Episode 13

Tess and Ravi talk about politeness and Adam reads your comments about going to the cinema.



Adam: Hello and Happy New Year! I’m Adam. Rob is away this episode, but should be back next time. Welcome to Episode 13 of the Learn English Elementary podcast – the first episode of 2012. And, to start the new year, Tess and Ravi will be here in a moment to talk about something else that’s very British.

But, before we get to that, let’s take a look at some of your comments from the last podcast.

We heard Carolina and her friends go to the cinema and we asked you to tell us about what kind of cinema you like and we got some great responses. We found that, all over the world, people like the same kind of films: action movies, thrillers, documentaries, animation, horror films – well, I don’t like horror films – comedies… Perhaps TKazerooni, our friend in Iran, describes it best when he says “I’ll be flown in my dreams” when he goes to the cinema. Sirjoe, in Italy, likes to sit at the front of the cinema, right in front of the screen, “so that my sight is totally occupied by the images”. I do that too.

And we now have enough film recommendations to start a Podcast film festival! We don’t have time to mention them all but ibtissemdz and gladiator, both from Algeria, mentioned The Battle of Algiers. TKazeroooni recommends an Iranian film called Marmoolak – it means ‘The Lizard’. Both sheileng and michelle in Brazil recommend Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad) and I’ll be looking out for a Russian film called ‘Vysotsky (Thank god I’m alive) recommended by Tanya Klimova. Oh, and Umi from Indonesia says we should see a film called Laskar Pelangi, which means ‘The Rainbow Troops’, and she also offers some good advice on learning English – thanks Umi!

We must give a special mention to Langtucoiam in Vietnam who remembers a very special cinema visit. He says: ‘I will never forget the film "King Kong" because it was really fantastic and after this film one of my classmates became my girl-friend and now she is my wife.’ How romantic!

Finally though, we mustn’t forget that not everybody likes the cinema. Christopher in Brazil says ‘it isn’t good to be inside a dark warm room with very loud noises’, but maybe the best advice is from j d trzsnyai in Romania:

I don't really like going to the cinema. I much prefer reading a good book or studying English with your podcasts.

That’s my favourite advice!

As usual, thank you all for all your great comments and sorry we can’t mention them all. As usual, please let us know what you think by writing to us at www.britishcouncil.org/learnenglish or look for us on Facebook.

Now it’s time to catch up with Tess and Ravi. In these podcasts they’ve been looking at things that people think are typically British – things you think about when you think about Britain. I wonder what they’ll tell us today…

Tess and Ravi

Ravi: Excuse me. Could I possibly have a cup of tea, please?

Tess: Certainly, sir, here you are.

Ravi: Ah, thank you. How much is that, please?

Tess: Thank you. Two pounds, please.

Ravi: Thank you. Here you are, five pounds.

Tess: Ah! Thank you. And here’s three pounds change, thank you.

Ravi: Ah, thank you!

Tess: Hi, it’s us, Tess and Ravi, and that little conversation might give you an idea of what we’re talking about today.

Ravi: As usual, we’re going to look at something you, our listeners, think you know about Britain – some typically British things – and today, we’re going to talk about British politeness.

Tess: Lots of people think that the British are very polite. What do you think, Ravi?

Ravi: Hmm, I don’t know. I think it’s quite old-fashioned, don’t you? London certainly doesn’t feel very polite in rush hour in the morning.

Tess: I think one thing that makes people think we’re polite is that we say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ a lot – like you and I did just then. I don’t think people say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ so much in other places.

Ravi: Really?

Tess: Yeah. My Spanish friend said that when she first came to visit Britain, when she went to a café, she’d say ‘A coffee’ – not ‘A coffee, please’ because in Spain people don’t say ‘please’ so often. For me, it feels quite rude, quite impolite, if you don’t say ‘please’ when you ask for something in a shop.

Ravi: Yeah, but it can get silly sometimes, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ all the time. Anyway, just saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ a lot doesn’t mean you’re polite. I think London feels quite impolite; I think people in Manchester are more polite than they are here in London.

Tess: Well, you would say that, you’re from Manchester, but you might be right – capital cities are often very different from the rest of the country. The other thing my friend thought was funny about English is our polite language, like, ‘Excuse me, I’m very sorry, but I wonder if I could ask you a question’ – that kind of thing.

Ravi: Yeah, we seem to use a lot of words to say things when we want to be polite. ‘Could I possibly use your telephone if you don’t mind’. But that’s polite language – does that mean that we’re really more polite than people in other countries? I have to say, I don’t really think we are, actually.

Tess: To be honest, I don’t either. I don’t really think the British are especially polite. It’s probably the same everywhere – some people are very polite – and some people are not so polite.

Ravi: I’m very polite aren’t I?

Tess: Yes, Ravi.

Ravi: Thank you.



So, Adam, if you don’t mind my asking, would you perhaps believe that it’s true? Are the British very polite?

