British Customs You Should Know

When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do

Cultures and customs all over the world are distinctive and unique to each country. Many factors, such as environmental, social, economic, technological, political, religious, artistic, and educational, help contribute and shape this diversity.

By learning and distinguishing between different cultures and customs, you will be well-prepared for adapting in new environments.

Great Britain is no exception. When travelling to Britain, it makes sense to know some of the customs that can allow you to avoid making mistakes and enjoy a richer experience. Here are six customs you should know about:

1) Visiting

In most houses in Britain, doors are usually kept closed. It is customary to visit people at a pre-arranged time and day. By and large, people are not comfortable if you just drop in.  Nevertheless, if someone says to drop in at anytime, feel free to do so as long as it is not in the middle of the night.

2) Greeting

In Britain, the handshake is the common form of greeting. When you meet people for the first time, it is normal to shake hands. A firm handshake is the norm; there are no issues over gender in Britain. The usual formal greeting is ‘How do you do?’ and a firm handshake, but with a lighter touch between men and women.

‘How do you do?’ is a greeting, not a question. So the correct response is to repeat ‘How do you do?’ You say this when shaking hands with someone.

In Britain, unlike some other European countries, it is not usual to embrace or kiss the other person (unless they are family or a very close friend). The British might seem a little stiff and formal at first but after a while they will relax as you get to know each other. Avoid prolonged eye contact when you meet people for the first time, as it might make them feel uncomfortable.

3) Queuing

Queuing is a unique part of the British culture. People in Britain usually form a queue or a single line in a shop or at a bus stop. It is advisable to take your place in the queue and not try to muscle your way to the front as this may annoy other people in the queue. If you are really in a desperate hurry, people will always let you through to the front if you politely ask.

4) Punctuality

The Brits are generally punctual, especially the Scots. The Brits consider it rude and impolite if you turn up late for an appointment.  Punctuality is very important in business situations. In most cases, the people you are meeting will be on time. Call even if you will be 5 minutes later than agreed. If you have been delayed or cannot make the appointment, then make an effort to contact the person to let them know.

5) How to Behave in Public Places

It is impolite to stare at people in public places; and spitting in the street is considered to be very bad mannered.

Most members of the British public will happily provide you with directions if you approach them politely.  Make sure you are familiar with terms like roundabouts, level crossings, traffic lights, zebra crossings, bus lanes, contra flow, and, if using any of the motorways, traffic jams.

6) Thank you / I’m Sorry / Please

The Brits say ‘thank you’ a lot, even for minor things. If you accidentally bump into someone, say ‘sorry’. They probably will too, even if it was your fault! This is a habit and can be seen as very amusing by an ‘outsider’.

Sometimes the Brits say ‘cheers’ instead of ‘thank you’. You may hear ‘cheers’ said instead of ‘good bye’. What they are really saying is ‘thanks and bye’. There are no absolute rules about when to use polite terms, but you should certainly use them when shopping or addressing strangers. 

Adapted from “Ten British Etiquette and Customs You Should Learn

Hearty Shepherd’s Pie

¡Las temperaturas bajan! Parece ser que estos días el invierno volverá con las pilas cargadas, así que hoy queremos compartir una receta de origen irlandés llamada Shepherd’s Pie.

Se trata de un pastel de carne muy fácil de preparar y es ideal para combatir el frío invernal.  Enjoy your meal!

Preparation time: 30 min
Cook time: 45 min


shepherds pie receta

For the potatoes:

  • 2 pounds red skinned (or russet) potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (or 1/2 and 1/2)
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ‘A teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten

For the meat filling:

  • 2 pounds ground beef or ground Iamb
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium-large onion, chopped (about 11/4 cup)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 gloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

How to cook Shepherd’s Pie

Preheat oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. You’ll need one 11×7″ baking dish or approximate.

Place diced potatoes in medium saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Decrease to a simmer and cook until tender. About 10-15 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and return to the saucepan. Add cream (or ‘/z and 1/2), butter, salt and pepper. Cover with lid to let butter melt. Once butter has melted mash potatoes until smooth. Stir until combined. Add in beaten egg yolk and stir again until combined. Cover and set aside until ready to use.

While potatoes are cooking, brown hamburger meat in large skillet or sauté pan, drain, and remove from pan.

Add the canola oil to the skillet/sauté pan and heat over medium high until it shimmers. Add the onion, and carrots and sauté for 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.

Next, add the browned beef, salt and pepper. Combine well and cook for about 3 minutes over medium. Sprinkle the meat mixture with flour and toss to coat. Cook for another minute. Stir in the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, and thyme into the meat mixture. Combine well, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the sauce slightly thickens.

Finally, add the corn and peas to the meat mixture, and mix together.

Transfer beef mixture to an 11×7″ baking dish (or approximates). Smooth mashed potatoes across top, taking care to cover the whole top all the way to the edges. It helps to use a rubber spatula to create a seal. This prevents the mixture from bubbling out too much.

Place baking dish on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake on the middle rack of 400°F oven for about 25 minutes, or until the potatoes just begin to brown.

Cool a bit before serving.


Riddle Game!

A riddle (acertijo / endevinalla) is a puzzle or joke in which you ask a question that seems to be nonsense but which has a clever or amusing answer. Many riddles appear in similar form across many countries, and often continents. One of them is the Person-riddle, the most famous example of which is the Riddle of the Sphinx.

riddle Sphinx The Sphinx is a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion. It is said to have guarded the entrance to the Greek city of Thebes, and to have asked a riddle of travellers to allow them passage. The exact riddle asked by the Sphinx was not specified by early tellers of the stories, and was not standardized as the one given below until late in Greek history.

It was said in late lore that the Greek gods Hera or Ares sent the Sphinx from her Ethiopian homeland to Thebes in Greece where she asks all passers-by the most famous riddle in history:

«Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?»

She strangled and devoured anyone who could not answer. 

Oedipus, a mythical Greek king of Thebes, solved the riddle by answering: Man—who crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two feet as an adult, and then uses a walking stick in old age. Bested at last, the tale continues, the Sphinx then threw herself from her high rock and died.

Riddle Game

Here you are some riddles to share and challenge your friends. Have fun!

  1. What gets wetter and wetter the more it dries?
  2. What can you catch but not throw?
  3. What goes around the world but stays in a corner?
  4. What kind of nut has a hole?
  5. A cowboy rode into town on Friday, stayed three days, and left on Friday. How is this possible?
  6. What do you call a fish without an eye?
  7. If you drop a yellow hat in the Red Sea, what does it become?



Here are the answers:

  1. A towel
  2. A cold
  3. A stamp
  4. A donut
  5. His horse’s name is ‘Friday’
  6. A ‘fsh’!
  7. Wet

Riddles source:

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