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The oddities of the English!

If you think about England or the English or even about the Englishness, probably the strange plugs and sockets, the left hand driving and the two taps on a sink come to your mind which – to be fair – would be an underestimation. Since I have been living in the UK, I keep on facing quirky, strange, odd and sometimes funny English habits, things or phenomenon and I thought to share the list with you.

Important: This list is set to show the quirky and cute aspects of living in England from a Hungarian perspective. It is not meant to cause offence or to be critical of England’s little oddities. This is what makes England so interesting and a lovely place to live. It would be nice to hear from any other nationality what they find odd about Hungary. 🙂

Post box at home

There is no postbox (in rural areas only). There is an aperture on the front door only and that’s it. I do not really see the point of this, as when you come home and open the door, you cannot really avoid stepping on letters. Now can you imagine what it causes if it is raining heavily and your shoes are dirty! But not only that, when I was on my own in the cottage and heard steps on the gravel approaching the house and then noise coming from the door, honestly, I got a heart attack as I thought somebody want to get into the house! Of course, it was the postman only delivering letters… How can you get used to this…?


Sneezing is a basic human and physical need or phenomenon. You can not help yourself, it just comes suddenly and that’s it. If somebody sneezes in Hungary, we say “get well”. If the person is ill and is feeling poorly, there is probably sympathy in my voice when I say it. If, however, I can see the person is sneezing without using his or her hands or a tissue and does not care about the germs he/she is spreading, I probably look at him/her with furrowed brows. When I sneeze, I would probably say something like “ouch” but would at no circumstances feel guilty. When the English sneeze, they apologise and say “Oh, excuse me” which is most strange for a foreigner, for me for sure. I can not really get used to it as I do not understand what to apologise for. If it was wind, I would understand but for sneezing…? 🙂

Pedestrian Lights

In Hungary if you want to cross the street (both in the capitol and in the countryside) the street lights is on the other side of the street, opposite to you. It is logical because this is where you want to go, therefore this is where you look. In England streetlights and the button to press are next to you. OK, they are on the side where cars are coming from, but still…Why are they on the side? You are standing there, looking forward where you want to go but not to the side. I never look to the side… as a result it happened several times the lights changed to green and I was still standing there… Apparently all the children in England learn the Green Cross Code, which makes them look around before crossing the road.

Zebra crossing

I have hardly seen any zebra crossing painted on the road. I wonder why there are only a few…?


There are several traffic lights in huge roundabouts on motorways which I found very strange at the beginning as our roundabouts are not that big and have no traffic lights. Plus in Hungary we only indicate once we leave the roundabout but in England you have to indicate when you drive in and out of it. Now, that I am already driving, I can understand it and see the point but it is still strange.


The only locks I have come across in my entire life worked clockwise, meaning the barrel turned clockwise when opening it. Over here, it works anticlockwise to open. I have been living here for 2.5 years now and it still confuses me sometimes!

(Old) Windows

Old windows open outwards in England which is odd. How can you clean the outside of the window…? It is a struggle all the time! You can’t put them on tilt plus the apportionment is not right either. If for example I had to escape, I could not because I can’t open a window that size which would allow me to get out. Only one wing of the window can be opened, the other one is fixed. I was sort of relieved when Bill said he too disliked English windows with passion. 🙂


In Hungary we have meters in the apartment or in the corridors. In England gas meters are on the front of the houses in little wooden boxes and the top can be opened. They look like miniature bee hives… To me this is a rather odd place for meters, but obviously people are not concerned about strangers having access to meters, vandalism or misuse which we all are in Hungary.


In the bathroom you can only have light pulls (btw these remind me of toilet pulls…). If the light switch is outside of the bathroom it can be a standard light switch. However, it still confuses me big time because the way to switch the light on is the position of the off in Hungary and vica-versa. As a result, I often left the light on whilst I thought I switched it off…

“Hello, (are) you alright?”

A few years ago, I talked to somebody from Budapest who had lived in London for 6 years. To his mind one of the positives of living in the UK was the politeness of the English. I can recall him saying how amazed he was that people said hello with a smile on their face and they even asked him how he was doing! How fantastic is that! Well, that is something different, I think… Indeed, my colleagues greet me in the morning almost the same way: “Hi, (are) you alright?” At first I too thought they were genuinely interested how I was doing and often made the mistake of starting to explain how I felt, what sort of day I had. Then the penny dropped soon and I realised, they were NOT interested in it AT ALL. They are just being polite and often embarrassed, too. Maybe not everybody, if they are close friends!

Hello Kitty Are You Alright


When people meet, or say thank you, they hug each other. Occasionally, they would give you a kiss on one cheek. However, these hugs are not proper hugs, it is only a slight lean towards the other person preferably chests not touching, only one hand used to tap on the shoulder. The way I would describe it is that this is a “thanks-a-lot-bye” hug with no real emotions. This is strange, but if we think about that, the English are said to be cool and not showing emotions, then it is appropriate.


I have never seen cards for as many occasions as here in the UK. There is a card for everything… (Birthday, Birth, Anniversary, Christening, Illness, Apologies, Passing the exams etc.) And more importantly cards are used all the time. I think this again has to do with emotions. I would not say, the English do not have emotions, in fact I think they are quite sensitive and caring, they just can not really express them and feeling embarrassed. Just think about the scene in Love Actually where John (Martin Freeman) has no issue with massaging his stunt partner’s boobs (Just Judy) whilst shooting a film but stands tounge-tied in front of her house and does not dare kissing her. Personally, I re-explored the joy of sending Christmas cards and cards for birthdays as it is so nice receiving posts. I think, we have almost forgotten what it feels like getting a letter other than the bills to pay as we all went for e-Cards and text messages. However, I would not consider giving a card with a Birthday or Christmas gift – I just simply could not see the point, but the English do!


Tea seems to be the solution for every situation. Do you have great news to tell? The questions comes: “Cup of tea?” You feel a bit down and have a bad day? “Cup of tea?” Are you embarrassed when you meet your new manager in the kitchenette? “Cup of tea?” Are you embarrassed when your new partner’s parents pop in unexpectedly? “Cup of tea?” Alternatively: “I put the kettle on…” 🙂


That was my list. What do you have on Yours?


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