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Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Are the British a rude nation?

The British are normally associated with being at the forefront of politeness and good manners, but a survey has found quite the opposite. The people of the UK are getting ruder.

The study used hidden cameras in restaurants, hotel and airports and found a nation of unhelpful, surly and downright rude people.

Do you think Brits are losing their manners? Have you noticed staff in shops treating you with disdain and impatience? Or maybe you've always found the people of Britain to be an agreeable bunch. Tell us your views and experiences. HAVE YOUR SAY

A balance between British reserve and American warmth would be ideal

Steffan, UK
Recently I had a visitor over from the United States and took her sightseeing in London, Wales, and around the Midlands. She was overwhelmed with the politeness of Brits in general. I was somewhat surprised at her continual comments to this effect as I had always thought of ourselves as generally rude and impolite. Her perspective and conclusions were refreshing, even if she seemed to view us through rose coloured spectacles!
Edward Cook, Stoke-on-Trent, UK

After having lived two years in California, I find the Brits surprisingly cold when I get back. But on the other hand, when you get a Californian gushing over you with "hi's" and "how are you's" upon your first meeting, that does freak you out. A balance between British reserve and American warmth would be ideal.
Steffan, UK

The British are generally decent people to whom "fair play" is not some silly notion. Consideration for others was taught when I grew up in Britain but this put Brits at a disadvantage when they first began to travel. They were taken advantage of in resorts. The British are at last waking up to the fact that "nice guys often finish last" and no longer is it appreciated that you gave it your best shot.
Michael E, Florida, USA



Manners and courtesy cost nothing but can be worth a fortune. Let's return to some old fashioned values before it's too late

Michael Townsend, England

All too frequently I have entered shops to find assistants more concerned about who their latest boyfriend is or whether it is lunchtime, regardless of the fact that you are waiting to be served. Manners and courtesy cost nothing but can be worth a fortune. Let's return to some old fashioned values before it's too late.
Michael Townsend, England

Yes, people are becoming ruder, but is that surprising? Look at the examples of success we're being presented with by the present government. Money, greed, power and relentless manipulation which takes no account of the public's voice. Look at the wholesale destruction of all our traditions. Look at the materialistic, aggressive tosh we're assailed with minute to minute by advertisers.
Roo, England

We British wait our turn in the queue.
Chris Klein, UK



I cannot believe how so many people on the tube will not give their seats to elderly/infirm people

Jan, England
I live in London and go out of my way not to be rude. I cannot believe how so many people on the tube will not give their seats to elderly/infirm people, then again that's more selfishness than rudeness I suppose.
I was bought up (in a working class family) to mind my Ps and Qs and I've never forgotten it! Yes, I believe a lot of my fellow countrymen are rude and selfish (especially in London) but I have been pushed past whilst attempting to disembark from the tube, by many a tourist too!!
If everybody slowed down a bit and smiled and helped one another a bit more there'd be a lot less stressed people around too - of which rudeness is a by-product. I'll never let other peoples bad attitudes rub off on me!
Jan, England

Personally I think London contains some very rude people but the rest of Britain is pretty friendly in my opinion. I think part of the problem is the speed at which modern society feels it has to move - we should take a lesson from the Australians and learn to take it a bit easier. A bit less stress would make most people a bit politer!
Helen, Scotland



English tourists whom I see on the streets seem to have more etiquette and also seem very soft spoken

Suhail Shafi, Malta
I am a student in the Mediterranean island of Malta, which is visited by thousands of English tourists a year. Although the Maltese themselves have a well deserved reputation for friendliness, the English tourists whom I see on the streets seem to have more etiquette and also seem very soft spoken.
I feel that the English are a very cultured lot and the fact that a small rude minority among them causes a lot of ruffled feathers among them shows that they pay a lot of attention to the smallest of details. Don't fret Brit's - you are still one of the best.
Suhail Shafi, Malta

