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A Brief Guide to British Umbrella Etiquette


The British are big on manners and etiquette.

Did you know that there is such a thing as British umbrella etiquette?! 

Of course there is! It's the British we're talking about.

These are a people obsessed with telling others their way is wrong and that there are proper ways of doing things!

So, to help foreigners new to this wet little island understand how to behave with their umbrellas, here are some quick tips on British umbrella etiquette.

7 Tips on British Umbrella Etiquette You Need to Know

1. Golfing Umbrella

Don’t, just don’t, don’t use one of these when you are in a crowded area.  They turn you into a walking weapon and are one of the most likely tools to irritate your fellow pedestrians. Designed to cover a golfer and their golfing cart, this type of umbrella should only be used in wide open spaces with limited pedestrian traffic.

2. Power Up Umbrellas

When using one of the ‘power up’ umbrellas, which spring open at the touch of a button, look to make sure that no-one is walking directly towards you when opening. Again, this type of umbrella can take a stranger's eye out in the blink of an...eye.

renainers rain uk

The fact that the Brits even have etiquette rules around umbrellas should give you a clue as to their weather. It rains...a lot.

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

3. Mobile Phones and Umbrellas

Mobile phones and umbrellas don’t mix.  There’s nothing more likely to irritate fellow pedestrians than someone trying to manage a phone call while carrying their umbrellas.  The correct etiquette is to either pull over to the side and stop before using your phone or wait until you reach your destination. Including a takeaway coffee into the mix is guaranteed to irritate your fellow pedestrian.

4. Using Public Transport

When using public transport, the biggest etiquette breach has to be putting your wet umbrella onto the adjacent seat during your journey, leaving subsequent fellow passengers with a wet derrière.  Instead, fold your umbrella and place it next to you on the floor. If not folded, then the stray flapping material is at risk of drenching the legs or clothing of your fellow passenger.

cheap brollies london

Not all 'brollies' are made equal. Tourists are usually sold cheap and cheerful brollies to help them stay dry during rain showers, however, in a storm they would be torn to pieces!

Photo taken in London by Cory Doctorow on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

5. Umbrella Adjustment    

UK umbrella culture dictates that the holder of the umbrella is responsible for avoiding clashes with others.  As such, hold your umbrella in such a way that you can see who / what is coming and then adjust the position of your umbrella to ensure that you do not interfere with the personal space of others. Be prepared to move and do not expect others to make allowances for you and your umbrella.  

6. Shake it, Shake it, Shake it Off, Shake it Off.

When going inside a building, the correct etiquette is to collapse your umbrella and move the runner up and down the shaft to disperse any excess water. Ensure that no one becomes a victim of the spray when you do so.  Fold your umbrella accordingly and take it inside with you.  Where possible, leave your umbrella outside to ‘drip dry’.

london brollie shop

Umbrellas have been around for a long time in the UK. Once manufactured in the country they are now mainly imported.

Photo of James Smith & Sons, New Oxford Street, London by Steve Cadman on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

7. The Umbrella Dance

Those with upmost etiquette are well acquainted with the ‘umbrella dance’. This dance dictates that, upon encountering a shorter person, the taller person raises their umbrella when passing.  Likewise, when encountering a taller person, the shorter person tilts the umbrella to the side upon passing.

Take a Professional Course on UK Culture

united kingdom hexagonIf you are coming to the UK for work, or, if you work with British colleagues then why not enrol on our fantastically comprehensive UK Cultural Training Online course

Designed by business and culture experts for business professionals, this online cultural training course will equip you with everything you need to know about British business culture, etiquette, taboos, communciation, conflict management and more. 

Photo by Kyler Boone on Unsplash

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