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Paddington's slip-ups: A bear's guide to UK etiquette

Paddington is GREAT

Poor old Paddington. He’s full of good intentions but broken toilets, floods, a mouthful of ear wax and a ride down the stairs in a bathtub are no way to start a new adventure in the UK...

By Ellie Buchdahl, 13 November 2014

For students as much as bears, starting out in a new country can be a real adventure. Even if you’re not planning to stick your head down the toilet or get stuck in a ticket barrier like Paddington in the film, it’s easy to worry about how to behave or what people will think of you.

Don’t worry: People in the UK are generally very friendly and happy to help a polite student if you only ask.

So what should Paddington have known before he came to the UK? Let’s have a look…

What if something’s not to my taste?

OK, so you might not be planning to glug down a whole bottle of mouthwash like Paddington – but what happens if you are given something you don’t like to eat?

For some people, trying new foods in a different country is all part of the adventure. But for other new students, whether or not they’ll like the food can be a big worry.

It doesn’t have to be! You might be surprised (and relieved) to find that there are loads of different cuisines in the UK.

Paddington is GREAT cakes

After all, Britain is a very multicultural place. In fact, one survey suggested that the meal most British people can cook from memory was the Italian pasta dish spaghetti bolognese. Asian-inspired stir fries came into the top ten too, as did curry.

If you know there’s something you really don’t like eating – or if there’s something you can’t eat for personal, religious or health reasons (you might be a vegetarian, for example, or have an allergy to a particular type of food) – it’s polite to let people know before they start cooking.

Usually it’s no problem to provide an alternative or leave one ingredient out of a dish. After all, people want you to feel at home!

Want more about what's on the menu in the UK? Check out:

If something appears on your plate that you don’t like, it doesn’t matter either. Just leave it to one side and enjoy the rest of the meal. British people don’t tend to like making a fuss and this is the politest way to refuse something.

But the best policy is just to give everything a go. After all, this could be your one chance to taste ‘toad in the hole’ (don’t worry – no real toads are harmed in the making of this sausage dish). Or how about Paddington’s top taste of Britain – a marmalade sandwich?

Should I carry a dog on the escalator?

Um… seriously? Surely no one but Paddington thinks it’s the law to pop a puppy under your arm when you travel on the London Underground?

However, there are a few bits of travel etiquette that are worth remembering...

© Paddington and Company Limited/STUDIOCANAL S.A. 2014 Paddington Bear™ and Paddington™ are trademarks of Paddington and Company Limited
© Paddington and Company Limited/STUDIOCANAL

If you see a line of people waiting, don’t push right to the front of it. This is called ‘queue-jumping’ and is taken very seriously in the UK. People see it as very important to ‘wait your turn’.

It’s just as important not to take up too much space, especially if you’re on a crowded train or platform – so keep that dog under control, Paddington!

Mind you, Paddington does get one thing exactly right – when he stands on the right on the escalator. Unlike British roads (where cars keep to the left), on an escalator, people stand on the right-hand side, and those who want to walk can speed past on the left.

Do I need to call adults ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’?

Paddington is extremely polite and he always calls adults by their formal titles – but you’ll find that lots of people in the UK now prefer to be called by their first names.

Paddington and Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) © Paddington and Company Limited/STUDIOCANAL S.A. 2014 Paddington Bear™ and Paddington™ are trademarks of Paddington and Company Limited
Paddington and Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville) © Paddington and Company Limited/STUDIOCANAL

If, like Paddington, you meet a ‘Mrs Brown’ for the first time and call her ‘Mrs. Brown’, she will probably say, ‘Call me Mary’ straight away. But even if she does, she’ll probably smile and tell you how polite you are.

In most schools for children and teenagers, teachers are addressed using ‘Mr’, ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’ or even just ‘Sir’ or ‘Miss’ instead of their full name.

At universities and colleges, it varies. Some teachers and professors prefer you to use their first name – others prefer to keep things a little more formal.

If in doubt, its best to start out formally by using 'Mr' or 'Mrs', just to be on the safe side!

Smile, look smart, stand in the queue: How to be polite in the UK

Should I take my hat off like Paddington?

What a polite chap that Paddington is – taking off his floppy red hat to passers-by on the London Underground.

Too bad he hasn’t noticed the train guard is looking at him a bit strangely.

Yes, people in the UK have a reputation for being rather formal.

© Paddington and Company Limited/STUDIOCANAL S.A. 2014 Paddington Bear™ and Paddington™ are trademarks of Paddington and Company Limited

But the days are long gone when gentlemen used to take their hats off to each other in greeting.

Nowadays, people in the UK usually shake hands in formal situations, especially when they’re introduced for the first time.

Good friends might give each other a hug in greeting and sometimes people will give each other a kiss on the cheek or both cheeks to say hello or goodbye.

If you’re unsure, just follow the lead of the person you’re meeting – and get in there with a big smile and a friendly ‘Hi’.

PADDINGTON comes to cinemas worldwide from 28 November. Visit www.paddington.com for everything you could ever want to know about everyone's favourite bear from Peru or follow @paddingtonbear on Twitter.

© Paddington and Company Limited/STUDIOCANAL S.A. 2014 Paddington Bear™ and Paddington™ are trademarks of Paddington and Company Limited