Diferencias en educación y formalidades: mundo inglés vs español

En suelo inglés y en suelo español muchas cosas suceden de forma dispar. No se trata solo de lo más obvio, como la lengua, el clima o la comida. Hay muchas formas de comportarse que aquí están bien vistas y allí no. Y viceversa. Muchos ingleses se ven sorprendidos por el hecho de que aquí no se considera correcto desperezarse en un lugar público, como el trabajo, aunque estés rodeado de gente de confianza. En cambio, la distancia interpersonal, el contacto físico, siguen unos parámetros en España que son chocantes en las islas. Una de las figuras más representativas de la educación y corrección británica en nuestra plantilla de profesores ha tenido a bien ilustrarnos, y nos facilita este texto en inglés, ameno y asequible, para tener las claves para no desentonar en suelo británico. Si vas a Reino Unido, ésta es tu guía para la etiqueta.

Mind your manners! The differences in etiquette you should know before going to the UK.

You probably know that English has absorbed many words and phrases from French, but have you heard of the term “to make a faux pas”? Translated literally this means to take a false step or in common parlance, to put your foot in it (meter la pata). Yes, the action of making an embarrassing social gaff. In most cases, Spain and the UK are broadly similar on matter of manners, but there are some important differences in etiquette to make your visit go as smoothly as possible.

¿Dos besos? En suelo inglés esto es un poco violento.

The covid pandemic has certainly changed the rules regarding all forms of physical greetings everywhere, and even here in Spain people are still adjusting after two years of hiatus on the dos besos front. However, in the UK this has never been a common practice. The very continental custom of leaning in for the obligatory kisses upon first meeting someone may be greeted with some confusion (or perhaps even mistaken for more amorous intentions) with the British so this is best avoided. The handshake is also far less common than you might think, and is generally reserved for only the most formal occasions (job interviews, for example). When being introduced to someone new, the only thing you really need to do is to make eye contact and say “nice to meet you” along with a friendly smile, of course.

Be careful with the imperative! – La exquisitez en la petición.

The imperative is ideal for giving immediate orders or instructions but in other circumstances it can give an abrupt or bossy impression. Obviously if you see someone about to do something dangerous or you need help straight away, then the imperative is necessary. In Spain the barman won’t bat an eyelid when you say “Pónme dos cañas” but if you translate the same sentiment into English you may well find you get a very frosty reception and a few raised eyebrows to say the least. “I would like…” “Could I have….?” is guaranteed to hit the right note accompanied with please and thank you, naturally.

The magic word – La palabra mágica funciona siempre. Y se utiliza más en el mundo inglés que en el español.

Kids are universally taught that the key to getting their requests granted is by using the “magic” word: please. This word is used far more than in Spanish and it really does possess a magical quality in the sense that it softens your tone and shows respect for the person you’re addressing. (Your teacher may even use it when giving your homework instructions!)

Sorry! Sorry? – El uso constante de Sorry. ¿Cuándo usar la palabra «sorry»?

Sorry! The other word of magical quality, the British use this one with fervor. Whether you accidentally bump into someone on the Tube or you need to have something repeated, make this little word your first choice.

Personal space – Guarda las distancias. No todo el mundo quiere la misma cercanía.

The pandemic has also affected how close we stand to others, but in the UK the notion of personal space has always been a key issue. Generally speaking, avoid touching people when you speak, even just a friendly pat on the arm may be considered invasive. But how much space should you allow socially? The usual rule is the space around you if you stretch your arms out in front of you is the normal amount. However, if you sense that the other person seems to be backing away, don’t feel you need to close the gap, just respect their subtle wish for little more distance.

Respect the queue – Manten la fila. Respeta la cola

Jumping the queue or cutting in line as the Americans say, is always frowned upon. Avoid potentially unpleasant situations by respecting your place in the queue and never attempt to push in. You’ll see customers with only one item in their hands waiting  patiently at even the busiest supermarket check outs, so asking to go in front if you’re just buying a “few bits and pieces” is not a good idea.

Distintas formas de dar las gracias en inglés

To conclude, there is only one thing left to say: thank you! English has a myriad of variations on this very important word- ranging from the ubiquitous “thanks” to the stiff and formal “much obliged” to the informal “cheers”- whichever you choose, just don’t forget to say it. Thank you!


A continuación, como lectura extra, os ofrecemos este top de las 10 costumbres inglesas que más sorprenden a los españoles.