So this is not going to be the same everywhere, but there are certain aspects of British culture we may not be familiar with which will make us “look bad” without us realising it. Cultural differences account for one of the biggest challenges overseas vets have being accepted and feeling like “part of the UK community”.
So today we will look at five of these cultural aspects.
Respect queues and use the right side of sidewalks and escalators
Order is highly respected in the UK. If you are waiting in line to pay at the supermarket, don’t skip ahead of the queue, that’s rude and everyone will think it even if they don’t openly say it. If you are taking your time on escalators or sidewalks, use the right side so that people in a rush can go past you on the left side (this won’t be new to you if you’ve ever used the London underground!).
Respect disabled people and the elderly
Ok so this is common sense, but some cultures are not this accommodating. If you find a parking spot for disabled people, don’t use it unless you’re disabled! If you are using public transportation and an elder person comes in, you are expected to give them your seat even if it’s not meant for disabled and the elderly. But you really must do it if you are sitting on their reserved seat – although many UK people are more “passive-aggressive”, this is one of those transgressions where you will likely be told off by someone.
Some topics are not to be discussed
There are some issues considered “taboo” in the UK, particularly when you are not a close friend of the people in your group. One of those issues revolves around money. It’s impolite to ask someone how much money they earn, so really avoid this – it makes for a rather “awkward” conversation… If you’re not sure what to talk about, the weather is usually a safe topic (yeaaah…) and, in some cases, football may be another one. As vets though, we can probably use veterinary sciences as a conversation topic when we’re with other vets.
Invitations come with responsibilities
If you are invited to someone’s house, it’s common to bring in a gift to thank them for their hospitality. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy at all – something like dessert or a bottle of wine if you were invited for dinner will do just fine. Or some “booze” (drinks) if you were invited to a party!
Again this is common sense, but some cultures are quite different in how they regard polite conversation. UK people are very polite during their conversations and appreciate others doing the same. Therefore, using expressions such as “please”, “thank you”, “sorry” and “excuse me” when appropriate will put you in good graces with whoever you are talking to. It is also common to use these expressions with people you are not acquainted with, for instance, thanking the store manager that has helped you find a certain item you were looking for.