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Fun Stuff / UK

7 things you may find funny about the UK

We need to talk about Morris dancers. And queuing. And Cockfosters.

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Warning: Things are about to get weird. Or rude. Or both. Because when it comes to century-old traditions and cultural quirks, there's nowhere quite like Blighty (Britain).

So if you’re coming to the UK on a working holiday, to do an overseas internship, or simply to laugh at all the weird and wonderful stuff we have going on – here's your guide to blending in like a local. And not looking deeply affronted when someone calls you a hen. Or a cock.

1. Morris dancing

Argentina has the Tango, Spain has the Flamenco, and the English have... Morris dancing. This folk dance is part of England's pagan heritage and the weirdness that accompanies most British summers (along with maypole dancing, singing ice-cream vans, and second-degree sunburn).

While it may come as a shock the first time you witness a troop of fully-grown men in flowered headwear banging sticks together and waving handkerchiefs, Morris dancing is actually supremely entertaining. And makes a nice change from the other dance English people know – the Nanna Jean two-step wedding shuffle.

When it comes to dancing, the Scottish literally run rings (along with other dance formations) around the English. If you ever get the chance to go to a Ceilidh (pronounced ‘Kay-lee’) – a traditional Scottish dance typical at weddings and special occasions such as Burns Night in January, don’t hesitate to go. They're a lot of fun. And if the spinning doesn't get you, the whisky will.

2. Being called a cock

Or a duck, hen, chicken or pet. These are all just terms of endearment that are used in regional parts of Britain. Like being called ‘mate’ in more normal parts of the world. So, if someone calls you “me old cocker” in Yorkshire, or a “hen” in Scotland – it’s actually a sign that they like you. And not that you’re a fowl person.

3. Queuing

The worst crime you can commit as a visitor to the UK, is queue jumping. And let’s be clear, we have some quite serious laws in the UK – such as it being an offence to walk a cow down the street in daylight, beat your rug in public, or expose a boy under 10 years old to a naked shop mannequin.

British people can queue for days. It’s also not uncommon to realise that, after ten minutes of queuing, you’re not actually queuing for anything at all. Someone was just far too polite to knock on a toilet cubicle door. Or there was an untidy group of people milling around, so they instinctively formed an orderly line.

In fact, the only time when you DON’T queue in the UK, is in the pub. The etiquette here is to cluster three-deep around the bar, pray silently to the pub spirits, and hope that someone responds positively to your awkward eye contact and serves you a drink. The UK tried to bring in single-line pub queuing during Covid, and it honestly went down like a s**t sandwich. (Another Briticism, and usually no reflection on our actual sandwiches. A Boot’s Meal Deal consisting of a sandwich, drink and snack for under £5 will literally save your lunchbreaks and overdraft from uncertain hunger and poverty when you're working in the UK).

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Novel ways to convince Brits to queue

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Sun's out, buns are out

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hannah Jeffery

JENZA Staff | London, UK

Our Global Brand Manager has worked in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Her best job was working on a Great Barrier Reef dive boat, and her worst was de-leafing tomatoes. She now lives in London where she tirelessly lobbies for a tomato free office and continues to not give a f* about Oxford commas.

"British people can queue for days. It’s also not uncommon to realise that, after ten minutes of queuing, you’re not actually queuing for anything at all."

4. Place names

Muff, Cockfosters, Sandy Balls, Shitterton, Cockermouth, Wetwang, Nether Wallop... we could go on, but we’re too busy sniggering like teenagers.

5. Transport etiquette

This largely applies to London’s Underground, or the Tube as it’s known. Londoners can be impatient at the best of times, but nothing will invoke their wrath like being stuck 50 metres underground with a clueless tourist. The rules are simple, but absolute:

  • When going through the Tube barriers, you can tap to pay. So use your credit, debit card or phone – and have it ready to go. Cardboard tickets are only for magicians and sadists, who can manage to force them through the tiny slots in the barriers while being bayed at by an angry mob of commuters.

  • On the escalator, you must stand on the right and walk on the left. Punishment for standing on the left and blocking commuters/people crazy or fit enough to walk up an escalator, may include: loud tutting, side eyes, exaggerated coughing, or a passive aggressive “Excuse me, THANK YOU!” That’s another thing about Brits, even when they’re pissed off, they’re still trying to be polite.
  • Always let people off first before boarding a train, and never hold the doors open for your mates. There’s literally no need – tubes in London are less than a minute apart at rush hour. Holding the door open just delays the train, makes the driver get all shouty, and annoys a carriage full of people that you’re now trapped with until the next stop.

  • Always give your seat up. The end seats are priority seats, so keep an eye out of ‘Baby on board’ badges on pregnant women, and anyone that’s less able to stand.

6. Compliments

There’s a thing in the UK called ‘blowing your own trumpet’. Nothing to do with brass brands (though we do have a lot of those), and more to do with our inability to accept a compliment. This is why if you’re ever over-complimentary towards a British person, it’s likely to cause embarrassment or discomfort. Much better to be sarcastic, ironic or talk about the weather (see the next point) as a way to make them feel comfortable again.

7. Summer

British people are obsessed with the weather. And nothing freaks the British nation out more than summer – where the temperatures will dominate every headline and almost every interaction you have with a British person.

In general, anything above 18°C/65°F will see Brits reaching for their short trousers, buying up every single fan on the high street, and begging to knock off work early so they can invade parks with their Marks & Spencer's picnics or hog a square meter of sunshine in a pub beer garden. (FYI a British beer garden is a wonderful thing and should be revered in much the same way you would Edinburgh Castle, or Mount Snowdon).

However, this joyous seasonal behaviour will last approximately a week. Until complaints of “it’s too hot” and the nostalgic longing for the rain that was pelting it down only last week begins to set in. Come rain or shine, cats or dogs (what Brits call heavy rain) – talking about the weather is a national pastime. And we fear the country would come to a complete standstill without it.

Not been put off by Britain's much-loved oddities? If you're looking to get ahead with a summer internship or semester abroad, or are looking to do a working holiday in the UK, check out JENZA Intern UK or Work UK.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hannah Jeffery

JENZA Staff | London, UK

Our Global Brand Manager has worked in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Her best job was working on a Great Barrier Reef dive boat, and her worst was de-leafing tomatoes. She now lives in London where she tirelessly lobbies for a tomato free office and continues to not give a f* about Oxford commas.

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