I have just moved to Yorkshire from North Wales and I have noticed that people over here are a lot ruder than the Welsh. I don't believe it is the British in general just certain parts of the country.
Sarah, UK



The rudest portion of the adult population are young working women in their 20s, many of whom will snarl or ignore attempts at politeness

TIB, UK
Interesting comment from a US reader about helpful people on the tube. I take the tube every day, often in extremely cramped conditions. People will help those in need often - it's quite heart-warming when you see it.
BUT - consistently the rudest portion of the adult population (i.e. not schoolchildren, who live in worlds of their own anyway) are young working women in their 20s, many of whom will snarl or ignore attempts at politeness, and have absolutely no concern except for their own convenience, regardless of the cost to others. I see it happen to others just as much as it happens to me, and it surprises and disappoints me in equal measure.
TIB, UK

The Brits? Rude? Think again! Come and experience the 'queuing system' and customer service in the country I've chosen as my new home!
Barry, Germany, ex-UK



You British have us Americans to blame for this rudeness. The tasteless pop-culture of the US is infiltrating Britain

Jeremy DeWaal, USA
I work in a secondary school and witness first hand the way too many youngsters talk to the teachers these days. I am not surprised that rudeness is becoming an increasing problem in British society.
Philip S Hall, UK

My mother is English and I have family living in England. I know that the British have their own way of doing things, as do the citizens of other countries. I think the world has become a smaller place to live in and there are some sacrifices made when that happens.
Elizabeth, USA

You British have us Americans to blame for this rudeness. The tasteless pop-culture of the U.S. is infiltrating Britain, and with it comes the American vulgarity of Jerry Springer and other such impertinences.
Jeremy DeWaal, USA

My wife and I visited London about two years ago. As we were struggling with some heavy luggage up the stairs from the Undergound, we were helped (unasked) by some young women as they went by us. Very polite and helpful. Thanks, Brits!
Tom Zacharias, USA

I think that politeness is a by-product of being happy. People in the UK are increasingly demoralised. The pressure to be polite is being placed on people whose circumstances are out of their control due to employers' disrespect as well as legal and government actions riddled with double-standards and unfairness. The UK government continually puts money over lives, economics over morality.
Chris Kadis, England



Having lived in the USA for 3 years, I think that it is easy to misconstrue local personality traits. It takes a while to see past these traits to the true intent of the people we meet

Sean Taylor, British living in USA
Having lived in the USA for 3 years, I think that it is easy to misconstrue local personality traits (e.g. abruptness of New Yorkers, surliness of Londoners). It takes a while to see past these traits to the true intent of the people we meet.
Sean Taylor, British living in USA

A couple of years ago, I went on a business trip to southern England and was very pleasantly surprised by how polite, friendly and warm the people were. It seems that here in the US, customer service reps are polite because they have to be so; in England, they were genuinely friendly.
Olga, USA / originally from Russia

I am currently studying in this country. I have met many British people who were really great, kind and considerate. They are also very emotional and not rude at all! I really love British people and this country.
Sam Chang, S.Korea

After living in the UK for 14 years, I can attest that there are rude people living in England. They are greatly outnumbered though, as I found almost everyone there to be polite and sincere. Rude people are everywhere, in every country on the globe. I like to think that they are put here so that we may appreciate polite people all the more.
John G, Texas, USA



Britons are far more civil than other western nationals I have met

A. G. Chege, KENYA/in UK
No need to compare, the Britons are far more civil than other western nationals I have met. My first visit to Britain was very smooth all the way. Everyone was eager to help, show me the coaches, and buy me a cold soda. All this for asking the direction.
Even while standing aside to let an old lady pass into the supermarket, she holds my shoulder and tells me to move ahead of her. A group holds a party for me for just being with them. Amazing compared to other areas. This is a mark of civilisation. Teach it to your youths who may be wanting, and Britain will remain at the top. Give credit where due.
A. G. Chege, KENYA/in UK

