Navigating British Business Etiquette: Guide for International Marketers.



The United Kingdom is one of the leading business destinations for companies looking to succeed in the world. When it comes to making a living in the UK, it’s important to understand the different quirks and cultural expectations you’ll come to interact with as you work on your business.

A successful business is built on many things, and effective communication is one of them. Your ability to harmonise with local business culture and build a rapport with clients, customers, and stakeholders is paramount.

Consider this guide an introduction in British business etiquette. Read on and get to know the nuances and quirky formalities of British folk below.

The regions of Britain.

One of the most common errors when referring to British people is confusing the geographical names of Great Britain and the United Kingdom. It’s something that even native Brits still mix up from time to time.

How can a group of islands so small and close to one another be so varied? While you don’t have to commit each country’s history to memory, it’s key to understand their differences. Like any country, they each have their own individual sense of identity and culture.

Whether you’re doing business in Cardiff, Glasgow, or Cornwall, appreciating their official heritage and characteristics can go a long way.

Differences in regional culture

Each region of Britain has a different culture, which is important when marketing to a certain location. What’s relevant to London may not be relevant to Manchester. It’s important to understand that the capital city is not necessarily representative of the entire country.

While you’re interacting with British professionals, it’s worth noting that different regions may also have subtle rivalries. This also extends to universities.

For example, on two opposite sides of the north, Lancaster University and the University of York take part in an annual varsity sports competition in the tradition of their historic regional rivalry. The Roses tournament harks back to the War of the Roses where the red roses of Lancashire and white roses of Yorkshire were in a civil war.

You might find that British people make light-hearted jokes about rival regions and geographical neighbours. However, it’s often a good idea to avoid making similar jokes until you become more familiar with the cultural complexities between regions, in case you accidentally cause offence.

The regions of Britain include:

Like a Russian doll, within each region is a tapestry of counties, cities, and towns. You only have to listen to the varied regional accents to see how unique each location is.

British business etiquette and customs.

British people are often friendly and welcoming, but there are some unspoken expectations when it comes to business etiquette.

Here are a few customs to consider when branching out into the British market:


Getting the right balance of formal and friendly can be challenging in a new market. In a business environment, it’s important to use polite greetings. When first introduced, it’s often acceptable to call someone by their first name, and then offer a brief handshake. In Britain, hugging or kissing someone on the cheek is typically reserved for friends and loved ones.

If you’re contacting someone by email in a formal exchange, you might want to begin by addressing them with ‘Dear [Name]’.

If they respond with a more casual greeting, such as ‘Hi [Name]’, then feel free to mirror their greetings in the rest of your communications.

It’s common to end business emails with a simple choice of:


The stereotype of British people being polite often rings true. While Brits appreciate being direct, there is some nuance to the ‘correct’ delivery. It’s important not to be too blunt when issuing instructions or offering criticism, as it can be received as being too harsh or rude.

Instead, make sure to be tactile and polite when getting your message across.

Don’t be afraid of politely asking for something to be explained or clarified if you’re unsure. Often, someone will be happy to help and often appreciate your attention to being thorough.


In British culture, it’s often preferred for people to get directly to the point when communicating something. This also applies to business interactions. While maintaining your politeness and courtesy, it’s often good to be direct without using overly flowery or dramatic language.

For example, mainstream British and American media, such as the news, tend to fall at different ends of the spectrum.

Local British news is typically known for being political, respectful, and even light-hearted, and international news informative and impartial. By contrast, American news and media coverage can sometimes appear more passionate and sensationalised.


Punctuality is an important part of understanding business etiquette in the UK. Being punctual shows someone you have manners and respect their time. You should always try to arrive on time or five minutes early to give a good impression.

If you’re running late, make sure to contact your client or meeting host in plenty of time to let them know you’re on your way, and when you’re likely to arrive.

If you’re the meeting host, it’s good business etiquette to keep to the scheduled time. This also shows you appreciate your clients’ or stakeholders’ time.


British business attire can vary depending on the industry and the workplace. These days, many businesses adopt a more casual dress code policy, although it’s often polite to dress more formally for meeting clients.

If you’re not sure how formal to dress in a British business setting, it’s often a good plan to arrive overdressed than underdressed. Most people will appreciate the extra effort as a sign of respect.


In public spaces and the workplace, you may find people forming an orderly queue at the coffee machine, water dispenser, or the restrooms. British queuing etiquette means that when you arrive, you’ll join the back of the queue (or line). This is so each person receives the service fairly, in order of their arrival.

How to communicate with a British audience.

There are plenty of ways to create some buzz around your business in a British market. Consider these ideas:

3 tips for talking to British customers or businesses.

When it comes to learning business etiquette in Britain, there are a few more things to bear in mind.

British spelling.

There are some key differences between UK English and US English. It’s important to be aware of these spelling differences and use the correct version for your UK market. That way, your communications and products appear more professional, and you avoid alienating your British audience.

Here are a few examples of where UK and US English may differ:

When writing business communications and creating marketing content, be sure to set your spell checker to UK English.

Understanding British humour.

Humour and sarcasm are common British characteristics. British people are known for making self-deprecating jokes and laughing at themselves. There are some subtleties to British humour, and no one is expected to be an expert overnight.

As with any country’s sense of humour, it can be nuanced. The best way to understand it is to listen and observe.

British humour often includes:

British reserve.

The British reserve is a well-known stereotype – and in some cases can be true. Some British people may appear more reserved in comparison to other cultures. However, you shouldn’t expect everyone to act this way.

The British reputation of acting reserved is often a formality in business, or in other circumstances where you’re first getting to know someone. As always, politeness and good manners are usually well-received.

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Useful things to know.

What is the ‘British’ way of doing business?

British people have various expectations surrounding business etiquette. It’s important to be courteous, polite, and hardworking. British business culture is often less hierarchal than some other international countries.

What does British culture value?

British culture values authenticity and respect, which can mean different things in different cultures. In the UK, it’s respectful to give someone personal space and privacy, and be polite when interacting with them. It’s also good to show a sense of humour where appropriate.

What are the most common business structures in the UK?

The most common business structures are: