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Why are UK People so Polite?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
I call people all over the world as part of my job (anti-fraud for on-line seller). Invariably, people from the UK are so polite! It's always "Cheers" when they hang up and usually a pleasant comment or two during the short conversation.

Even the cranky mums who answer the phone at 2am are not rude to me. Other than late night calls, most are very upbeat.

Not that people from other countries are rude but none are as unfailingly polite as UK citizens.

I love it but wonder .... Why?
post #2 of 26
just there way of saying bye. i get the same thing when dealing with network issues over there.

i have found dealing with japaense and chinese, to be way to polite lol
post #3 of 26
Well... there's a difference between friendly-polite and polite-because-I'm-supposed-to-be-polite.
post #4 of 26
I suppose people here of my generation were brought up to be quite formal with strangers, in unfamiliar social settings, and certainly when using the phone (this became very apparent to me when I had a talking budgie that copied both my 'telephone voice' and my normal voice, to hear the difference between them coming from a bird's beak was a bit of an eye opener to say the least!)

But then there are differences between areas within the UK - I come from a rural part of the south of England where it is the done thing to greet someone passing you on a path with a cheery 'good morning' (although you could do this every day for 10 years and probably never learn their name or have a conversation with them!) and drivers will stop to let you cross a road, but now I live in London where saying hello to someone you don't know is definitely viewed as very odd indeed and you're more likely to have a driver give you a stream of abuse if you aren't across the pedestrian crossing in a timely fashion! And conversely you can go to other towns or villages in other parts of the UK and people will readily strike up conversation with you.
post #5 of 26
British people are just cool. Period.
post #6 of 26
naw, just there accent lol
post #7 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Epona View Post
I suppose people here of my generation were brought up to be quite formal with strangers, in unfamiliar social settings, and certainly when using the phone (this became very apparent to me when I had a talking budgie that copied both my 'telephone voice' and my normal voice, to hear the difference between them coming from a bird's beak was a bit of an eye opener to say the least!)

But then there are differences between areas within the UK - I come from a rural part of the south of England where it is the done thing to greet someone passing you on a path with a cheery 'good morning' (although you could do this every day for 10 years and probably never learn their name or have a conversation with them!) and drivers will stop to let you cross a road, but now I live in London where saying hello to someone you don't know is definitely viewed as very odd indeed and you're more likely to have a driver give you a stream of abuse if you aren't across the pedestrian crossing in a timely fashion! And conversely you can go to other towns or villages in other parts of the UK and people will readily strike up conversation with you.
have to agree, i was raised to be very polite, which granetd i now use as a excuse not to deal with people

i have found london no different then any other big city. i think it comes down to big city vs small towns. I can go to the store here, and people i dont even know will start talking to me.
post #8 of 26
I like a Liverpudlian accent
post #9 of 26
That is interesting!
post #10 of 26
I do think there is a flip side to the politeness in which I was raised - and that is many people like me find it difficult to open up even to members of our own family or close friends. A Turkish-born woman once commented to me that British funerals were very restrained compared to her own cultural norm, no-one openly weeps or keens for the departed, we put on a brave face until afterwards when we are alone.

The classic Brit greeting is 'Hello, how are you?' and the classic Brit response is always to smile and respond 'fine, thank you', even if you're not really. In all seriousness, I can go to the doctor with a hacking cough and barely able to breathe and we do that exact exchange of greeting "how are you?", "fine thanks", "what can I do for you today?", "Oh I'm fine, I'm having trouble breathing and I'm coughing up blood but I'm probably making a fuss about nothing"....
post #11 of 26
I must be unlucky, I've met some very rude people online. Some who just loved going on about how much better they were than Americans.
I've also encountered rude Japanese people.


And it's much the same here in small rural areas. People always say hello, wave at you, let you skip in line at the grocery store if you have less items, hold doors for others. Neighbors will even offer to help mow your lawn - for free.

A little bit about that - it's instilled in us here in the southern Midwest and in the south. You'll see 4 year olds running to get a door for an adult, saying ma'am, sir, please, thank you, and no thank you.