Imperious attitudes are commonplace in England. Downright rudeness is more likely to be found in Paris or Manhatten.
Jenny, Australia

Well why don't we compare the Brits with the rest of the world and Brits will come out almost with a grade A, if there was a test of politeness. It is one of the few countries today which say politeness comes first and retains their culture and does not succumb to Americanisation
Manjy, UK

The British are nowhere near as rude as Americans. Americans are loud, crude and inconsiderate. I see a British people that are chivalrous towards people who are disabled or elderly. In stores or restaurants to be unfailing polite and courteous as well as highly professional and competent. The British are very direct and say exactly what they mean - they are honest, but they are never mean. I have found, on my numerous visits to Britain, the people to be polite, helpful and competent, yet more brisk and impersonal than Americans.
Jeff, USA



The street beggars in Britain must be some of the most polite people in the world.

Robert Kidd, Australia
I was in Britain last year and felt that most people I encountered were very polite and cordial. There is a tendency these days to experience rudeness from people in retail and hospitality, but this is a phenomenon that one experiences everywhere in the Western world because so many of these employees are young casuals who really don't care about the businesses that employ them. I must say however, that the street beggars in Britain must be some of the most polite people in the world.
Robert Kidd, Australia

What's so great about being friendly? If the British really are cold and stand-offish (which is NOT the same as being rude), I think I'll emigrate. I grow weary of the attitude that friendliness is some great virtue, while those of us who are introverted and able to mind our own business are treated like incipient serial killers. I wish it were OK to be a loner in the US.
Diana Anderson, USA-MO

The English have always had good manners. Even as they colonised and brutalised the world for two hundred years they were well behaved. Which proves that manners and goodness are two very different things.
Roy Posner, USA

People all over the world, in my opinion, are today getting more impatient and in the process, ruder too. In today's highly materialistic society there is the inner urge to compete and do better in life than one's neighbour come what may. This often leads to rude behaviour. Gone are the days when people had the time and were in a mood to listen and accommodate the other person's point of view.
Albert Devakaram, India



We could all take some lessons on behaviour from places like Australia and Canada

Andy Foot, England
I am originally from Australia, and am now working in the Netherlands, where I find the people a breathe of fresh air compared to when I lived in England. People in England are cold, remote, stay in their own groups and children are complete monsters with no respect for the elderly. I think the root of the problem is taking discipline out of school. Also, I think the endemic rudeness in England is a by product of Thatcherism.
Veronica Williamson, The Netherlands

I think it is a bit unfair to tarnish the whole of Britain as rude and ill mannered. There is definitely a North/South divide when it comes to politeness. Having lived on the South coast of England and then Scotland, it is very noticeable that people are more friendly and polite the further North you go in Britain.
Alex, Scotland

I am English and have also spent a lot of time travelling round the world. I dread coming back to my own country, as its denizens are without doubt the rudest, most surly, arrogant and unfriendly people on the face of God's earth, especially in London. We could all take some lessons on behaviour from places like Australia and Canada.
Andy Foot, England

I love France but if there is one thing that I hate about the place, then it's their level of customer service. Without exaggerating, I can honestly say that they haven't a clue how to treat customers. I have rarely been satisfied when purchasing goods in French shops, and can tell you that the UK's standards in customer service are much, much higher than those in France.
James, France



I went to London in mid April and was amazed at the politeness. People were courteous and they didn't shove

Selena, Hong Kong
People were very friendly to us when we visited England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales two years ago. We had a great time meeting locals. People on the street were very helpful. It is obvious that people in large cities are typically more rude than people outside of large cities on average. But this is not unique to Britain and Ireland.
Brien Alkire, USA

I went to London in mid April and was amazed at the politeness. People were courteous and they didn't shove.
Selena, Hong Kong

