Getting out and about
‘The British are obsessed with going for walks with their dogs’ – Russian
The UK is a good place for going on walks as the climate is temperate so it is rarely too hot or too cold to go on a walk and it’s something the English love to do. Many towns and cities offer walks when a tour guide explains the interesting history of the place you are visiting. You can find details of the walks online or at the nearest tourist bureau. Tour guides are accredited and inspected so you should have a quality experience.
There are many walks you can do in the country too. The UK has a system of footpaths covering many areas of the country where you have a legal right to walk. The key to going walking is to stick to the footpath so don’t walk on the crops, don’t drop any litter (an animal could choke on it) and close any gates behind you. It’s a great way of exploring the countryside, you can walk through beautiful bluebell woods in the spring and see wonderful colours in the autumn. From most cities, you can quickly get out into some really beautiful countryside.
‘There is so much to see in the UK, so much history, lots of heritage’ – Argentinian
There are two main organisations that preserve the historic and ancient sites of England. English Heritage and the National Trust. They maintain the upkeep of the sites and develop them. English Heritage tends to look after older sites such as Stonehenge and the National Trust owns many houses formerly owned by the aristocracy who can no longer maintain them. You have to pay for both either an entry fee to the site you are interested in or through an annual fee. If you have a family, they are both great places to take children too and tend to be very child friendly, with plenty of space for children to run around in.
Travelling in the UK
‘I have lived here for 20 years and never gone outside London’ – Corsican
The UK has a good transport structure, but it’s quite expensive.
If you are using public transport, the following is a guide to different modes, starting with the cheapest.
Coaches are the cheapest way of travelling, sometimes they take about the same time as a train or longer if it’s a long distance.
These are expensive if you buy a ticket on the day so book well ahead, using Trainline. Be careful that you arrive on time for your booked train. Some train companies charge a lot of money to transfer you to another. It’s worth having the Trainline app on your phone as well as the number for National Rail enquiries.
Trainline: Trainline is Europe’s leading train and coach app. They work with 207 rail and coach companies to offer their customers travel to thousands of destinations in and across 44 countries in Europe. Their aim is to bring together all rail, coach and other travel services into one simple experience so people can get the best prices and smart, real time travel info on the go.
Citymapper: Citymapper is a city transport app with many functionalities including a journey planner combining all transport modes to find you the best route: walking, tube / metro, bus, train, rail, ferry, Uber / taxi and cycles. All in real-time, including bus and train times and disruptions.
There are some flights across the UK e.g. Heathrow to Glasgow and if you book well in advance, these can be cheaper than the train. They are also, of course, a lot faster.
Taxis or Hired Cars
These are the most expensive method of transport but they may work out a good option for you. If, for instance, you are travelling to the airport and you would be paying to leave your car in the car park while you are on holiday, paying for a car to take you there and back with your luggage would work out cheaper than using public transport and paying car park fees.
Travelling in London
If you are going to catch a train, go on the underground and take a bus in one day, then buy a one day travel card. At underground stations you can purchase a ticket that will give you all of this. You can also use either an oyster card which means that your travel is prepaid or contactless (your bank card) for journeys on the underground or the bus.
For planning your journey, go to https://www.tfl.gov.uk.
London also has a congestion charge for cars in the weekday so if you drive in the centre of London, check on TfL whether you need to pay the charge. Pay it immediately or the day after. There is a large fine if you forget.
A UK driving license is useful both for being able to drive and as proof of identity. It can also help you get a job. For information on passing the the test, go to:
For information on road tax and your license go to:
Learning about another culture is challenging. If you want some fuller views about living in the UK, try these official surveys, from British social attitudes:
One of the recent findings is that the British believe in their institutions and particularly in the NHS which a politician once described as ‘a national religion’.
For a deep understanding of the British, read Watching the English by Kate Fox. (Hodder)
How are you?
There are some important tips here. The British are keen on understatement and ‘how are you’ is a greeting, not a question. You might share one thing e.g. you have had a dental appointment or say ‘a bit under the weather’ which means you are not feeling well. On the whole, the best response is to say ‘I am fine, thank you, how are you?’. What you are not supposed to do in a social engagement is to list all your ailments.
