original content sourced from Femanin.com

Thanking Your Bus Driver

Image Source: The Buzzer BlogIt's a uniquely British phenomenon to thank the bus driver as you disembark: It's a common courtesy that showcases the British politeness, with everyone expressing gratitude or even exchanging a quick greeting with the driver. It's heartwarming to witness passengers acknowledging the hard work of the drivers, creating a friendly and respectful atmosphere on public transport.

Floor Numbers are Different

Image Source: RedditPrepare for a slight disorientation when navigating buildings in the UK. The first floor is not the first floor; it's actually the second floor. The ground floor is labeled as "ground," which can take some adjustment. You might find yourself on the wrong floor more than once until you get accustomed to this curious numbering system.

"Oyster" Has Nothing to Do With the Sea in the UK

Image Source: Reddit

When in London, the word "oyster" doesn't conjure up thoughts of seafood delicacies. Instead, it refers to a smartcard used for public transportation, including the London Underground. An Oyster card is an essential tool for getting around the city efficiently. It's like a magic wand that grants you access to trains, buses, and trams with just a tap.

British Politeness is Over the Top

Image Source: US Weekly

British politeness can sometimes be puzzling. Imagine someone saying "thank you" after you've thanked them. It's a common practice, showcasing their polite nature and creating a never-ending cycle of gratitude. This courteous gesture can leave you feeling appreciated, but it might also spark a friendly rivalry over who can out-polite the other.

The Pudding is a Lie

Image Source: Reddit

In America, "pudding" brings to mind creamy custard desserts. But in the UK, it can refer to various sweet treats like cake or ice cream, even sugary confections. To add to the confusion, there's also "black pudding," a type of sausage served at breakfast. So, when a Brit mentions pudding, it's anyone's guess until you see it for yourself. It's like diving into a world of dessert mysteries with every mention of the word.

Two Taps in the Bathroom

Image Source: Reddit

A sink in the UK often comes with separate taps for hot and cold water, causing bafflement for those accustomed to a single mixer tap. Historically, this distinction arose due to hot water storage concerns and safety. The separate taps preserve the integrity of cold water, ensuring it remains safe to drink. While it might seem unusual at first, you'll soon appreciate the careful consideration of water quality in the British plumbing tradition.

Head Scratching Weather

Image Source: Reddit"Lovely day, isn't it?" says the Brit amidst pouring rain and gale-force winds. British weather is notorious for its unpredictability, leaving us bewildered and reaching for an umbrella at all times. It's like a game of weather roulette, where sunshine, rain, and gusts take turns throughout the day, keeping us on our toes and forever checking weather apps.

Their Obsession With Tea

Image Source: Reddit

The Brits take their tea seriously — tea bags, tea cozies, tea time! We may never understand the deep-rooted love for a beverage that's mostly water, milk, and a pinch of leaves. Their passion for tea is akin to an art form, where a perfectly brewed cuppa becomes a daily ritual and a source of comfort in all situations, from joyous celebrations to heart-to-heart chats.

Obscure Slang

Image Source: Reddit"Bob's your uncle" and "brolly" confuse us; British slang can be a puzzle. We're left wondering who Bob is and why he's relevant. But it's all part of the charm, a secret code that bonds Brits and baffles outsiders. Once you dive into the linguistic labyrinth, you'll find yourself chuckling at the quirky expressions and adopting them like an honorary Brit.


Image Source: Reddit

British tradition or sheer madness? Adults in costumes playing child roles and the audience shouting, "He's behind you!" Needless to say, we're puzzled by this theatre spectacle. Yet, the magic of pantomime lies in its ability to transcend age barriers, bringing delight to both kids and grown-ups. Once you experience the infectious energy and lively humor, you'll embrace the pantomime spirit, even if you can't explain its origin.

Double Taps on Public Transport

Image Source: My LondonStanding at a safe distance in queues? Not on the Tube! Brits have an unspoken agreement for uncomfortably close proximity. While it might seem peculiar to outsiders, it's an unyielding part of the daily commute dance. Embracing this crowd closeness becomes a testament to blending in and adapting to the local ways.

Proper Queueing Etiquette

Image Source: Reddit

The British sense of orderliness prevails even in chaotic situations. Queues are sacred, and cutting in line is a cardinal sin. It might seem excessive, but the order in queues fosters a sense of fairness and equality, where everyone waits their turn patiently. So, when in the UK, remember to queue diligently — it's a mark of respect for British customs.