As a Briton from the North West of England, now living in New Jersey, I have to say that - as a sweeping generalisation - New Jersey is hard to beat for sheer rudeness amongst shop assistants and bank cashiers. I am informed that people from other parts of the country are equally appalled. It may simply be a result of having so many people packed into one small area.
Karen Abbott, USA

English people rude? Been to France lately?
Donald, England

Every day I spend in London I am confronted with rudeness, inconsideration and blatant hostility. Coming from Canada (a very friendly society), this has been quite shocking, as I always thought that the Brits were the paragon of politeness. I think it is the intense competition and extremely high cost of living combined with the physical compression into such a small urban space.
Omar, Canadian living in London

We have visited the U.K. five times since 1991. Although we noticed that people have gotten somewhat ruder, we feel that the British are generally polite. They are a lot more pleasant than the rest of the western Europeans and the London cabbies are the best.
Tassos Zervakis, U.S.A



A little bit more tolerance and mutual respect would go a long way to make life more tolerable for everyone, especially on the road

Phil W, UK
The British have traditionally "put up with" bad service but are becoming more assertive in their expectations. However, there is a big difference between being rightly demanding and being outright rude. It is worth remembering that service staff in hotels, restaurants and airports are usually low paid and work long hours, often under the pressure of deadlines. This does not mean we can abuse them.
John , London, UK

I'm ashamed to admit that I'm getting ruder. If you're polite these days, many people perceive it as a weakness and exploit your "better nature". As a result, I think that the nation as a whole is getting angrier.
Raymond, United Kingdom

Standards are slipping. These days politeness does seem to be regarded as a sign of weakness. A little bit more tolerance and mutual respect would go a long way to make life more tolerable for everyone, especially on the road.
Phil W, UK

People travel abroad more, particularly to the USA and are starting to notice that the standard of customer service we are used to in the UK doesn't compare very well. It's not a new problem.
Andy, UK

I like Dan V's response. I now live in Munich and the customer service is appalling. The people are rude because it is in their proud nature or custom. Actually the friendliest people are the foreigners, especially from the UK and Ireland. But then you do have some downright rude people in inner London anyway.
Swoosh, UK/Germany



The important thing is to keep building polite links in the human chain, as an example, parents should say such things as "excuse me" to their children instead of "get out of the way" where required.

Martin Iles, UK
The important thing is to keep building polite links in the human chain, as an example, parents should say such things as "excuse me" to their children instead of "get out of the way" where required. There is a pet-food advert presently being shown where a girl at a shop counter turns around and barges another customer backwards, with no apology she then walks towards the camera with a smug grin. Such displays of selfishness displayed to a younger audience (who the advert is intended for) are to the detriment of public politeness.
Martin Iles, UK

As a UK-based foreigner (Nigerian), I find the British are almost invariably polite in their face-to-face dealings with you, whether or not they like you as a person. This, along with their sense of humour, is one of their most admirable traits. Admittedly, people are significantly ruder in London than in other parts of the country. Americans have many good points, but one is frequently taken aback by the fact that some of them can be abrupt to the point of rudeness, even in business-related correspondence with complete strangers. Not what I'm used to, I'm afraid!
Dr. N. Nwokolo, UK



The world is getting ruder and losing manners.

Marta Perez, Argentina
The world is getting ruder and loosing manners but, when in the UK the kindness and politeness we receive warms our souls. That is why the UK is the best country in Europe that the Argentines choose.
Marta Perez, Argentina

A friend of mine flew from Australia to Britain and was directed to a bus to continue his journey. The bus was just leaving, so he waved to the bus driver, who promptly gave him the two-fingered "salute" as the bus sped off. Within a few hours of arriving in Britain, my friend was on the plane heading back home.
Ray Marsh, Australia

In an impersonal modern-day society of telecommuting, emails, cubes and e-tailing, people are becoming increasingly separated from human interaction. What do you expect? We are all out of practice!
Paul Briley, UK

