I found myself in a random situation the other day.  A situation that got me thinking about etiquette.  

I had just done the school run and had about 20 minutes to kill before a dentist appointment.  I decided to have a quick mooch around our local supermarket as I was child free and we needed milk.  

Before entering the supermarket I stopped in the foyer to reply to an urgent email.  It was whilst I was typing that I saw one of the mums from school trying to get my attention.  I don’t know her well, I know her kids name, but not hers.  She’s one of those nod and smile acquaintances.  She doesn’t speak very much English, but she said to me, “You sit here?”  I replied, “just for two minutes”.  She then pointed to the her umbrella, (the largest umbrella I have even seen) put it on the floor, (still open) then pointed to me and said “you look” before disappearing into the shop.

From that exchange I assumed she had just asked me to look after her umbrella whilst she went into the shop.  I also assumed she was just popping in to grab milk.  Then I saw her get a trolley.

Err hold up, what just happened?  Am I now stuck here making sure no one pinches her brolly whilst she does her weekly shop?  Dilemma.  Do I:

a) Sit her with the ginormous umbrella silently getting more and more irate that I am spending my rare child free hour babysitting a brolly, and knowing that when she returns I will just grit my teeth and smile and say “no problem”, because you know, I’m British.

b) Leave the giant umbrella in the foyer and go into the supermarket to get my milk, all the while feeling really guilty that I have left the ginormous umbrella alone, likely to be abducted, and she will return to find it missing, get really wet on the way home and I will have to avoid eye contact with her forever more.

I went with option B.  I had a dentist appointment to get to!

The moral of my story here is that the correct brolly etiquette was not followed. Everyone knows that you NEVER enter a building with an open brolly due to the whole bad luck thing, and you clearly take your umbrella with you.  Hang it on your trolley and walk round the supermarket with it dripping on your knees.

I also realised how irrationally angry it makes me when people don’t follow the same etiquette rules as me.  So for my own sanity and to save my internal outrage here are my top 5 etiquette rules:


The Great British Etiquette debate written on an image of umbrellas


1 Supermarket Checkouts

So you’ve gone to the checkout manned by an actual person because you have you small people with you and can’t face another “unidentified item in the bagging area.”  Incidentally those things should be programmed to recognise a toddler in the bagging area.  It would make all of our lives so much easier.  

Anyway you’ve placed your items on the conveyor and then you put the little plastic divider thingy at the end of your items, so the next customer can load their stuff onto the conveyor.  Right?  Except I always have to put the little plastic divider thingy at both ends of my shopping because I’m always behind someone who is to lazy, and has blatant disregard for the etiquette of the little plastic divider thingy.


2 Lifts

This one is a minefield.  Firstly when you are waiting for a lift and the doors open, let the people out BEFORE you step in.  It’s common sense if not courtesy.  But the one that really gets me is when I am in the lift going down a few floors and it stops before my destination. More people get in, who want to go in the opposite direction.  They press the buttons incessantly for the floor they want, and huff loudly when the lift starts going down instead of up.  Heads up people, before you get it the lift there are big illuminated arrows above it telling you what direction it is going in.  Don’t get mad with me because I made the lift go down.  I was here FIRST!


3 Doors

Again I follow the rule of let people out of a building before you enter.  But if i’m holding the door open for you please grant me the common courtesy of saying thank-you.  It’s manners.  If I see someone with a pushchair trying to open a door and get through, I hold the door for them.  It’s the nice thing to do.  

There are two types of people in this world, ones that hold doors open for people, and ones that don’t.  The ones that don’t will watch whilst you struggle to open the door and manoeuvre the buggy through at the same time. They watch, and in that moment just after you have used your arse to prop the door open whilst you swivel the buggy round, but just before you step away to let the door close, they use that moment to cut through the open door.  The door being held open by your arse. The very same door they have just watched you battle through.  And they don’t say thank-you.


4 Toilet Roll

This is not the correct toilet roll etiquette people…

toilet roll etiquette

I’m all for saving the planet and not being wasteful but that’s no good to no man or beast. Replace the god damn roll.


5 Service With A smile

Take pride in your job. A smile and a have a nice day whilst I handover my cash goes a long way and is far better than the obvious “I would rather be anywhere else but here” death stare you are currently giving me.  Likewise don’t keep me waiting at the checkout whilst you chat to you work colleague about who snogged who last night.  