The "Keep Calm" Phenomenon

Image Source: Reddit

Although the images with "Keep Calm" now look so old and kitschy, in times of crisis, Brits do remain cool as cucumbers. Stoicism in the face of adversity is a national treasure; it's this ability to maintain composure and carry on, no matter what, that gives Brits an air of unflappable strength. While it may seem baffling at first, witnessing their calm demeanor can inspire a newfound appreciation for resilience and resolve.

So Many Pubs

Image Source: thekittchenCenturies-old establishments where strangers become friends and "one pint" lasts all night. Why not just have a glass of wine at home? The allure of pubs lies in their cozy ambiance, lively conversations, and a sense of community. A shared experience over a pint fosters connections and camaraderie that can't be replicated at home, making pubs an integral part of British social life.

... Which Do Not Serve Food

Image Source: Casket BeerPubs without a proper food menu — a concept alien to us. In British culture, pubs are social hubs where camaraderie and conversation take precedence over the culinary experience. The focus lies on good company and excellent drinks, creating an inviting atmosphere that feels like an extension of one's living room.

... And Have Peculiar Names

Image Source: Reddit"The Slug and Lettuce" or "The Cow and Cabbage" — the Brits have a knack for quirky pub names that leave us scratching our heads. These eccentric monikers are often tied to local history, folklore, or whimsical wordplay. Each name carries a unique story, and unraveling the mysteries behind them becomes a delightful treasure hunt while exploring the British pub scene.

Another Obsession: Cricket

Image Source: Planet Radio

A mysterious sport involving tea breaks and elaborate rules, but we'll keep cheering without fully comprehending the game, no worries! The intricacies of cricket might be perplexing, but its enduring popularity lies in its ability to unite communities and evoke a sense of national pride. The excitement of a match, the cheers from the stands, and the camaraderie among fans make cricket a cherished part of British culture, regardless of its complexity.

The Royal Family

Image Source: History Extra

The world's fascination with British royalty is perplexing. We can't comprehend the fanfare surrounding a group of people born into a particular family. Yet, the allure lies in the rich history and tradition they embody, symbolizing continuity and national identity. The royal ceremonies and pageantry add a touch of fairytale magic to the modern world, captivating imaginations across the globe.

Fish and Chips Served in Newspaper

Image Source: Reddit

The national dish served in newspaper is an odd combination that baffles our taste buds. However, this humble meal is a perfect harmony of crispy battered fish and piping hot chips doused in vinegar and sprinkled with salt. The tradition of serving it in newspaper harks back to the past when it was a practical way to keep the food warm while being a sustainable packaging option.

Morris Dancing

Image Source: RedditMen in bells and ribbons hopping around to traditional tunes — an ancient folk dance that leaves us bewildered. But beneath the curious spectacle lies a rich cultural heritage, with each dance having historical significance and regional variations. The lively performance celebrates seasons, fertility, and community spirit, preserving age-old traditions for generations to come.


Image Source: Brown Tweed SocietyThe Brits' fondness for "cheerio" as a farewell is charming but perplexing. Is it a cereal or a goodbye greeting? While it might sound like a breakfast cereal, "cheerio" is a delightful informal way of saying goodbye, embodying the British penchant for endearing expressions. It's a casual and affectionate parting phrase that adds a touch of warmth to farewells.

Roundabouts On Almost All Their Roads

Image Source: RedditNavigating a maze of circular junctions is a uniquely British driving experience that makes us question traditional intersections. The British love affair with roundabouts stems from their efficiency in managing traffic flow and reducing accidents. Mastering the art of signaling and smoothly merging becomes a driver's rite of passage in the UK, making roundabouts a cornerstone of British (and European, for that matter) road infrastructure.

The Iconic Red Telephone Boxes

Image Source: Reddit

A quintessential British icon, but do they serve any purpose other than photo opportunities? These bright red boxes were once lifelines for communication before mobile phones took over. Today, they stand as charming relics of the past, preserving British nostalgia and architectural heritage while also making for excellent photo backdrops.