Thank you very much for asking, Adam. I think there are different kinds of politeness. There’s following rules, for example when you eat in a particular way, and then there’s politeness by thinking about other people, for example when you give your seat to someone else on the bus. I think you can be kind to other people even if you don’t follow lots of rules about how to speak and act.

But what do you think? Do you think British people are polite or not – tell us about your experiences – good or bad! And how about in your country? Do you think people in your country are polite or not? We’d love to hear from you. As usual you can contact us at www.britishcouncil.org/learnenglish.

You know, it’s true what Ravi said - we seem to use a lot of words to say things when we want to be polite. And we also use fixed expressions when we’re being polite. It’s useful to learn these fixed expressions. For example, what do you say when you want to get past someone – if you want to get off the train for example?

“Excuse me.”

How about when someone says ‘thank you’ to you?

‘You’re welcome’ or ‘that’s all right’.

We’ve put some activities to help you with this on the website.

You’ll also see some activities about negative prefixes: impolite, unimportant, incorrect. They’ll help you remember which prefix goes with which adjective.

OK, that’s all we’ve got time for today. I’ll be back next time with Rob and with more from Carolina. Thank you very much for listening – bye!

Do you need to improve your English?
Whether you need better English to travel or meet new people, our online English courses will give you real practice. Join thousands of learners from around the world who are making great progress with their English level with our online courses.


Submitted by Mohammedalbassami on Tue, 07/09/2021 - 08:15

Good morning everyone I have been to British in 2011 for nine months as specialist course in my job. Actually British people are politely in speaking or treating but I noticed young people are very proud and unfriendly and avoid to talk for foreigners. I think they feel afraid about stranger people or they had racialism. However in my country Oman people are very polite and humble. Tourists always say omani people are very friendly and good politeness. Exactly culture effect for politeness so people if respect their culture will treat people as humanity especially in the streets.

Submitted by May Thida Su on Sun, 21/02/2021 - 15:17

HELLO!!! I'm May Thida Su from Myanmar. I've never been to Britain and I've never heard the habitat of British. So I don't know British are polite or not before. But after listening this podcast from Series 1, I also think the British say " Excuse me " ," Thank you " and " please " a lot. Yeah I also think they are very polite. The people in my country don't say that words a lot but they are also polite enough. I think Myanmar people are as polite as British.

Submitted by Veena Kumari on Sat, 06/02/2021 - 08:35

Hi, everyone. Fortunately, I have been to United Kingdom last year and I really appreciate the politeness of British people. They are humble, cooperative and down to earth. However, people in my country are a bit different. Some are very helpful, while others are rude and harsh. It depends on each individual that how he or she behaves.

Submitted by jmajo on Mon, 11/01/2021 - 19:23

Thanks for the episode. Great site!

Submitted by jmajo on Mon, 11/01/2021 - 19:21

I only met a few British persons until today but it seems like they were as same polite as we are here, so I don't think British people are more polite than other people in other parts of the world, maybe the British society in general are more polite than others societies in most of the parts of the world, but I'd never been in Britain so I don't really know, in my country it's normal to find all kind of levels of politeness, but generally speaking in the small towns people are more polite than in the greater or bigger cities or in the capital city. I notice that in this country those whom have unhappy or sad lives tend to act in a more rude or impolite manner but most of the people here is polite with strangers or people they don't know very well. One way to measure the level of politeness in a city is seeing the way people behave in the traffic, if people use the horn and is rude to others drivers tells you that probably they're impolite in their lives.

Submitted by Sajja on Tue, 05/01/2021 - 06:15

I haven't met British people before but I am following Natcha Oceane the famous british fitness influencer on youtube and Instagram and I think yes the british people are very polite and they use formal and polite expressions so often. And I noticed that more when I was researching about difference between Amiracan accent and Britain accent . The difference it's too clear that from the ways and the words that they use it in the same situations but . For my country , I don't know I think it was more polite in last century than now. In the end, we can not say all of people I one area or country same . Everywhere there are polite and impolite people . That depended on believes and morals everyone.

Submitted by Tauhid Ahmed on Thu, 08/10/2020 - 10:37

I have heard about british people, they are quite polite but i haven't met with them.

Submitted by Mazoon AL.Ghssani on Wed, 07/10/2020 - 15:17

Hi, I think British people are very polite because all the British people I have ever seen in my life were polite In my country some of them are polite and some of the are not.

Submitted by Ahmed 99 on Wed, 09/09/2020 - 23:27

unfortunately,i never met withe British people but I think they are polite from the way of speaking. In my countrey Yemen the people are polite and humble most of them not all.

