Editor: Mr. Hanson was kind enough to pen these few paragraphs for our English Elegance section on British culture and etiquette. Please visit the blog for The English Manner using this link.
Britain is often looked upon as being the birthplace of manners and home of proper etiquette. Whilst it is true that a lot of Britons still care about doing things properly, Britain was not the birthplace of manners. The word 'etiquette' is French, but this does not mean that France invented social customs. It is more than likely that the first humans on earth developed a code for getting along and co-operating and from there it has grown into what we have today.
England is, quire rightly, seen as a place of high culture and civilisation. There are, naturally, stark contrasts to this culture as there is in any other country. But being surrounded by so much culture can help one behave with a high level of courtesy and respect for those around us.
It is a British belief (although not unique to Britain) that we should treat our fellow humans with empathy, respect and friendliness in order for a more civilised world. The British are often seen as more reserved than other Western countries (like America, for example). Here, we do not kiss or hug until we know someone very well. In America they are much more tactile and persist in hugging and kissing those with which they may only have the slightest of acquaintance. To this day, I do not like being hugged as I feel it is an intrusion on my personal space. But this is a cultural difference but yet these differences should be respected. If I went to America, as I often do, I would expect to receive much more hands-on greetings than over here - and this would be proper of me as would not want to offend or upset any of my hosts. Yet when the hosts becomes guests in Britain (and this is not exclusive of Americans by any means) they are sometimes guilty of sticking to their own social code rather than adapting.
The British do not like to offend people or to cause embarrassment and this is key to understanding us as a nation.