I have a neighbor that I've never talked to, yet I always wave at her and her little girls.
post #12 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by strange_wings View Post
You'll see 4 year olds running to get a door for an adult, saying ma'am, sir....
Now ma'am is a word I can't ever imagine myself using, although I believe it is an appropriate way to greet the queen not that it's ever going to happen to me (although her daughter did swear at me once, so don't bank on me being super polite if I ever did meet her!)

I have occasionally used Sir or Madam when addressing older people I don't know when I worked in retail - eg. Good afternoon sir, how would you like to pay for that? or Here's your 20 pence change madam - but it's not something I would think of doing day to day.

I have never quite got the thing whereby some American children call their parents sir and ma'am (or does that only happen on telly? :o ) Seems very cold and distant for a close and loving relationship IMO.
post #13 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by strange_wings View Post
I must be unlucky, I've met some very rude people online. Some who just loved going on about how much better they were than Americans.
I've also encountered rude Japanese people.
that online, there are no real people online
the rude japanese i ran into , was when i wanted to go into a bar that said only japanese people where allowed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Epona View Post
I have never quite got the thing whereby some American children call their parents sir and ma'am (or does that only happen on telly? :o ) Seems very cold and distant for a close and loving relationship IMO.
its a respect thing, how i cant remember using it with my mom or dad, i did use it as kid with my uncles and aunts, and strangers.
post #14 of 26
^Xenophobia is lovely isn't it?

Yes, kids use it with their parents here. It depends on how the parents were raised and how they raise their children. It's more about respect then it is about closeness of the family relationship and is a bit of a hanger on from older values, I suppose.
I didn't use it with my parents or close family members, but was taught to use it with everyone else.
post #15 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by strange_wings View Post
^Xenophobia is lovely isn't it?

Yes, kids use it with their parents here. It depends on how the parents were raised and how they raise their children. It's more about respect then it is about closeness of the family relationship and is a bit of a hanger on from older values, I suppose.
I didn't use it with my parents or close family members, but was taught to use it with everyone else.
Xenophobia is irrational fear of different people and customs, not a willingness to discuss cultural differences

I've always called my parents by their first names, that is not a lack of respect, if anything it is a respect for them as individual human beings and recognising that they had lives and individual identities beyond their role as parents. A child could call their parents sir and ma'am but in other ways misbehave and show very little respect or consideration, the words used are not something I view as important in the slightest.

ETA: I should maybe point out that my parents are quite alternative in outlook, I probably didn't have a very usual upbringing
post #16 of 26
Here in the North East of England were know for being friendly. I can say "Good morning" to a complete stranger in my town and guarantee i'll get a good morning back.

Were not shy here, and i can strike up a conversation on the bus, train, cafe with anyone, and by the time i leave i know their life story

Mind you, i've been to the states several times, and met some really friendly people there as well
post #17 of 26
I think like all countries some cities are more polite and laid back then others.

For example i used to live in a very busy , crowded town , and you would rush by people and never really exchange eye contact , i know live in a lovely little town where you walk up the road smile and say goodmorning/how are you to a total stranger also old people also feel safe to say hello to the younger generation , where as in some places here in England a old person wouldnt really want to be walking down the same road as a youngster with a hoody.

I had the best of both worlds i think , i au'paired for a american family , 20+ plus americans and one english teenager in one large house in Austria. Sounds crazy. I loved there ways of life , the little things really seemed so different to ours. For example the big meals , im not saying big portions , i mean like every meal theres so many option ,whereas meals over here are pretty set ,if i say to mum whats for dinner , it will be sausage and mash..where as the american family it was like this this or this or this..

They were also very polite. And rarely swore
Jess x
post #18 of 26
Having lived in and around Toronto most of my adult life, I believe the friendliness issue starts with each of us. I've heard Toronto described as being a cold city where the people are unfriendly, but in all the years I've lived here I have not experienced that myself. I've found myself striking up a conversation with a man on the street and continuing the conversation as we walked in the same direction. My brother and his wife were visiting me from Branson, Missouri at the time and he was amazed that I would run into somebody I knew in a city the size of Toronto. I told him I didn't know that man and my bro and his wife were flabbergasted.

