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Lesson One (Introduction)

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British Culture

Whatever culture you experience, it will take time to get used to the customs, traditions and general way of life. At the start you might feel strange in some situations. Here are a few tips to help you to adapt more easily. • The British queue, whether it is for a bus, at a shop or at the ice cream van. Join the ‘end’ of the queue and wait your turn.
• When you first meet people, especially in a formal situation, you will normally shake hands. Brits are quite personal and generally do not talk about their age, earnings, politics or religion.
• When coughing or yawning it is polite to cover your mouth with your hand. When sneezing it is polite to have a tissue available. If someone else sneezes it is a custom to say ‘bless you’.
• Brits are very punctual. If a class or meeting starts at 9am you are expected to be there at 9am. It is more relaxed with social invitations from friends.
• It may seem over the top in your language, but listen to the amount of time a Brit says ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘sorry’, or ‘excuse me’ and try to follow suit.
Tipping - It is not normal to tip every time as generally restaurants add 10% to the bill for service or it is highlighted on the menu - Look out for this. If you cannot see that they have added for service it is expected, where you feel you have received a good service, to give 10% of the price as a tip.
Bar staff are not normally tipped, however taxi drivers are, especially if they help you with your luggage. Around 10% is fine or a little less if it is only a short journey. Hairdressers and barbers also appreciate a tip of 10- 15%.
The Climate in Britain - The weather in Britain is variable and unpredictable. Rain in Britain is not seasonal and it may rain at any time of the year, so you will need a waterproof coat, shoes and an umbrella.
The actual temperature seldom goes below 0°C / 32F or rises above 25°C/80F, but the dampness can make it seem colder. The weather can change suddenly, so you should always be well prepared. The warmest months are June, July and August; the coldest months are usually December, January and February (average 2°C to 9°C).
Public Holidays
New Years Day - 1st January
Good Friday - The Friday before Easter
Easter Monday - The Monday after Easter
May Day Bank Holiday - The first Monday in May
Spring Bank Holiday - The last Monday in May
August Bank Holiday - The last Monday in August
Christmas Day - 25th December
Boxing Day - 26th December
Social laws - The legal age to purchase and drink alcohol is 18. The legal age for smoking is 16. All drugs are ILLEGAL.
Drinking alcohol is an accepted part of British society and culture, though being drunk is not. If you are intending to drive then DO NOT DRINK. It is quite safe to drink tap water in the UK unless it is specifically indicated that you should not drink it.
Driving - If you hold a current driving licence from your own country or an international driving licence then you are able to drive in the UK for 12 months from the date of entry stamped on your passport qualification. If you are intending to stay for more than one year you should apply for a British Driving Licence.
If you have a valid EEA driving licence you will be able to use it in the UK. If your country has a reciprocal agreement with the UK and you intend to stay in the UK for more than 12 months then you should obtain a British licence before the end of the 12-month period. You need to complete the Form D1, available from the post office. Countries covered by this agreement are: Australia, Barbados, Cyprus, British Virgin Islands, Japan, Hong Kong, Kenya, Malta, New Zealand, Singapore, and Zimbabwe.
If your country is not on this list, then you must obtain a Provisional Driving Licence until you take a driving test and obtain a full driving licence. Application forms are available from the post office.
If you want to drive a car in the UK it must be:
1. Registered
2. Taxed
3. Insured
4. If it is three or more years old, you must have a valid Ministry of Transport certificate (MOT) of road worthiness.
TO DRIVE A VEHICLE WITHOUT REGISTRATION DOCUMENTS, A TAX DISC AND INSURANCE IS ILLEGAL AND THERE ARE HEAVY PENALTIES IF YOU ARE CAUGHT. THE LAW - Learner drivers have to be supervised by experienced drivers over 21 years of age who have held a full British driving licence for at least three years. It is compulsory for the driver and all passengers to wear a seat belt. Penalties for drink driving are severe.

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