Christmas Crackers

Image Source: RedditPulling apart festive tubes with paper hats, bad jokes, and tiny trinkets inside is a Christmas tradition we don't quite get. These delightful novelties are part of the British Christmas experience, adding a burst of excitement to holiday gatherings. The origin lies in the 19th century when a confectioner's serendipitous inspiration led to the creation of these quirky Christmas treats.

Wimbledon Queue is Something Normal

Image Source: InsiderPeople camping out overnight for tennis tickets is a dedication we can't comprehend. For tennis enthusiasts, the Wimbledon queue is an annual pilgrimage to witness world-class tennis in action. The tradition of camping out, forming friendships in the queue, and sharing the Wimbledon spirit has become an integral part of the tennis championship's allure.

Grey Skies All Year Long

Image Source: RedditA national cliché, but we can't help wondering why the sun seems elusive. The British weather might be notorious for its overcast skies, but this ever-changing climate offers its unique beauty. The soft, diffused light lends a subtle charm to the landscapes, making sunny days all the more cherished and celebrated.

We All Know of British Humor...

Image Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Dry, sarcastic, and often self-deprecating, a style that leaves us chuckling but occasionally baffled. The Brits' wit and humor are ingrained in their DNA, allowing them to find laughter even in the face of adversity. Their ability to laugh at themselves adds a relatable human touch, forging connections through shared amusement.

They Drink Warm Beer

Image Source: Reddit

Serving beer at room temperature is a practice we definitely find puzzling. The tradition of serving beer slightly warmer in the UK dates back to the days before refrigeration. Brits believe it enhances the flavors and aromas, allowing them to savor the nuances of different brews. Once you acquire the taste, you might discover a whole new world of beer appreciation.

The Cabs are Black

Image Source: GetYourGuideIconic London taxis, but why not call them yellow like elsewhere? The iconic black cabs are a symbol of London's transportation heritage. Their design and color are deeply rooted in tradition, reflecting British craftsmanship and elegance. The distinctive black cabs offer reliability and convenience, making them an enduring feature of the city's landscape.

The 'Juicy Bits' In Drinks

image source: reddit.com
So we all know that fruit juices, like orange juice, comes with 'bits' in it. Mostly orange juice, which we refer to as the pulp. You can get orange juice with or without pulp, but for British people scouring the grocery store shelves, it's very much "I want orange juice, but without the juicy bits, thanks". So basically they might want juice... without the juicy bits.

There Isn't Just One 'British Accent'

image source: esquire
We know this might be obvious, but for the most part, when people think of 'the British' and what they sound like, it's very much someone who sounds posher than posher, with elongated vowels, and probably drinking a cup of tea while speaking. But there are many British accents, and some of them are very difficult to understand for people from other countries.

The BBC Rules

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In America, we're used to many different news channels and broadcasting stations, such as CNN or Fox News. In Britain, there's pretty much one broadcaster that rules them all: the BBC. There are news stations on other channels, but for the most part, the BBC is the one to rule them all, and they also control a lot of what you see - including needing a TV licence to watch their programs.

Being The Captain Of A Ship

image source: british antarctic survey
And we don't mean Captain Jack Sparrow - though that would be fun - we mean the rich history the British have with their naval history, and their requirements for being a ship captain. To work as a captain you need to have a very extensive knowledge of geography as well as needing to know how to captain a ship, of course. The job of a ship's captain in Britain is something that might be confusing to people from other countries!

November 5th Celebrations

image source: reddit.com
So we know that the main firework celebration in the US is of course the 4th July, so the British firework celebration that happens on November 5th - also known as 'Bonfire Night' - might be strange to us. The celebration is based on the fact that, in history, Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament (government building). Since, people light bonfires and set off fireworks because of that.

Stereotypes Can Be Way Off

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We know that stereotypes are true of any country or culture, and for the British, there are of course some people who closely fit the 'drinking tea, talking with a posh accent, have extreme manners' British stereotype. But some Americans might be thrown off by how many different people there are in Britain that are the furthest thing away from this stereotype as you can possibly get!

Getting Latin Phrases As Tattoos

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Okay so this isn't exclusive to the British, but people from this country sure do like their tattoos, and most of the time that can be a fondness for text script tattoos which are usually in Latin. The British actually love saying Latin phrases in every day life for motivational quotes, and things like 'Carpe Diem' (seize the day) are popular choices for ink!