On the flip side of that as a customer you should always give a company a chance to respond to your complaint and fix the situation before you publicly hang them on social media.


What broken etiquette rules wind you up the most? 


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Do you know all the rules about Great British etiquitte?  Are you typically british and find yourself silently seething when someone doesn't follow the rules?

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Claire Kirby

17 Comments on The Great British Etiquette Debate

  1. I never put the plastic divider at the end of my groceries. I have this weird fear that it will offend the next person. Someone gave me a weird look once when I did. Like I can’t bear the thought of my superior groceries coming into contact with their inferior ones. I never did it again. #FridayFrolics

  2. I don’t know much about etiquette, but I do know that you must never, under any circumstances, ask Mumsnet if your brolly watching etiquette was correct. Not unless you want to find out just how self absorbed, insensitive and ‘passive aggressive’ your brolly watching choices may have been. It is possible that woman’s brother’s dog’s auntie’s next door neighbour’s parakeet has gout, and you and your insensitivity in not watching that umbrella probably tipped her over the edge while she was trying to deal with that trauma. It’s possible, and the women of Mumsnet would line up to tell you just how possible it is. (Yes, I have made the mistake of reading some Mumsnet threads answering etiquette queries recently.) #FridayFrolics

  3. Hmmm I’m intrigued as to her umbrella culture!! However I would have gone with option B also! The whole conveyor belt divider brings out the devil in me…I’ve taken to leaving a much more than necessary gap between the end of the persons shopping in front of me before I put my own groceries on! I do like it when they turn to see what I’m up to and have a sheepish look on their faces! Ha! In your faces lazy ass shoppers!! #fridayfrolics

  4. Just put your trolley back in the trolley porch, don’t dump it in the middle of car park in the only place. Especially when its raining and I have to get out of the car and move it. Grrrr!

  5. The empty toilet roll! How many times in my life have I been reduced to wiped my lady bits with the actual cardboard because some asshole left not a shred and another asshole didnt bother to do their job and restock it.

    Probably too many to count.\#fridayfrolics

  6. Haha! Did she really expect you to look after the umbrella? These all drive me crazy, and also the bus stop que thing. You know, where you are the first at the stop waiting for the bus, but end up being the last to get on! #FridayFrolics

  7. What winds me up in supermarkets is when people stand chatting to their long-lost third cousin thrice removed in the middle of the aisle, trolleys blocking the path and all. I just want to get the heck out of the darn supermarket and get the shopping done as quick as possible. You can chat to your mate at the side, Martha! #FridayFrolics

  8. Haha, I get the rage when people don’t thank you for opening the door – or, more annoying, acknowledge your apology if you accidentally get in their way. JUST SAY THAT’S OK, PEOPLE! #fridayfrolics

  9. The person who writes a check instead of using a debit or credit card should be identified with a scarlet C on their forehead when they enter the store so you can totally avoid them and NEVER get in their line. In fact they should be shuffled the end of every line until the store is empty before they can check out. That will teach them to use a card!

  10. #Toiletrollgate is one of my biggest gripes at work lol, I seem to spend 50% of my time there replacing loo roll. Then you wander over to the printer, it’s out of paper, and everybody else is waiting for someone to put some more in! Gahhhh!

  11. The toilet roll! It drives me insane. However, you missed out roads. So on Jersey we have two extremes. We have people that will slam their brakes on to let people out of a side road. I now even do this which is just nuts. Then we have those people that drive like nutters and force their way down your narrow road, meaning that you end up in a ditch. Then they don’t say thank you. I always shout really loudly “no thank you! I really wanted to be in the ditch, thank you, thank you, bloody thank you!” Grrrr. Can you tell that drives me potty.#FridayFrolics

  12. Oh God, it can all be such a minefield, right? I’d also add that when boarding a train or bus, you should always let people get off before you try to get on. I know that seems obvious, but as a frequent public transport user, you’d be surprised by how often people don’t do it. #FridayFrolics

  13. Spot on! The divider thing is a minefield. The person in front – the one breaking the divider etiquette – will invariably be talking to someone AND blocking your acess to the divider so you have try to extract it without making THEM feel like you are being rude!

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