9 Stereotypes About the British How true are they?

Claire Handscombe


As a Brit who’s spent almost half my life in other countries, I’ve encountered my fair share of assumptions about my fellow countryfolk. Some are fair and true and others are outdated or just plain wrong. Here’s a handful of these assumptions, and my take on them.

We all have beautiful accents. ✖️

Many of us do — particularly those of us who grew up in the South East (the land of the posh and well educated) and went to private school. I didn’t, and my accent is gardener variety, but I’ll never get tired of hearing how beautiful it sounds to Americans. Also, some of us sound like Martine McCutcheon in Love Actually. And our regional accents vary widely — which are beautiful and which are not is kind of subjective.

We all live in mansions and have servants. ✖️

Has there ever been a British character on American TV who doesn’t? Even New Girl Jess’ boyfriend was rich and posh and (of course) beautifully accented.

We drink tea a lot. ✔️

First thing in the morning, last thing at night, and a dozen times in between. The highest act of hospitality in the UK is bringing a cup of tea to a guest in bed — having first established exactly how strong they take it and with how much milk and sugar.

We say sorry all the time. ✔️

It may be the hardest word, but it’s also the most useful one.

We love our socialised healthcare! ✔️

The whole getting treated whatever your disease or injury is without paying or filling in forms and yes, paying taxes to fund it but really only minimal taxes compared to the cost of health insurance in the US — who knew it would be so popular?

We love queuing. ✔️

It’s so orderly.

We never say what we mean. ✖️✔️

True, we tend to understate some things (“that’s good, isn’t it?” vs “that’s totally awesome, you guys!”) — but language is a set of conventions, and Brits know the conventions, just as Americans know that “totally awesome” does not, in fact, mean you had to pause and wonder at the greatness of a thing and were drawn to a moment of transcendence. We know that “can you do this just whenever you get a minute” means “please do it immediately”. It’s like we have an inbuilt translator.

Our food is bad ✖️✖️✖️

Our food was bad in the ’50s, when we overboiled everything. It is now pretty damn great, influenced by all kinds of other countries, and by and large free of GMOs, high fructose corn syrup, chlorinated chicken, and all sorts of other nasty things. London restaurants are 👍, too.

We are emotionally repressed. ✖️

We don’t necessarily share our emotions but that doesn’t mean we don’t have them or that we aren’t aware of them. (Same, by the way, for patriotism — we are fiercely proud of our country, even though we are usually quiet and undemonstrative about it.) Also, we share them more than we used to — yes, my step dad is a little emotionally repressed, but he’s also old. This and the food thing are mostly remnants of another era.

Do you have other stereotypes you’d like me to weigh in on? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best.

Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash

Comments / 0

Published by

Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

Washington, DC

More from Claire Handscombe

Comments / 0