Meghan Markle is getting ready to join the Royal Family this weekend as she exchanges vows with Prince Harry. What will she have to know as she adjusts to the English lifestyle?
Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette, culture and modern manners expert, who is founder of Access to Culture (https://www.protocolww.com/), says these are some of the things Markle will have to learn:
General cultural differences that Meghan Markle will have to become aware of:
- Americans tend to be more direct, confident and loud compared to our English counterparts which – while part of the allure of America’s culture of progress and diversity – can sometimes be taken as brash or even discourteous. This includes swearing, sarcasm, exchanging insults and criticism.
- Brits generally value professionalism, discretion and formality in actions, behavior and appearance. This ranges from high levels of professionalism in the workplace to politeness in public, and is especially true with dining etiquette, in which Americans tend to be much more informal.
- One key to understanding British behavior is picking up on subtle cues and reading between the lines, where an American is more likely to be straight to the point.
Cultural faux-pas that Meghan Markle will need to be aware of:
- Complaining, especially in the moment or directed at someone.
- Blocking exists, or standing on the left side of escalators, which is meant for passing.
- Forgetting your P’s and Q’s. Brits are extremely polite; be generous with your manners.
- Making small talk on the Tube when everyone’s headed to work or home.
- Buying yourself a drink when out with friends without picking up a round for the group
- Talking or yelling loudly, especially not making a scene. Cool, polite and collected is the expected behavior.
- Inappropriate discussion topics, which include religion, politics and money
- In the UK, people don’t just eat, they dine, often with friends and loved ones and with polished table manners.
- In British dining style, you keep your fork on your non-dominant side when taking a bite, unlike the American “zigzag” style where you switch hands.
- Americans will sometimes cut up several pieces of food before actually eating to avoid so much hand switching; however, the rule is one bite at a time. Otherwise, your food gets cold and it resembles the way a parent cuts up food for a three or four-year old.
- When finished eating, you should put your utensils down neatly on the plate (tines down) at the 4:30 position.
Differences with British wedding culture that Meghan Markle will need to know:
- Weddings in the UK take place in a church or in a licensed venue due to government regulations
- British brides buy their bridesmaids’ dresses
- The maid of honor is known as the chief bridesmaid in the UK, and they sit during the ceremony rather than stand
- Groomsmen in the UK are called ushers
- Fruitcake is the classic wedding cake in the UK
- Female guests in the UK wear hats to the wedding – a very important piece of attire!
- American wedding toasts are more personal and touching, with British speeches often more comical
- “Wedding breakfast” in the UK actually refers to a post-wedding meal generally in the afternoon
Words that Meghan Markle will have to become familiar with:
- Americans say you’re “into” someone when you like them; in the UK you “fancy” them
- Blinding – meaning “excellent”
- Corker – someone or something that stands out
- Eating irons – cutlery, eating utensils
- Penny-dreadful – a tabloid
- Chuffed – pleased or delighted
- Dishy – good looking
- Dosh – a reference to pounds like the US uses “buck” for dollars
- Knackered – tired