The British have invented lots of ways of saying thank you. What does this say about the UK? Saying thank you really matters to the British and at least twice, once at the event and once the day after.
The British are famous for queuing or standing in line as it is known in the U.S. We do not any longer form orderly queues for buses but if you are looking to buy tickets, get into an event, then you need to join the line and wait your turn. Nothing irritates the British more than people not waiting their turn.
For a discussion on UK culture, go to TogetherintheUK – TGIUK on facebook
Rituals and festivals in the UK
‘I have lived in the UK for twenty years and this is the first time, I have heard of the Proms’ South American
‘I always wondered why national days are called bank holidays’ South African
The UK celebrates some key festivals in the Christian calendar and increasingly makes sure that people of other faiths major days are celebrated.
The country has a number of days off which are taken nationally, these are called bank holidays as traditionally, banks were shut on these days. Unfortunately, they aren’t spread throughout the year but tend to take place around Christmas and New Year and in the spring.
Be warned, if you are planning to go away, the most expensive time to plan a trip is on Bank Holidays as it’s the time of year, when everyone wants to go.
New Years Day: People tend to party on New Year’s Eve and take New Year’s Day to recover. The New Year is toasted at midnight.
Good Friday: This is a bank holiday so everyone has the day off. The date of the Easter bank holiday changes every year and is set by the Pope.
Easter Monday: this is a day off so Easter is a lovely long weekend.
May Day: this is the first bank holiday which always falls on a Monday and is the equivalent of Labour Day in America.
End of May bank holiday: we also have a bank holiday the last weekend in May.
August Bank Holiday: This is a really important bank holiday, there are carnivals held all over the UK in towns and villages and the most famous one is in London, the Notting Hill Carnival.
Christmas: The bank holiday is on December 25th and the day following, Boxing Day. Many people take the week off between Christmas and the New Year as you don’t have to use up much of your holiday entitlement to get a week off. If you have children, there is a tradition that Father Christmas visits and leaves some presents for the children. He comes at night so you put your children to bed and in the morning, there are some presents that have magically arrived for them. This is about giving them a message that they are special. Father Christmas arrives on Christmas Eve so it gets Christmas off to a happy start.
Most companies organise some kind of party for staff on the run up to Christmas.
For more information of rituals and festivals go to: http://www.educationuk.org/global/articles/festivals-and-holidays/
The proms and last night of the proms
The proms are a series of classical music concerts held at the Royal Albert Hall in London but broadcast on t.v. and on the radio. They have a mixture of expensive seats but you can go cheaply if you are prepared to stand and if you do, you are known as a ‘prommer’. The last night is always on the second Saturday in September and is a fun British ritual when songs such as ‘Rule Britannia’ are sung loudly. The last night is not just a music festival held in London but there are also big music concerts held in Northern Ireland, Glasgow, and Manchester.
The proms here have a completely different meaning to the American proms party and you just dress for a normal classical concert – don’t wear a prom’s dress!
October 31st Halloween
We increasingly follow the American tradition of children going round their neighbours to trick or treat so you will need to have some sweets ready. It’s an opportunity to dress up in scary costumes and lots of venues offer creative and fun events.
November 5th, Bonfire Night
On November 5th, we light bonfires and burn an image of Guy Fawkes and then have a firework display. People either do this as a private party or go to fireworks in their local park and these displays are organised by their Local Authority. This celebrates the foiling of a plot by Guy Fawkes and his gang to blow up Parliament in 1605. So, this evening is about celebrating democracy.
Remembrance Day, 11th November.
On November 11th, we remember people who sacrificed themselves in wars going back to the First World War. On the run up to Remembrance Day, people sell imitation poppies in the street. The money from the sale of poppies goes to the British legion, UK charity providing lifelong support for the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force, Reservists, veterans, and their families. You will always see politicians and newsreaders wearing the poppy and if you work in a mainstream occupation, most people will buy and wear a poppy.