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International etiquette paper:

Introduction: In her book ‘Service Etiquette’ Oretha Schwartz observes that ‘good

manners are the rules of the game of life’. Even though to many people good manners

mean proper etiquettes, it is much more than that. Etiquettes may help us gain social

acceptance but they are just a small mechanical aspect of life and it depends a lot upon a

person’s upbringing how he approaches people and treats them with kindness and

compassion. This essay shall focus on etiquettes in United Kingdom. Etiquettes followed

during various occasions shall be briefly discussed. (Swartz)

United Kingdom, the very word is enough to evoke images of royalty, pomp, splendor

and a populace that supposedly looks upon the rest of the world with a feeling of

contempt. The United Kingdom consists of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern

Ireland. The country has had a very violent past, after been pillaged by the Romans,

Norse invaders and the Normans there was a period called the Middle Ages. This itself

was a period of constant war with conflict between the English, welsh, Scots and the

Irish. After a lot of political turmoil, the Treaty of the Union was signed in 1707 leading

to some stability. In the 1900s the country was the leader in technical developments and

in 1922 a quarter of the land mass of the world was under British rule. (Great Britain)

In spite of the fact that the country had a violent history, there are many things on the

lighter side worth mentioning. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the

world. The most popular fast food in the country is ‘fish and chips and the most popular

drink is Tea, not coffee. UK has benefited from its colonies in many ways. Hundreds of

words have found their way into the English languages from these colonies. Words like

curry, verandah, sepoy, teapoy, bungalow, cheetah etc have come from Indian languages.
(Yule, C and Crooke) According to a recent survey ‘butter chicken’ an Indian dish was

considered by the locals to be one of the most popular dishes. Many words and usages in

the English languages have interesting stories of origin. The word ‘sirloin’ was originated

by James I. he was a guest at the Houghton towers in Lancashire and when a succulent

leg of beef was placed before him he knighted it with his dagger saying’ Arise Sir Loin’

and hence the name. (London tourist board)

General business etiquette: Experience is valued more than mere education. It is

considered safe to send older more experienced members of the organization as

representatives. More respect is given to people who have come up in life the hard way

than fresh graduates even though they might be efficient. Even though team work is

given importance a hierarchy is usually followed. Enough visiting cards must be taken as

there is a norm of distribution of cards at business meetings.

Business and operational hours: Britons work an average of 48 hours a week. Working

hours are normally 9 am to 5 pm. But executives stay longer. It is considered better to

finish off work as opposed to taking it home. Lunch hours are from 1 pm to 2 pm.

Government offices work till 5.30 pm. The UK has the lowest number of national

holidays in all of Europe, only 8 per year. (Dray)

Phone fax and email etiquette: It is very important to complete sentences, and not stop

halfway. People must be addressed by their titles if any. Using first names is considered

normal but it must be done only when person says so. It is the same in any form of

communication. Letters must be addressed formally and first names must be used only

when the sender signs off with his first name in the reply. But usually writers continue to

address formally till they meet in person.

Time and punctuality standards: Being on time is considered to be very important. In fact

it is better to arrive five minutes early. It is better to make a phone call and inform if one

is running late. If it is a meeting with just one person, getting late may not be a big issue

but when there are many people involved it will be frowned upon. However for social

events like parties it is acceptable to arrive 15 to 20 minutes late. (Dray)

Language and the barriers it may cause: the English spoken in the UK differs from what

is spoken in the US. Many words and usages are different. For example, ‘how do you

do?’ is considered a greeting and must be replied with ‘how do you do?’ Asking someone

‘what do you do?’ is considered rude. While communicating Britons do not use many

hand gestures, their modulations in the voice bring out the emphasis. In the UK French

fries are called ‘chips’, elevators-‘lifts’ and subway is called ‘tube’.

Business dress code: Conservative style and dark colors are favored here. Not much

importance is given to latest trends but there is a lot of emphasis on quality. Civil

servants, accountants and lawyers wear double breasted suits while people belonging to

different occupations like the media or advertising dress more stylishly. Women wear a

suit with trousers. I.T professionals usually wear casuals. There is a casual Friday policy

in many companies but it is not overdone. Certain clubs and restaurants require that

guests wear tie and a dinner jacket. If an invitation says that it is a formal dinner then it is

expected that the guests will come in formal attire. Pin striped suits may be worn but ties

with stripes are not worn. Pens or pencils are not put in jacket pockets; a silk

handkerchief is worn instead. (Dray)

Greeting protocols: when introduced to someone it is normal to use a firm handshake

with a cordial ‘pleased to meet you’. Too much of eye contact must be avoided. Eye

contact is only used to emphasize a point or during a conversation between good friends.

While taking leave it is important to shake every person’s hand. Waving at the entire

group instead is not favored.

Women in business: Even though women have been working for many years in Britain,

equal salaries are not paid. ‘There is currently a 19% pay gap between men and women in

the UK’ (BBC). It is accepted that not many women are in top management because once

they become mothers they find it difficult to contribute to the workplace. According to

the Equal Opportunities commission ‘75% of women worked in the five lowest paid


Negotiating practices: It is important to understand that seniority makes a lot of

difference. Arguments or opinions of senior members are respected. Britons are men of

very few words and they usually take their own time in making decisions. Company rules

and policies are considered all the time before making decisions. Usually the quietest

person around the table is the one who is the real decision maker. Though they take a lot

of time in taking decisions, once their mind is made up, they can be very frank and to the

point. (Dray)

Gift giving practices: Even though giving gifts as a part of a business meeting is not

usually a norm, a not-so- flashy gift like a paperweight, a pen or a book might be

considered. Sending cards for festive occasions is also appreciated. When visiting a

family it is acceptable to take chocolates or flowers or even a bottle of wine. Sending a

card or a note of appreciation after the meeting or meal is appreciated.

Meal and dining: Proper dress codes are usually observed for formal dinners. The knife

and fork do not change hands, the fork remains in the left hand and knife in the right.

Soup bowls are not tilted and no sound must be made while eating soup. After finishing

the meal the cutlery must be placed on the plate as a signal to the waiter to clear the


Standards on self introduction: Britons usually will wait for someone to introduce them.

Especially when meeting someone for the first time they will wait for third party

introduction. ‘Hello, I am’ or ‘allow me to introduce my friend’ are accepted ways of


Social customs: Social customs include practices that are accepted as proper public

behavior. Some of these are covering the mouth while yawning, apologizing after

burping, sneezing etc. other customs include respecting women and their privacy, waiting

till everybody around the table has been served. These customs are not exclusive to

Britain; most of these are the same the world over. A reason for this could be the fact that

the British colonized a quarter of the world and the customs they followed have been

adapted by the locals.

Conclusion: Etiquettes may not be essential for human existence, but they have been

present in the fabric of our society for a long time. Following these norms give people a

sense of being civilized and well mannered. Teaching children table manners and proper

etiquettes instill in them the idea that they belong to a society. These are usually the first

rules of the society that they learn. And since the United Kingdom has ruled a large part

of the world it has succeeded in spreading etiquettes across the world.


BBC. World news. 2 July 2003. 29 March 2010


Dray, Paul. Executive planet. 18 October 2007. 29 March 2010


Great Britain. Life in the United Kingdom. London: The , 2007.

London tourist board. Great expectations tour. 2003. 30 March 2010


Swartz, Oretha D. Service Etiquette. Maryland: United States Naval Institute, 1988.

Yule, Henry, Burnell A C and WIlliam Crooke. A glossary of colloquial anglo-indian

words and phrases. New Delhi: Asian educational services, 2006.