Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

Count on my to brush up your English skills. You might think that because you were taught to speak English at school or at work you will be fine, but you couldn’t be more wrong. The British are very precise about how things must be said. Here are a few tricks that will go a long way to gain a better understanding of what the British really mean and how to make sure that they understand you.

– Use as many works as possible

A simple ‘yes’ in response to a question will betray the fact that you are not familiar with the way people talk over here. You need to say instead ‘Well, I sort of said I would’. Or ‘yes, I hear what you say’. Keep the conversation going at any cost.

In the same vein, never say no. Except in a life or death situation, of course. ‘No’ is much too direct. It closes the debate and the British love to talk. Instead, you can always buy time by saying ‘this is an interesting point of view, isn’t it?’. OK, let’s practise now. Let’s suppose that someone tells you: ‘boys and girls need to be educated separately because they learn in different ways’. If, like me, you feel strongly that this is a backwards idea coming straight from the Middle Ages, don’t say so. Bite your tongue. Breathe. Instead, say something like ‘This is an interesting point of view. That said, I really enjoyed being educated with boys during my childhood’. Do you see the difference?

– Pay attention to what is NOT said:

You need to question everything you are told. ‘Is this school any good?’ I asked one of my friends. Oh yes, it is a good school, she said, very sporty. What she meant of course, was that they were not very good academically.  But how could I have guessed it?

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