A Glimpse of British Politeness
    

    
    
    


        

A Glimpse of British Politeness

How to interprete 'stand on the right'?

Paddington Bear

Introduction

Politeness is valued across cultures, but how to be polite may vary from culture to culture. How can a foreigner be polite in UK? Go on and find more.

Objectives

a. to raise students’ awareness of the importance of politeness in British culture

b. to learn 6 principles of polite conversation and corresponding linguistic expressions

c. to think critically about British politeness and to make comparisons across cultures



Activity 1: Watch the video "the awfully thorough guide to British manners".

How do British people show their politeness in daily life?

Instruction

Before watch the video, please predict what may be mentioned in the video. Please watch the video, and finish the following exercise.

Video: 

Brainstorm: What might be included in the video "the awfully guide to British manners"?

Exercise: What British manners are mentioned in the video?









Additional Resources

Here is the movie "Paddington Bear". More interesting manners may be discovered in this movie. 

Activity 2: Look at British conversations

British politeness is reflected in daily conversations as well as in behaviors. This activity will help you master both the principles and linguistic expressions of polite conversations.

Instruction

Watch the mini-lecture on the 6 principles of polite conversation and pick out the linguistic expressions that best capture the spirit of these principles.

1. Which linguistic expression best represents the “Indirect Question Principle”?




2.Which linguistic expression best represents the “Respect Intelligence Principle”?




3.Which linguistic expression best represents the “Avoid Direct Commands Principle”?




Additional Resources

More examples on  

Activity 3: Read the article "Are we too polite"?

Instruction

Read the following passage and finish the tasks below.

    Almost everyone who has studied English has been warned about the way Brits love their manners. It is part of our national identity, as much as fish and chips or complaining about the weather. Recently I have been wondering where this comes from and I read online that we say sorry up to eight times a day. Probably the same amount of times that any other person says “hello” or “how are you”. It is almost like to greeting to us! It was only when I was explaining how there are five steps of saying thank you when you buy something from a shop to a Mexican friend of mine that I realised how mad it sounded.     After some research (googling) I have not been able to find any specific reasons why we are the way we are. I suppose for centuries manners and how we eat at the table and talk to other people has been one of the barriers between the lower and upper classes and represents your social status. Britain has traditionally been a quite conservative and reserved country. There are many articles suggesting that this seemingly polite attitude of always saying please and thank you is quite false because it is impossible to always feel that you want to thank someone or say please.     Maybe it is for this reason that people are going one of two ways: they are incredibly polite and hold back on their feelings or not polite at all, and express their true feelings. Some Brits are fed up of pretending that they are always content and having to please people. Sometimes because we feel we have to be polite we are prevented from saying what we truly think. Some people feel that the hard truth is the best way to be. Do you think it is better to not hurt people’s feelings and be polite or to let people know the truth? In your country what is the custom? How about with bus drivers? Or cashiers? I know in some countries if someone is considered to be doing their job, the clients think that they do not need to be thanked. 

Are the following statements what the author meant to express? If yes, tick it; if no, cross it.

tick icon cross icon
1. British people say “sorry” and “thank you” as many as they complain about weather.
2. In the UK, upper class people do not need to please others by always saying “thank you” and “please”.
3. In the UK, table manners and how people talk to others can represent peoples’ social status.
4. In Britain, by frequently giving thanks or apologies, sometimes people may express their true feelings, but other times they are just incredibly polite and hold back on their feelings.
5. British people are polite, but dishonest.

Think about the following questions and discuss them with your classmates.Think about the following questions and discuss them with your classmates.

1. Do you think it is better to not hurt people’s feelings and be polite or to let people know the truth?1. Do you think it is better to not hurt people’s feelings and be polite or to let people know the truth?

2. Does your country have similar social rules to Britain? If not, what are they?2. Does your country have similar social rules to Britain? If not, what are they? 

Additional Resources

An video about cultural difference of politeness

 

Would you like to review the main points?

© An Ping, Kou Ping, Liu Tian. CSC Program, University of Southampton. 05-04-2017

Created using the LOC Tool, University of Southampton