British politeness gone? Or did it exist ever?

Dear Reader,

If you are British, you are very likely to be tremendously proud of British politeness. And as a non-Brit you probably grew up hearing a lot about that. Yet lately, you hear more about Canadian politeness, especially online. And there you read from Brits, complaining about Canadians stealing their reputation. Note: Stealing the reputation, not being more polite.

So, are the Brits polite?

There is my special experience with what our beloved commentator Smiles correctly identifies as the “Border Farce”, but this post is about something else. This post is about Brits calling on the phone.

The telephone is over a hundred years old. And over time almost every society has developed customs how to behave on the phone. For example, in Italy one answers the phone with “pronto”. And then the caller identifies himself or herself and says what she or he wants. Same in the US, we answer the phone with “hello”, and the caller identifies himself. Similar in France, where people answer with ‘allo or “who is calling please?”. As far as I know, only in Germany it is the other way around. There one answers the phone saying one’s surname or full name. And then the caller says hello, followed by their name, and then states his or her desire.

What about the Brits? As far as I could observe, everyone answers the phone with “hello”. Correct?

But then it gets impolite. As callers, Brits seem to have zero manners. Nobody ever introduces himself or herself. People either start talking, as if one is supposed to know who they are. Do you all think you are royalty?

Or worse, the caller just asks: “Who is this?” Or states: “I want to talk to … !”

Excuse me, shouldn’t you introduce yourself first? How about saying hello, or good morning, or good afternoon? Followed by your name and what it is you desire? Wouldn’t that be the polite thing to do?

By now I have developed a special way to deal with Brits on the phone. If they fail to introduce themselves, I say:

“May I kindly ask, who is calling, please?”

Which usually leads to Brits being totally confused. Many just hang up. Others start stuttering. The Brits seem to have lost it. Or maybe they never had it, and it was nothing but a rumor for so many years?

What are your experiences?

Stay tuned,

Engine Room

PS: Obviously, I am not talking about business phone calls or telemarketers here..

8 thoughts on “British politeness gone? Or did it exist ever?

  1. I hate the telemarketers who call you, normally from Asia, to offer you shares in a company which are going to go ballistic. Always they withhold their numbers. I tell them that I do not speak to people, who withhold their numbers and suggest that they should invest their own money in these shares.
    I remember the time in UK, when people used to answer with their phone no. eg.
    Leicester 413251.

  2. My experience ER is that I provide an experience…

    You are greeted with a jingle, followed by compliments of your beauty in different languages, then the date and weather report. Then, I say Hello.

    …. a few days later you receive a glitter filled note, spritz with a summer floral scent Thanking-You for the correspondence.



  3. Here in Great Britain we’re bombarded by people trying to get you to change your utility supplier, barely a day goes by without one.
    I always say ‘hello’, depending on my mood it may be grumpy or happy. Of course with modern technology our home & mobile phones tell you when it is someone you know, so you have the choice to ignore them if you wish.
    If I ignore Smiles, he keeps calling both phones repeatedly until you give in and answer him. On working days, I’ve barely got the tea bag in the cup before he’s calling. I’m at my desk and he’s sitting in the sun enjoying his morning coffee waiting for his cheese and ham toastie.

  4. Had a laugh at ER sounding like an answering machine!

    We Brits haven’t lost anything, that is assuming whomever one is talking about had it in the first place, because as in all nationalities there are plenty of rude morons. I can’t stand the current Brit greeting of “all right”, as though this covers it.

    The trouble is that we are all now so inundated with unwanted sales calls, that we are developing an expectation and contempt for whoever is trying to sell, particularly if they are calling from Asia, but not exclusively. If the caller justs rambles on with their script, not giving pause to be told no thanks, it’s just as bad. I sometimes ask them to hang on a minute and leave the phone on the table for a while. they go of course.

    Otherwise where’s the difference? Who of ER’s friends and relatives calls without saying hello it’s so an so, unless the voice is obvious, as in our family we don’t really need to say who it is, we just know.

    Have a nice day – you all….

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