Generally, no and we are becoming less tolerant of poor behaviour particularly from service providers. Bad behaviour is most evident on the roads. Some people seem to undergo a personality change when behind the wheel and are blatantly rude and aggressive to other road users.
Michale, UK



People constantly pushed me in the streets, cars sped up when I tried to cross the road and people seemed to take so much pleasure in being down right nasty

Venezia Beckford, USA/Ex UK
I was born and grew up in London. I moved to the states for a while and was contemplating moving back to England. I came back for a 3-month stay. People constantly pushed me in the streets, cars sped up when I tried to cross the road and people seemed to take so much pleasure in being down right nasty (thinking I was an American). As bad as America is, I never experience those things here. Needless to say, I stayed put!
Venezia Beckford, USA/Ex UK

Compared to Americans, you Brits are so bloody... CIVILIZED. Kind. Polite. You might be noticing yourselves becoming more temperamental, but you stand head and shoulders over my countrymen. RULE Britannia!
Kim, USA

My favourite comment along these lines comes from a hotel guide that characterised the attitude of the staff at a very well-known and posh London hotel as being "It would be ever so nice if you weren't here".
Peter C. Kohler, USA



The UK shouldn't be singled out - western society breeds rude people

Paul B, USA
The UK shouldn't be singled out. Western society breeds rude people. It is a culture that generally takes things for granted and is extremely competitive. This makes many people come across as rushed and rude (people not thanking you for holding doors open, not allowing you to cross the road etc).
It is the same in all the places I have lived - the UK, the US and Australia. There is a total mix and it's difficult to generalise. But if I had to choose, Northeast USA takes some beating!
Paul B, USA

I was waiting to cross a zebra crossing the other day and not one vehicle stopped to let me cross. Even when I put my foot onto the crossing. After a while I decided to merely step out onto the crossing. A car which was approaching started to slow down and then speeded up and went across with me in the middle. I tell you there are people in this country who would sooner run you down than slow down and stop to let you cross. It makes me very worried. Rude Britannia you bet it is!
Lou, UK

I have never been to Britain. But the Brits I have met here in the US and in my travels abroad have been a delightful bunch. I realise this is but a small sampling, but you chaps are still okay in my book!
Ralph Basner, USA

Yes, I think as a whole, the English (and Welsh) are rude. When one is in the US or Eire for example, the people there bend over backwards to be accommodating and polite. Here in England, one is lucky to get a grunt.
Steve Fricker, England

Anyone that has ever been in a French Ski Lift queue knows that the Brits are not the only ones that could be called rude.
Matt, UK

Let's not forget that customers, too, have an obligation to show some courtesy. Quite a few of them seem to enjoy exploiting and abusing what they clearly see as a position of power, and assume that they have a God-given right to bully and humiliate whoever it is behind the counter.
Henry Case, UK



Brits should be both proud and downright glad they were born there - keep smiling!

Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
As a Brit living in the US, I'm always amazed when I go "home" how cynical my compatriots are. I guess, living in a nation full of optimists (or, at least, it seems that way sometimes), the "doom and gloom" attitude of many in the UK comes as a bit of a rude shock! Perhaps this rubs off onto people's attitudes, with displays of surliness and petulance.
Personally, I think the UK is one of the greatest countries in the world (and I've travelled extensively); Brits should be both proud and downright glad they were born there. Keep smiling!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

I have found that people who work in customer service in Britain tend to think they are doing you some enormous favour if you try to buy something or ask a question. There also seems to be this belief that it is more important to finish a stock take than serve a customer.
Kate, Australian in the UK



If Britain is getting ruder, we're only coming into line with the rest of Europe

Dan V, England
No doubt this question will provoke the usual Brit-bashing that is often the response to issues of national character on this page. It's worth bearing in mind though, that if Britain is getting ruder, we're only coming into line with the rest of Europe.
Dan V, England


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22 May 00 | UK
So, how rude are you?
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