20 Embarrassing Mistakes Americans Should Avoid Making When Visiting The U.K.

The United Kingdom is an incredibly popular tourist destination for Americans, as the island nation has plenty to offer. But when you touch down at the airport, it’s worth remembering that there are certain things you shouldn’t do around the locals. So in a bid to do our part, we’ve compiled a list detailing 20 of the most embarrassing no nos.

20. Don’t talk about how much money you’ve got

While it might be a sensitive topic for some people, there will be others who don’t mind shedding light on their financial status. However, the United Kingdom isn’t the place to bring that up. As Reddit user butwhatsmyname wrote on the social media website, “Don’t talk about how much money you have. Discussing money is surprisingly distasteful in England.”

If you’re wondering why that’s the case, Quora user Karen Pollack offered a potential explanation. She wrote, “It’s probably a respect for privacy, an understanding on some level of the superficial nature of wealth as a way of judging someone, [and] good manners. Many cultures find boasting, or obvious displays of wealth to lack class, to be overly personal, or simply rude.”

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19. Talking to strangers

In the United States, talking to someone that you don’t know on the street isn’t that unusual. But Americans should be wary of trying the same thing with Brits in general. As user Nosferatii wrote on Reddit, “If you’re in the south of England, don’t think we’re being rude if you try to spark up a conversation with a stranger in public and we look at you weird.”

“It’s just not that common a thing to do [in the United Kingdom],” Nosferatii added. To back that point up, the Expat Insider survey from 2017 showcased some intriguing information. Out of 65 countries across the world, the United Kingdom was ranked 52nd for “friendliness” and 49th for “finding friends.”

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18. Don’t use Scottish money in England

While there are 50 different states, America uses the same currency throughout the country. So citizens don’t need to worry about exchanging their cash before taking a domestic vacation. Yet the financial situation can get confusing if people decide to travel around the United Kingdom for their holiday.

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One Reddit user recalled, “I took £100 in Scottish money with me [to England] – most people looked at me [horrified]. Do not use Scottish money.” Although the four nations within the union utilize the pound, Northern Ireland and Scotland have alternative pound notes, while Wales and England don’t.

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17. Biscuits are cookies

When you ask for a biscuit in the United States, you’ll expect a baked item that can be eaten with soup or chicken meals. However, the name has a different meaning in the United Kingdom. Indeed, if you buy a pack of biscuits there, you’ll be greeted by some standard cookies.

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To confuse you even further, U.S. biscuits are very similar to what are called scones in the United Kingdom. But the latter isn’t consumed in the same way, as you’d normally eat them with clotted cream and jelly. So It can get confusing if you aren’t clued up.

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16. Asking if locals know the Queen

As many of you will already know, not every country around the world has a royal family. And America is one of those nations. So that might explain why certain individuals have a fascination with the U.K. monarchy. To back that up, the CNBC website reported that over 29 million people in the States watched Prince Harry’s wedding in 2018.

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But that royal enthusiasm can draw some unwanted looks when you travel to the United Kingdom. Specifically, the Thrillist website noted that you should never ask a Brit if they know the Queen. For a bit of perspective, it’d be similar to someone else querying if you’re chums with your country’s head of state.

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15. Never be impolite

In an ideal world, everyone would display the same level of courtesy throughout their daily lives. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in reality. Yet the United Kingdom is one of the last places that you’d want to showcase acts of impoliteness. Yes, you’re more likely to be pulled up on it there.

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In keeping with that, a Reddit user named super_nat556 offered some advice to tourists in the United Kingdom. They wrote, “When someone asks ‘Alright?’ or ‘How are you?’ under no circumstances are you to reply negatively. Lie if you have to, but unless you never want anyone to talk to you again reply with ‘Fine,’ ‘Good thanks,’ or anything similar. Also just general politeness goes a very long way.”

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14. Don’t make fun of teeth

Most countries around the globe have negative stereotypes attributed to them. And when it comes to the United Kingdom, Americans have long zoned in on the oral health of Brits. Unsurprisingly, that’s annoyed plenty of people down the years, while certain figures suggest that the jokes might be outdated.

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Back in 2015 the BBC website reported that U.K. residents splashed over $2.4 billion on dental work the previous year. As dentist Uchenna Okoye said, “Rightly or wrongly, we are appearance-driven and, as teeth have become more of a focus with makeover shows and celebrity news, people have become more interested.” So you should probably keep the jokes to yourself.

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13. Mimicking the British accent

Regardless of where we’re from, we all boast different accents that might sound strange to an outsider. Due to that, some people could feel the urge to imitate an accent as a joke. However, when tourists start to mimic the British accent, the humor wears off pretty quickly.

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Indeed, and Reddit user NeilParmesan shared a simple piece of advice to any visitors in Britain on the social media website. He wrote, “[Don’t] talk with a fake English accent and say ‘pip pip!’ and ‘cheerio!’ a lot.” Another named UncensoredChef concurred with that point, adding, “[Don’t] call people ‘guvna.’”

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12. Ignoring queues

In the United Kingdom queues play a significant role in a person’s daily life. From the store to public transport, waiting in line for your turn is a standard practice. But if a tourist decides to ignore the queue, they could incite a lot of pent up anger from the locals. To test that out, a social anthropologist put herself in the firing line.

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Speaking to the South China Morning Post in June 2004, Kate Fox recalled, “Jumping ahead of people in queues to gauge their reaction was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. For the English, queue-jumping is a deadly sin, which it isn’t in other cultures. A raised eyebrow is a sort of stab to the heart.”

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11. Calling the United Kingdom “England”

The United Kingdom is like most island nations around the world, as it isn’t just a single country. It’s composed of four different countries – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. So with that in mind, Americans should avoid referring to the union as England alone when they arrive for their vacation.