Submitted by Bruno2020 on Tue, 28/04/2020 - 23:28

do you think people in your country are polite or not? Hi guys!Here in Brazil most of the people are impolite unfortunelly.Wheter in public transportation or queue for something.I try to be polite to everyone who cross my way.
Profile picture for user Sergey Sh

Submitted by Sergey Sh on Tue, 01/10/2019 - 09:57

Here in Russia whether people polite or impolite depends on where they are from. In big cities like Moscow people are more rushing and businesses than in some town as well as everywhere in the world I guess. But if to tell in general here is really much more impolite and rude people.
Profile picture for user Oksi1001

Submitted by Oksi1001 on Thu, 04/07/2019 - 14:56

Hi there!I have never been in England,unluckily and sort of haven't met British people in Europe. I'm living in Russia and i almost had not a chance to talk with British people. Only couple of times while we held World championship last year. They weren't polite too mush, just polite)) In my contry are a different people, polite and inpolite, rude and intelligent. Fortunately, most of them are polite and pleasant. I think anywhere are different people, but on the whole most of them quite polite, at least with strangers

Submitted by parisaach on Wed, 08/05/2019 - 06:11

I don't have any idea about politeness of british people, In fact I've never met any british person or heard anything about how polite they are, but in my country people are different, some of them are polite and some are impolite. In my city people usually are angry and in rush. they are rude when they drive but they are polite when they are in an office, resturant, etc. However most of them are not polite specially when they use social media specially Instagram.

Submitted by Nancy Nguyen on Mon, 24/12/2018 - 13:29

Hello everyone, I think British people are polite. I could see that when I read Sherlock Holmes and other novels. I like their behavior and communication. In my country, people are not polite more than British people. But it depends on your region, your degree, your job... And the most important is up to yourself.

Submitted by User_User on Sun, 18/11/2018 - 19:44

Hello I've got 100 per cent of the exercises correct as usual. But the exercise with the negative prefixes I've got only around 50 per cent right. I've got two questions about the transcript: 1) "My Spanish friend said that when she first came to visit Britain, when she went to a café, she'd say 'A coffee' - not 'a coffee, please' because in Spain ..." I can see that there is a contraction: 'she'd'. I believe that the 'd' stands for 'would'. I've looked up different meanings of would but no one of them is appropriate for this context. Could you write in other words what would stands for? 2) "There's following rules, for example when you eat in a particular way,..." Isn't rules plural and there verb should be 'are'? Thank you for your time. Bye
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 19/11/2018 - 06:47

In reply to by User_User


Hello User_User,

1/ 'Would' here is used to describe typical behaviour in the past. It has a similar meaning to 'used to'.

2/ 'There's' refers to 'following rules' rather than just 'rules'. We would indeed say 'There are rules...', but here the meaning is 'Following rules is one example (of politeness).



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Kostya B

Submitted by Kostya B on Tue, 30/10/2018 - 20:27

I am know that most people in Britain are polite. In my country people enough polite, but of course there is also rude persons.

Submitted by Idar on Fri, 21/09/2018 - 21:04

Hi everyone, as far as i know british people are very polite. Why is so? Because i've never met a rude british people in my life. I from Russia and working as concierge and i am talking often with foreigners among them british. They are really really polite, they use fixed expressions and it is really pleasant. I just can't be rude in relation to british people. I really love them, they are very responsive. But in Russia everything are opposite. When i am taking walk or just buying some things in shop, i am meeting often people which are unhappy their life, they are really rude and i hate this people but not are all. I wish you to be polite, happy and love each other.
Profile picture for user krig

Submitted by krig on Fri, 10/08/2018 - 06:55

Unfortunately I've never been in Britain so I can't say how polite British people are. But in any case in my country, I think, people less polite than in Britain. But may be it depends on region.

Submitted by Shiiya on Fri, 04/05/2018 - 12:21

Hi Everyone I don´t know if British people are polite or not because I´ve never ever been in England or even know an english people , but I do believe they are very polite , and I hope will go to London some day and discover it by myself . In my country I think it is so so , it depends on the region you live and level of school you are , people are more or less polite . But I do believe it depends on you mainly to be polite first , because the other people normally respond in the same way . on another word if you want to be treaty in a polite way from world you must be polite too

Submitted by annacm on Mon, 19/03/2018 - 00:03

Hello! I went to London one time and met people very pleasant. They helped me when I was lost. They were so patient trying to understand my english... So I think british people are polite and nice. Also, I saw many times people helping each other with suitcases or strollers in tube station. Regards

Submitted by dr ahmed salama on Sat, 17/03/2018 - 01:24

unfortunately, I think people in my country aren't polite. and of course I won't tell you where I'm from.
Profile picture for user alberto bastos

Submitted by alberto bastos on Fri, 23/02/2018 - 19:19

Hello! I think is possible that Brazilian will be polite one day, because in our country they are not habitually use the words like please or thank you, But is not a truly a problem because i think it is important our act in front of a determined situation. Thanks.
Profile picture for user alberto bastos

Submitted by alberto bastos on Thu, 22/02/2018 - 21:08

Hello! I study the conversation between Ravi and Tess, and I observe the people in England is very polite. It is not because the words "Thank you" or "please", but when i watch champion of the England i see the players shake hand the others in the moment in the fault. In my country will be polite in the moment of the disaster or difficult, because it is not common behave. For illustration, when a queue is very common the people jump it. Bye.