11 Things Only Travelling Brits Understand

Written by: Steph Dyson

There are many things that make the small island of Britain unique, and no more so than the expectations, fears, and deep-set psychological issues that, as Brits, we take with us when we travel.

So here’s a list of the 11 most troublesome features of travelling that only British people understand.

1. Finding a decent cup of tea

Finding tea abroad

When I left the UK, I committed the greatest cardinal sin: I forgot to pack tea bags. Although many British-sounding brands exist abroad, all hoping to incite your trust, just one sip leaves you sobbing non-Tetley tears into your hostel pillow.

The only way to cope is to bring your own, refuse to share with anyone who isn’t British (they won’t appreciate the significance of your gift), and remember it’s a great bartering tool when you want your own way with other tea-obsessed travellers.

2. The Great Pudding Debate

Spotted Dick

“Pudding’s like dessert, right?” My Brazilian friend (who’d studied in the UK for a whole year and should have known better) asked. If you’ve ever started a conversation about “dessert” with someone from another country, you’ll understand the grief that this seemingly simple concept can cause.

Yes, pudding is normally sweet. But no, not exclusively. Steak and kidney? Savoury. Yorkshire pudding? Comes with gravy. Bread and butter. Yup, that’s sweet. Give up; they’ll never understand.

3. The ‘English’ language

The 'English' language

It doesn’t take many interactions with other natives of the English tongue to realise that while we might all be speaking the same language, we’re really not.

I’m always amused by the incapacity of non-Brits to cope with “taking THE piss OUT of someone” (not “taking A piss ON someone” as a Chilean friend keeps saying), but even travellers from the US remain confused as to why British people are angry all the time (we’re not pissed off, we’re just pissed).

4. Customer service abroad sucks and we will TUT about it

Complaining abroad

As Brits, our default annoyed setting is the tut. A way of verbalising crossness at any example of impoliteness (and yes, we’re cross, never angry), it’s often used in lieu of actually speaking to someone about our problem.

In Bolivia, I once sat for 40 minutes in a café getting increasingly irate – and tutty – at the appalling customer service, finally leaving in a strop because I’d been ignored. While I’m not convinced our quasi-polite (read: passive-aggressive) approach to dealing with a problem actually works in our home country, it certainly doesn’t abroad. You actually have to complain abroad. How awful.

5. Forgetting everyone’s names and never being able to ask again

Name tags

A real problem for me when travelling is managing to remember the names of new people I meet. Of course you can never actually ask someone their name after the initial meeting, because it’s, like, really awkward.

Consequently, I’ve spent days searching for every opportunity to get new acquaintances to refer to their own names, so that I can stop prodding them every time I need to address them.

6. We like to queue in Britain. Others nationalities should try it too

Queuing when abroad

It’s not difficult: queues make up the very fabric of British society, and those who fail to adhere to their simple rules will experience our wrath (see #4).

Despite visiting countries where an Amazonian river squirming with anacondas would appear to have a more effectively organised queuing system, I cling to the idea that if I just demonstrate good queuing etiquette in shops, restaurants, and street food stands, then it’ll eventually catch on. Wrong: this martyred approach can bring only starvation.

7. Haggling is just not done

Haggling abroad

Bartering – or arguing with a complete stranger – isn’t our cup of tea. A friend once paid £20 for a £2 shoeshine in Peru because she sucked at it. We should be taking lessons from our American friends: I’ve watched in awe as one haggled so hard the vendor was close to including his first-born child in the sale.

8. Britain has many cities beyond London

London aerial view

“So you’re from London?” is the follow-up question to “I’m from Britain.” Er, no, actually. I’m from that other place, you know, THE REST OF BRITAIN. If by some magical twist of fate people can make reference to any other city besides our capital (and particularly somewhere northern), I’ll likely kiss them in appreciation. It has yet to happen.

9. Why does the crisp selection abroad suck?

Crisps abroad

You don’t realise how lucky you are in Britain until you encounter the pathetic range of crisp flavours outside the country. Living in Peru, I once had to persuade a friend to traffic 48 packets of pickled onion Monster Munch through customs to satisfy my need for anything other than plain. She got some strange looks, but has since found herself at the top of my Christmas card list.

