The British Isles do comprise England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, geographically speaking. And like every state in the U.S., the people of these places possess their own various idiosyncrasies that can sometimes appear decidedly odd to visitors or tourists, American or otherwise. A great deal of stereotyping goes on, as people are labeled as being this or that, depending on where they hail from. Sadly, the American tourist is sometimes victim of such stereotyping when visiting Britain. But then, cultural differences and expectations may play a part, so that many will answer the question, “are the British hospitable to American tourists?” with a big, loud “No!”
Take the standard of hotels, service, transport, food and a lot more, as examples of those differences. American “everything” is assumed to be bigger, better and best, so that when these fall short of the American tourist’s expectations, a bit of moaning and complaining ensues. Now, there’s a thing – sue. American culture is perceived by many of us in these small islands, as being one of litigation and demand. If things are not to their liking, Americans have no qualms about making this known loud and clear. There always lurks the threat of being sued if you have not met expectations fully, when dealing with a displeased or irate American. Yet there is absolutely nothing wrong with demanding your rights and getting what you paid hard-earned money for.
Because the British are more reserved in many ways, and find this up-front, speak your mind, state your case attitude a little hard to handle, the perception is, American tourists are a nuisance, only to be tolerated because of the revenue they bring. Which is why the response might seem inhospitable, when in fact, it stems entirely from the differences in approach to tackling problems or failure to deliver the goods.
But you cannot say that a man from South Carolina is more troublesome than one from New York, simply because of different levels of politeness, manners or culture. Nor can you say that an Irish waiter is more polite than a harassed waitress in a central London restaurant, though the service might be vastly different. What you can agree on is that differences will occur, depending on who you are, where you are and what you are dealing with, and the behaviors used in any given situation.
I personally find the British polite and helpful, yes even in London, where the pace of life is fast and furious. Coming from a slower, smaller city, Belfast, I notice a subtle difference in the politeness and hospitality meted out to tourists, and believe the Belfast way is much better. But then I would say that, now wouldn’t I? Having said that, I asked a young man the way to Vauxhall Bridge, as he was rushing to work one morning in London. Not only did he stop to point me in the right direction, but took a street map out of his briefcase and gave me great instructions, despite his hurry. You don’t want to be put off visiting one of the most vital and beautiful cities in the world, for fear of inhospitable natives. That is just a myth. As for the Irish, they love American tourists.
What is important is to recognize that what is considered hospitable and acceptable in one part of a vast country like the U.S might not be the same in another. And the same goes for the British. It would be well to realize this when traveling as an American tourist in these islands. First, be aware of the culture and try to assimilate it, not ride roughshod over it. Next, try to laugh at our “strange” or alien ways of doing things. They are most likely not American ways, but hey, people travel to broaden the mind and experience new things. If you can do this, then you will see that, though rudeness and inferior service is not to be tolerated, hospitality will be extended and your presence welcomed. Come and see for yourself.