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As per the Grunge website, England is home to the union’s capital city, but the island nation has more to it than that. For instance, Scotland and Wales boast respective cultural identities to their neighbors, while parts of the latter’s population also speak a different language. Due to that, you won’t endear yourself to the residents of those countries by calling them English.

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10. Never just pay for your own drink

At the end of a long day at work, there’s nothing better than relaxing at a bar with your closest friends. More often than not, you’ll be buying your own drinks separately, unless the occasion calls for a single round. In the United Kingdom, though, the system is significantly different for groups.

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Indeed, a rotating round is administered when British friends get together at the pub. That means each person will pay for all of the drinks at least once. And the Grunge website noted that tourists aren’t immune to this system either if they join a table of locals. So whatever you do, don’t ignore the call to the bar when it’s your turn, as you’ll leave an unflattering impression.

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9. Don’t snap your fingers at waiting staff

Waiting tables can be a thankless task at the best of times, yet the job is made a lot easier if customers are kind and courteous. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Even so, American tourists and other foreign visitors should remember that certain actions aren’t tolerated in U.K. restaurants.

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To explain more, a Reddit user shared an example. They wrote, “Do not flag or snap your fingers at a waitress to get her attention. I was getting lunch today, and watched a Russian family flag their waitress over by getting to their feet and waving like a madman.”

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8. Assume the weather will be awful

If you live in certain parts of America, you’ll be treated to some incredible weather throughout the year. For instance, the Weather Atlas website reported that Florida boasts the highest average daily temperature in the States at 70.7°F. But other countries have developed a negative reputation within America for their differing climates.

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And the United Kingdom is normally on that list, as some believe that the weather is consistently awful. However, if Americans arrive on the island with a suitcase full of coats, they could be in for a shock. Because the BBC reported that five different air masses converge above the United Kingdom, ranging from tropical to polar. So the climate can swing wildly and leave unprepared tourists in a spot of bother.

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7. Kissing as a greeting

Unsurprisingly, not every culture is as touchy-feely as others. So while something may be deemed acceptable in your own country, it might not garner a favorable response abroad. In keeping with that, tourists need to remember a couple of things when greeting others in the United Kingdom.

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As explained by the Daily Mail, visitors should only greet a stranger in the United Kingdom with a simple handshake. But you mustn’t attempt to introduce yourself with a kiss. And hugs fall under that particular category as well, so try to keep that in mind when you touch down.

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6. Don’t ask a local to “speak English”

In America, there are numerous regional accents that can test the ears of any visitor. From a southern drawl to a New England twang, all of them have distinctive sounds. The United Kingdom is similar in that regard, yet some tourists can be rather blunt when talking to the locals.

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Focusing on that point, Reddit user medianbailey shared some important advice. They wrote, “If someone sounds strange, and you don’t understand anything coming out of their mouth, DO NOT ask them to speak English. They’re probably just from Birmingham or any northern city. [Or] Wales, Scotland, Ireland.”

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5. It’s not soccer

From football to soccer, Americans are treated to several different sports throughout the year. But if you’re about to visit the United Kingdom, you need to be aware of the different semantics that those two words have. You see, the former has a completely different meaning to fans.

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Indeed, soccer is football in the United Kingdom, with fans disregarding the first term decades ago. Business Insider reported that the word was initially coined there in the 1860s, before America adopted it at the turn of the 20th century. Despite that backstory, you should probably stick with the preferred name during your stint in the country.

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4. Don’t make a spectacle

If you live in America, there’s a good chance you’ll know at least one person who isn’t afraid to be loud in public. Being the center of attention isn’t always a bad thing, yet that’s not the case in most parts of the United Kingdom. To explain more, Reddit user butwhatsmyname made an interesting point.

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“Do bear in mind that England is a remarkably culturally diverse place – different parts of the country can have very different attitudes and accents,” butwhatsmyname wrote. “Take care to observe how the people around you are dealing with something and just go with it. The English loathe spectacle and embarrassment above almost all else.”

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3. Don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk

In the United Kingdom a “Rules for pedestrians” webpage was launched by the government back in 2015. Overall, there are 35 points that people must abide by when roaming Britain’s sidewalks, ranging from the obvious to the obscure. However, the guide didn’t cover one particularly annoying offense that locals have to deal with.

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When discussing the dos and don’ts for tourists in the United Kingdom, a Reddit user spoke up. They wrote, “[Don’t] stop in the middle of any busy pavement and take pictures.” That’s an easy way to cause a logjam, and summon the wrath of commuters looking to get by.

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2. Don’t make fun of the food

America has earned a solid reputation for its food, with the large portions leaving consumers stunned. But when looking at other countries’ offerings down the years, Americans haven’t been so high about the United Kingdom. As BBC America explained, a negative cloud started to hang over the nation following World War Two.

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Yes, back then British citizens were still utilizing rations, leaving the country’s cuisine in a bit of a hole. Yet the United Kingdom bounced back in a major way after that. By 2016 The Telegraph newspaper reported that the nation had more Michelin-starred restaurants than the States. So American tourists might want to ease off on the food jokes.

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1. Don’t touch the Royal Guards

Thanks to their iconic red jackets and furry black hats, the Queen’s Guard continue to attract attention from tourists. Alongside their recognizable uniforms, they’re best known for remaining stoic at their posts as well. Due to that, plenty of people have tried to get a smile out of them down the years, in both Windsor and London, which is where they’re based.

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However, if you take things too far, the royal guards will let you know about it very quickly. As Reddit user SinkTube explained, “[Don’t] touch the guards. You can mess around in front of them and they’ll ignore you, but touch them and prepare for a world of hurt.” Simply put, keep your hands to yourself.

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