Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, Stereotypes /

This morning there was a car waiting for someone in the middle of the street where I live. A black cab wanted to drive through, and could not overtake it, because the street was too narrow. The driver started honking his horn, lowered his car glass window and profusely shouted at the car. It was a colourful exchange. I witnessed the whole thing, and asked myself:

‘What happened to British good manners ?’

Seriously, I thought that this country was all about gentlemanly behaviour, fair play and the likes. Now I am not so sure. Come to think of it, British athletes want to win as much as any other athletes. In fact, young people I talk to are unable to make eye contact and speak to me without incoherently mumbling (Maybe it’s old age. I might be becoming deaf?). I don’t want to name and shame, but this morning at the coffee shop someone didn’t mop up after himself in the loo. And the neighbour’s dog keeps peeing on my porch.

Very. Bad. Manners.


The funny thing is that I have toned down my French behaviour, and I am trying hard to be polite. For instance, my new neighbours (not the ones with the dog) keep throwing cigarette butts in my garden. I bumped into them the other day and said something like ‘Sorry, but would please throw your cigarettes butts in your bin rather than in my garden?’. I can’t believe that I apologised (sort of) to say this. Anyway, I made my point.

To make matters even worse, when I was in France over half-term, my father told my younger daughter off for saying ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’ all the time. He told her that she needed to assert herself more. She was confused. I told you, I can’t win. I feel like I can’t get anything right. What to do?

Maybe I should unleash my meridional side a bit more and not hesitate to throw up a big tantrum with lots of F-words. After all, when in Rome, you do as the Romans do and all that. Gosh, that would be embarrassing, wouldn’t it? See, I am fully British by now. But seriously, where did British good manners go?


  • James Casserly Omaexlibris

    Society in general has become impatient and selfish, and this was summed up by the attitude of Thatcher when she said there is no such thing as society, just people. Very few people seem to have manners any more, certainly in UK and Ireland. I would say that teenagers not looking you in the eye and mumbling is not so much bad manners as just teenage behaviour, certainly was always the case here. I was well known for my monosyllabic responses to questions. I also think your father is correct. There is a difference between being polite and a doormat, and one can be assertive without being aggressive. If you are dealing with rude behaviour, you should never feel you have to apologise. “Excuse me” is at least a way of calling the person’s attention, being polite but not being apologetic.

    • Graham Coulson

      You’re quite right, James – sadly very few people have manners any more, although I’d like to think there’s a higer proportion among the better educated.

      The only thing I’d add for Muriel is that taxi drivers are well known for their own inimitable style of manners ! It’d be a mistake to judge a nation’s politesse on taxi driver observations !

      • Good- I am reassured…Maybe the taxi driver was just having a bad day, right?

    • Hmmm, I don’t know, James. I like my daughter to be polite. I think it’s more a cultural thing: in France you don’t say things like ‘I don’t mind’, you just say ‘non’!
      As for teenagers, well, let’s hope they grow out of their monosyllabic phase…