I am British (no need to curtsy). So naturally, I’ve dated plenty of British guys in my time.
But since moving abroad 8 years ago I noticed just how different British guys are compared to other nationalities.
The dating rules you know so well from your home country don’t apply when you’re with a foreign man. Seemingly small cultural differences can be a big deal.
What is British dating culture like?
In this article, I’m going to spill the tea (and you know how precious that is to us Brits) on everything you need to know about dating a British man.
1) The British sense of humor is very dry (and VERY important)
Sarcasm is an official language in the UK.
British humor is quite unique and really important to us. I mean, look at the weather, you’ve got to laugh or you’d cry.
“Banter” is a wonderful phrase that dates back hundreds of years and is defined as “the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks.”
If you’re going to date a British guy you’re going to want to keep up with the banter, or at the very least learn to not take offense by it.
This jesting towards your romantic interest is actually considered the height of flirting for us.
Forget flowers, a British guy will make fun of you instead and see it as charming. And I’ll be honest, for many women (me included) it kind of is.
If you’re not used to it though, then the sense of irony and sarcasm within British humor can be tricky to navigate.
We have a very dry sense of humor that’s perhaps not as obvious as other countries. You might not always be able to tell when a British man is joking or when he is serious.
Neither do we even need a sense of familiarity with someone before we behave this way towards them. But rest assured it is intended in a friendly way, even if he makes you the butt of the joke.
2) We have a very “mate” culture between men and women
It’s really common for men and women to be friends in the UK. That “pally” way of relating to one another has also impacted the dating scene quite a lot.
It’s not that British men can’t be charming, but compared to some other nationalities the dynamic between girls and guys is often more friendly than stereotypically romantic.
In the 1990s, the ladette culture saw a rise in girls having fun in a boisterous “boyish” way that broke some of the female stereotypes. If you’re not really sure what I mean, then think of the Spice Girls.
This added to a cultural environment where guys and girls also behave more like mates, even when they’re dating.
On the plus side, you can expect very nonsexist dates and relationships where your boyfriend is your best friend as well as your lover.
On the negative side, if you’re looking for sweeping romantic gestures or smooth Don Juan type behavior, you’re probably going to be disappointed.
Most British guys don’t really go in for the whole cheesy chat up lines or even obvious flirting. Be prepared for them to talk to you as they would a friend, even if they’re interested in you romantically.
Sounds confusing? As you’ll see in the next point, it sometimes can be.
3) It’s not always so obvious if a British guy likes you
I’m not sure if it’s our British politeness, our reservedness, or the “mate” culture I spoke about above, but it’s not always as obvious if a British guy likes you as it might be with other nationalities.
Generally speaking, British men are usually more subtle with their advances (unless they’re drunk).
Rather than rush in and make a move, overtly flirt, or make their intentions crystal clear, they’re likely to be more discreet in their advances.
I remember when I first started to date other nationalities and men would put their arm around me, reach for my hand, or pay me flirty compliments — I wasn’t used to it from British men. I must admit, it made things a lot clearer for me that they were romantically interested.
So, how to tell if a British guy likes you?
You have to watch out for more subtle signs he’s interested in you. You’ll need to pay closer attention to his body language for clues. It’s things like eye contact and finding small excuses to touch you.
A British guy is also just as likely to gently tease you as a sign of affection as he is to compliment you. But that’s only because humor is a really big part of how we relate to one another.
4) British men may be a bit different down below
I’m sorry if this is totally TMI. But I figure, if you’re thinking about dating a Brit, it’s also probably good to know.
Especially as it’s one of the very first things every single American female friend who starts dating a British guy ever says to me:
“So, British men aren’t circumcised?”
No, they’re not. Although there are religious or occasionally medical reasons why baby boys are circumcised in the UK, it’s not a cultural trend like it is in the US.
It’s estimated that only around 8.5% of men in the UK are circumcised, and over the past few decades, the rate is significantly decreasing.
Compare that to the States where the WHO estimates circumcision rates amongst men are somewhere between 76% and 92%.
I know that when you’re from a country where this is commonplace, it can seem a little strange at first. But in Europe generally, it’s not a widespread practice.
In fact, some people even view circumcision for any reason other than a genuine medical problem (e.g. aesthetic purposes) completely inappropriate.
5) British politeness is a real thing
We’ll quickly apologize to the lamp post we bumped into. We say “thank you soooooo much” to the waitress, almost as if she were giving us her firstborn child rather than the pasta we are paying her for.
The image of British politeness is actually pretty accurate. We’re probably over-polite at times. Often we complain about something without simultaneously apologizing for doing so.
“I’m really very sorry to trouble you, it’s just that we’ve been waiting for three hours for our food to arrive. I wonder, if you wouldn’t mind, when you get a spare moment, checking what is happening. Thanks ever so much.”
This politeness is usually present when dating too. It’s not that British men are particularly formal or anything. But if you’re greeted by a handshake rather than a hug or a kiss, he’s probably just being respectful.
