Dear Perfect Cuppa,

In my wok supoting intrnationa proesionas and expats setl int lie in th UK wih Englih languag and culture corses, I am fequnty aked qustions aot Briih lie, th popl and thir customs. Tese qustions are otn aot how t gt thing don hre whn yo firs arive, and how t gt up and runing quickly t fel at home. Here I answer some tp qustions and shd some ligt on thse area.

Dear Victoria, UK? Great Britain? Britain? England? Why does such a small island have so many different names and what’s the right one to use?

To start with we need to look at some geography, as amazingly the UK is both one country and four countries! Tere are different ways we talk about this country, so strictly speaking this is what they mean:

• United Kingdom: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

• Great Britain: England, Wales and Scotland

• Britain: England and Wales

However, in reality and in everyday life, you will hear people talk about the UK, Great Britain and Britain to mean all the same thing, ie the whole country. Usually England just refers to the country excluding Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. And just to clear up any confusion: the Republic of Ireland is a separate independent county.

Dear Victoria, I really don’t understand: why do you drive on the left but stand on the right on escalators?

Ah, now this is a tricky one, which foxes a lot of people. We obstinately drive on the left and claim to do this because it was easier in the old days if you were travelling by horse to draw a sword, when most people are right- handed, and fight your opponent. Tis custom continued in the UK and a few other places, including Australia and Japan, whereas the rest of the world decided driving on the right was sensible. So an important piece of advice when you arrive: make sure you look the correct way for crossing the road, i.e. look right first, then left. As for escalators, it makes sense if

you think about it. We are still mov- ing on the left, i.e. you can walk up the left-hand side of the escalator but stand still on the right. You’ll soon get the hang of it, even if you have been here only a few days. Just don’t com- mit the faux pas of standing on the left, which will irritate people quite quickly, and you are sure to hear a “sorry” as somebody tries to get past.

4 FOCUS The Magazine September/October 2019

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