England is the largest country of the four making up the United Kingdom, and one of the easiest international trips for Americans to make. It is where our country began, we speak the same language (with some nuances), and there are oh so many flights to London.
But there are some things to be aware of before making a trip, little things to know to maximize your England experience. So as we did with France, here are the things to know before visiting England.
1. Passive Aggressive is the Norm Here
Let’s examine a restaurant experience. In the US, if food takes forever to arrive, one will typically complain. If it arrives wrong, one will normally send it back. Not so here. Here, the English will seethe inwardly while not saying anything at a long delay without their order arriving. If it arrives wrong, most will just eat whatever came – barring something extreme like fish arriving as beef; this is more in the case of rare arriving as well done – as sending something back is relatively unheard of.
The same thing applies in other areas of life. The English are just too outwardly polite to say anything. There is no yelling if one is cut off on the road, cursing if one is bumped into on the sidewalk, or even loud demands of “you can’t do that” if someone cuts in line. That doesn’t mean the English aren’t thinking all of these things. They just don’t show aggression outwardly. Instead, you’ll get sarcastic politeness.
2. England is Diverse
If you think everyone in England looks and speaks like the royal family, Monty Python, or Kate Winslet, think again. England is as diverse a country as any other, partially due to remnants of the British Empire, and partially for the same reason as the US: people coming in search of a better life. London, especially, is diverse, and maybe the most diverse city I’ve ever visited. Within just a few blocks of my Airbnb, I had restaurants or markets featuring Portuguese, Spanish, Indian, Italian, Eritrean, Nigerian, and more.
Even the English accents are diverse, more so than American. While we have a few strong accents like thick southern drawl, the UK is full of them. It is a cacophony of sound, and I love it!
3. Pedestrian Right of Way
In the United States, pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way, whether they are crossing at a crosswalk, a corner, or jaywalking (though that last one is illegal many places). Here in England, pedestrians only have the right of way in marked crosswalks. That’s right, if you get to a street corner and it doesn’t have a marked crosswalk, you must stop for cars.
While we are at it, also remember that traffic comes from the other direction here – barring one-way streets. Look both ways a couple of times before crossing.
That is a crosswalk. And it even tells you which way to look!
4. Cream Tea
Before I came, I thought afternoon tea was high tea, complete with sandwiches, desserts, and more. Well, high tea isn’t the only game in town. Many cafes and bakeries will offer cream tea. You’ll get a pot of tea (English breakfast is the traditional), a scone, clotted cream, and jam. While high tea is expensive and needs reservations, cream tea will normally run £5-7 give or take, and can just be ordered. (Make sure to at least try your tea the English way with milk in it.)
5. Don’t Badmouth the Monarch
Parliament isn’t very popular. Brexit is polarizing. However, the English are clear on one thing: they love the Queen. Queen Elizabeth II is easily the most popular person in the country, ahead of Harry Potter and the Beatles even. Don’t say negative things about her; it will not go over well. At all.
Stonehenge is cool. That doesn’t belong in this section, but still…
Pants here means underwear. Actual pants are called trousers. Mixing these up can get you quite a look. Yes, I speak from experience.
7. Always Carry an Umbrella
So the forecast says zero chance of rain, right? Take your umbrella anyway. You will need it. Weather here can change in an instant, and it seemingly will always rain if you don’t have an umbrella because skies were bright blue.
Believe it or not, it rained 45 minutes after this photo was taken.
8. Cool Old Stuff is Everywhere
There is so much history here. Keep your eyes open for it in unexpected places. That restaurant may have been here since 1650, or that crumbling wall since 1300. It is so opposite of the US, and just amazing!!
Just a random awesome old building in Norwich.
I hope these tips help you to plan the most of your England holiday!