6) Be prepared to split the bill
Whilst we do still have a largely traditional dating scene in the UK, many modern practices have also been widely adopted.
That means whilst there are still plenty of British men who will offer to pay the bill on a date, plenty of others will expect to share the cost of dating.
Anecdotally, American friends of mine tell me that guys will usually pick up the check. According to a survey in the US, 85% of men still expect to pay for the first date.
Whereas in the UK, a study found that 60% of women actually prefer to pay for their first date (or at least contribute to).
Don’t get me wrong, for many British men it is still considered gentlemanly or romantic to pay. But you shouldn’t expect it.
If a British guy buys the first drink, it’s very common to expect the woman to buy (or at the very least offer) to buy the next.
When women don’t put their hands in their pockets and pay their way, it can be considered as slightly Princess or high maintenance behavior. Especially if a woman never expects to pay.
7) Socialising often revolves around drinking
In the UK it’s legal to drink alcohol from the age of 18, but realistically lots of people start well before then.
There’s a strong drinking culture in Britain, and a lot of social lives revolve around going to the pub. Foreigners can be shocked by British drinking habits sometimes.
The trend for drinking only seems to be growing stronger. It was reported that by 2004, Brits were already drinking well over twice as much as they had been half a century earlier.
Whilst plenty of countries around the world enjoy a drink, drinking to excess in the United Kingdom is not unusual either.
Of course, not all British men will drink, or drink to excess even if they do. But most dates will involve having a drink or two, and simply going to a bar or pub.
8) The accents are really varied
No, not everyone sounds like Prince Harry or Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.
The accents are vast and varied around the United Kingdom, yet a lot of foreigners expect the Queen’s English (grammatically correct and in a posh accent) when they go there.
Some of the accents can be very strong too, particularly in Scotland, Wales, Birmingham, Newcastle, and Liverpool.
Unless the British guy you are dating has quite a neutral accent, then be prepared to not always understand what on earth he’s talking about.
Even if English is also your first language, there are plenty of differences between the British, Australian, American, Canadian, and New Zealand versions of English.
For example, Brits use words that other English-speaking countries don’t. A little later in the article, I’ll go through some of the most important words you’ll need to know for dating in the UK.
9) British men can be more reserved
The British have come a long way from the steely reserve of the Victorian era, and you will find plenty of warm and open British men.
The British “stiff upper lip” had its heyday from around 1870 to 1945 and has significantly loosened.
Having said that, British guys do tend to be more reserved than some other cultures. That means they often don’t display their emotions in public (unless it’s something very important like their football team just lost).
According to an article from the BBC, we are still a very reserved country.
“There may also be cultural differences in how willing people are to show their emotions. A poll of more than 2,500 Britons, conducted in 2007 by the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, revealed that fewer than 20% of Brits claimed to have “let it all out” in the past 24 hours, even though 72% of them believed that bottling emotions up is bad for your health. And 19% of those surveyed revealed they couldn’t remember the last time they let their emotions fly.”
Whilst this is a British tradition for bottling our feelings up is softening, men historically weren’t encouraged to show their emotions.
So you might find British men are less animated than their American cousins and less outspoken. This reserve can also mean public displays of affection are more lowkey when dating in the UK.
10) We don’t have the “exclusive talk”
Don’t expect a British guy to ask you to be his girlfriend.
With the growing popularity of dating apps, it is admittedly more common nowadays for men to date multiple people. But unlike countries like the US, dating in Britain was always more inherently exclusive.
When I was growing up, you only dated one person at a time. If you were dating more than one person it would have been seen as cheating or at the very least, leading someone on. Then at some stage, it was just assumed that you were boyfriend and girlfriend.
Even in adulthood, not once have I ever had “the talk” with a partner to define our relationship.
If you are used to clarifying where you stand with the guy you are dating, this might seem a bit ill-defined for you.
But dating in the UK is quite fluid. You meet someone, you spend more time with them, and eventually, it’s just obvious that you’re exclusive and now a “thing”.
11) There are a few British dating phrases you need to know
I mentioned earlier that British phrases can be very different. There are a few need-to-know words that you will probably encounter when dating a British guy.
For starters, whilst Americans say that they’re “into” someone, in the UK a British guy “fancies” you.
Fancy is a word we use to express any general desire we have towards something. You can “fancy” a person, but you can also “fancy going for a pint” or “fancy getting a takeaway”.
Other important dating expressions include our word for kissing. Whilst it’s known as “making out” in the US, or “pashing” in Australia, in the UK we call it “snogging”.
After a date with a British guy, a friend might ask you “did you snog?” rather than asking if you kissed.
If you’re thinking of dating a British guy then you better learn the word “cheeky” (especially considering the British humor).
Although being cheeky can mean a little bold or brash in some contexts, it also often means being playful and amusing. And above all else, British men are certainly cheeky — which is one of the reasons they’re so fun to date.
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