How Cheerful British People Are

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Or are they? This is the thing with British people and the idea of a 'stiff upper lip' - it's not necessarily that all British people are naturally more cheerful or happier, it's just that they're very good at pretending everything is fine. A British person will likely say they're having a great day when they're not, say they're fine when they're not and act like they love the awful weather they're having!

The Spelling/Pronunciation Differences

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It's not too shocking to learn that British people spell words like 'colour' with an extra letter compared to Americans, but there's also that big difference in pronunciation where a lot of British people pronounce the extra letters in certain words, like vowel sounds, where Americans don't. Some key (confusing) examples include Oregano and Aluminium!

Not Everything Is 'Cockney'

image source: reddit.com
We know you should do a little research and brush up on your language skills before you travel to a new country, and when it's Britain - particularly, London - you might have been watching some gangster films to learn that Cockney accent and that Cockney rhyming slang - but not everyone talks like that. In fact, a very limited number of people talk to that extreme!

Wearing A Dress On A Cold Night Out

image source: the mirror
So the British definitely have to be commended on their commitment to a good night out! As we know, the British weather is very unpredictable - it could either be raining or snowing in the 'summer' when you've planned a good night clubbing, and that means that new dress you just bought to wear out isn't going to change anytime soon. When it comes to still going out with no coat, Brits have a talent for it.

Afternoon Tea

image source: reddit.com
We know the idea of 'tea' is a very British thing, but this is where it gets even more confusing. There's also something called 'afternoon tea', which isn't what you might think (a cup of tea in the afternoon). It's actually a reference to a certain meal theme where you usually eat tiny sandwiches, cakes and other small bites, in the afternoon - which is usually then coupled with a cup of tea!

There Might Be Loads Of 'Harry's

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Harry is just a really popular name in Britain, so you might be surprised how many Harrys you bump into if you're planning on traveling overseas. Of course, the most famous British Harry is Harry Potter (or maybe Prince Harry) and more and more people might be naming their new babies after the famous fictional wizard! Either way, expect to say hello to a fair few Harrys.


image source: tripadvisor
It's not exclusive to the British to take jibes or insults towards friends or strangers in a joking, playful way, but this is more about that famous 'British humor' that a lot of foreigners can struggle to get. The British are big on their 'banter', which is very much an art form of exchanging teasing remarks in a witty way. So don't be too shocked if you hear people 'insulting' each other left, right and center.

The Simon Cowell And Gordon Ramsay Phenomenon

image source: blog portal
Two of the biggest TV personalities to come out of the UK and also become big in the US have to be Simon Cowell - known for his talent show judging - and angry celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. It's important to know though that most people in Britain will remember a time when Simon and Gordon were a little different - Simon actually used to be more mean, and Gordon less so!

The British Government Controversies

image source: British vogue
Britain has a long and varied history in politics - and with their political leaders - so while Americans might have to deal with a questionable president or two, it's worth knowing that controversies of British prime ministers and politicians. One of the most famous for her controversy has to be ex-prime minister Margaret Thatcher, while Winston Churchill is perhaps considered one of the best.

Words For Technology

image source: reddit.com
We already know there are a ton of different language barriers and varying words for things that make no sense to us Americans, but one of the biggest differences in language terms has to be technology! What we know as USBs, they know as memory sticks. TV remotes can be known as 'flickers' or 'zappers' depending on what part of the UK you're from...

Coffee Shop Sizes!

image source: reddit.com
So one thing every American does - or should - know is how to order the proper coffee sizes in your local favorite coffee shop (and definitely don't ask for a 'regular' size because nobody knows what that is). In British coffee shops, you won't get away with saying 'venti' or 'grande' - it's just pretty much small, medium and large. You may even get away with saying regular in this country because that likely means the middle ground of 'medium'!

No Tipping

image source: reddit.com
Tipping is a must-do thing in American, we're used to it, and it goes without saying. In Britain, it's a different story! It isn't exclusive to this country, as some other countries of the world aren't big on tipping either, but if you're traveling to the UK any time soon, you'll save yourself some money on tips you definitely don't have to give. You can always voluntarily tip if you've loved the service, but you don't have to!

City Streets

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America has a pretty clear grid system for their city streets, but don't expect that system when you travel to the big cities in Britain. While a lot of cities were made created on a form of grid system, it doesn't easily show on the street names. You won't get street names like '4th' or '5th', and most of them will be what appear to be random words or names.