My daughter and I both talk to strangers on a regular basis and have wonderful conversations as a result.
post #19 of 26
[quote=Rosiemac;2437478]Here in the North East of England were know for being friendly. I can say "Good morning" to a complete stranger in my town and guarantee i'll get a good morning back.

Were not shy here, and i can strike up a conversation on the bus, train, cafe with anyone, and by the time i leave i know their life story



I can vouch for that Susan, the first time I met you I felt like I had known you all my life
post #20 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallulah View Post
[I can vouch for that Susan, the first time I met you I felt like I had known you all my life
Ditto!, because your a chatterbox as well Fiona
post #21 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Epona View Post
Xenophobia is irrational fear of different people and customs, not a willingness to discuss cultural differences
err... yes, I know that and I'm not exactly sure what you're replying to. I was making a comment to Bruce about how xenophobic some Japanese people can be - not all are, of course, but I've seen some instances online that once a person finds out where you're from their language turns ugly and they want nothing to do with you after that...when moments before they were friendly and polite. But all countries have people with problems like that. I've also have some friends that have dealt with some pretty crazy stuff while living in Japan (like death threats).
post #22 of 26
Darn it , i think we all are different and the niceness just shows in more places then others??

I think all countries are as nice as they wish to be lol , some may just have a bad rep or some thing..

Jess x
post #23 of 26
I personally have never heard any one of my friends call their parents sir or madam/ma'am, and I haven't either. In fact, I've never heard of anyone calling their parents that unless it's in one of the old novels I have. Of course, that could just be my area. My parents have always been Mom and Dad to me, and I think that's most common around here. Mommy and Daddy come in a close second.

As for politeness, I haven't had any interaction with and Brits besides on a few forums. I've always lived around polite, friendly people. My parents have both encouraged me and all of my siblings to act friendly, even if it means just waving and smiling. So yes, I think a lot of it is how you were brought up, and some areas have a higher amount of people that have the same or similar views on things like that.
post #24 of 26
It was always drummed in to me as a kid to be polite, always say Please and Thank you and be seen and not heard

It was funny the other day, I went to the bank with a friend and she had lost her card so we were at the help desk and she asked if she could get a new card. The woman said, 'And what else?'. My friend was like and can I take some money out? The woman says, 'Whats the magic word?' My friend was not being rude she just forgot to say please so she was told off. The woman said they are all trying to get their customers to be more polite
post #25 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cocoalily View Post
I personally have never heard any one of my friends call their parents sir or madam/ma'am, and I haven't either. In fact, I've never heard of anyone calling their parents that unless it's in one of the old novels I have. Of course, that could just be my area.
As I said, it's more of a southern thing. As is "hun/hon" and "sug" as endearments.
It's not used as much in Oklahoma, but I still hear it fairly often - I always use it with those outside of family and friends. I have one Louisianan uncle that is very proper and old fashioned. He actually got mad at me the first time I was visiting because I didn't say ma'am and sir to family.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaffacake View Post
The woman said, 'And what else?'. My friend was like and can I take some money out? The woman says, 'Whats the magic word?' My friend was not being rude she just forgot to say please so she was told off. The woman said they are all trying to get their customers to be more polite
That starts with the employee - it's just good customer service. Most of the time if you're very polite the costumer will be too - simply because it makes them feel bad. You can't force manners on other people, but you can make them realize their slip up.
Whenever a person tells me to have a good day I always reply back kindly - even if the person was just automatically saying it.
post #26 of 26
I'm Australian and my partner and parents are British, and I can seriously see a huge difference in 'politeness'. I think it's interesting because obviously it's not a generational thing- both partner and parents have the same brand of formal/distant politeness, but more a British thing.

Australians are very very friendly, but not as polite. XD Or rather, not as formal. You're very likely to get a "G'day, Mate." with a beaming grin in greeting here, rather than a "Good morning" or "Hello." My partner found that really surreal when he first moved here- he thought that it was a stereotype, that Aussies didn't really say G'day. XD
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