10. Burn, peel, repeat


Sunburn is the biggest trial when travelling; scorched scalps, acres of peeling skin, and recognising another Brit from a distance thanks to the heat radiating from their blistered bodies.

But sunburn is also a great indicator you’ve been away; well, at least for the first week before your skin returns to its natural, pasty shade.

11. Nope, we don’t all sound like the Queen

The Queen looking evil

Only we seem to understand that Hugh Grant or the Queen are not reliable examples of a ‘normal’ accent in our country. Hollywood has a lot of explaining to do on this one, but those who’ve visited Britain know the truth: they proudly speak about trips to Scotland where they almost managed to understand the locals.

Still, regardless of where you’re from in the UK, it seems that when people realise this, you transform into Miss or Mr Sexiest World Accent 2016.

In some small ways, it’s actually good to be British.

Steph Dyson writes about adventure travel and meaningful volunteering on her website, Worldly Adventurer. She left her job as an English teacher in the UK to travel the world in 2014. So far, she’s made it to Bolivia and Peru. Follow her on Twitter @worldlyadventur

Check out these top UK travel experiences


In-Class TEFL Course in London

from £1425

20 days

United Kingdom

Join our 4-week TEFL in-class course in London and become a TEFL/TESOL certified teacher of English as a foreign language.

Professional Internships in London

from £600

28 - 168 days

United Kingdom

Find a professional internship in London that you will love and gain valuable work experience in a field that you...

London NGO Internship

from £1499

28 days

United Kingdom

Experience life living and working in this world famous city, whilst furthering your own career through our varied and in-depth...

Adventures in London, Paris & Italy

from £21000

7 - 84 days

France, Italy, United Kingdom

Join us for this great European adventure; 2 weeks in London, 1 week in Paris, 1 week in South of...

New Years Hogmanay Party Express

from £190

1 days

United Kingdom

Hogmanay is Scottish word for the last day of the year, and we’re here to celebrate on Stoke’s 24/hr New...

Oktoberfest Party Train from London

from £450

3 days

Germany, United Kingdom

Spend time downing steins of beer, singing on table tops and befriending old German men!  Stoke's Oktoberfest Party Train will...

City Slickers Plus 2 Week Interrail Package

from £1125

14 days

Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlan...

This Interrailing Roundtrip from London takes in lots of European highlights including Amsterdam, Rome, Budapest & Lake Bled whilst staying...

Venice Pre-University Course

from £9980

49 - 63 days

Italy, United Kingdom

This is a 2 month arts based gap year course in London, Venice, Florence and Rome which opens eyes, ears...

Combined TEFL Course London

from £1283

8 days

United Kingdom

Join our 8-day combined TEFL course in London and become a TEFL/TESOL certified teacher of English as a foreign language.


London to Tehran by Rail

Imagine the opportunity to experience a whole slew of the world's most iconic cities. This epic 40-day journey will have...

London to Marrakech Express

There’s so much to see in Europe; don’t settle for a cramped bus tour. Head south for an adventure as...

London to Barcelona on a Shoestring

from £1399

This is the ultimate (and iconic) whirlwind tour of Western Europe that everyone dreams of. For 13 days, travel primarily...

Spirit of Shackleton

from £8999

Experience vast penguin rookeries and seal colonies on this awe-inspiring voyage to Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands. This...

European Trail

from £2799

You. Europe. 26 days. Ready? You’d better be, because this epic London-to-London romp through the Old World’s greatest cities doesn’t...

Cities of Europe

If you’re looking for a stellar, budget-conscious tour that provides a quick yet comprehensive sampler of Europe, this is a...

London to Rome Adventure

from £799

Crisscrossing four countries, this whirlwind tour of Europe’s most celebrated capitals squeezes unique culture, delectable food and drink, stunning scenery,...

Rome to London on a Shoestring

from £1999

Hope your happiness muscles are in peak condition because this epic 20-day combo tour of Europe is going to leave...

Scottish Islands & Norwegian Fjords – Edinburgh to Tromsø

from £2847

Go deeper into the otherworldly fjords of Norway on this unique journey from Scotland, across the Norwegian Sea to the...

London to Berlin on a Shoestring

from £2079

Travelling on a budget doesn’t mean you have to see less; it just means you have to plan more. Lucky...

Find more articles about the lighter side of travel

[contact-form-7 id="4" title="Contact form 1"]