Monday, August 25, 2014

Mind Your Manners

When I was leaving the kids' school the other morning, a lady kindly held the door open for me.  I took the door from her, gave her a smile and thanked her.  Her response was "mmhhmm".  Now this isn't the first time somebody has said this to me in America, but each and every time, I'm speechless - whatever happened to saying "you're welcome"?  I must add that not everybody over here does this, but I definitely have never had anybody say "mmhhmm" to me in the UK. 

As is the British way, I apologize a lot for things that aren't my fault.  Somebody bumps into me?  I immediately say sorry.  Somebody steps on my foot in a queue?  Yep, I apologize, although inside, I'm screaming to myself what a jackass the foot crusher actually is.  I may even tell them it was totally my fault.  When I return something to a store, I apologize profusely.  It's just what Brits do.  

Mostly, we are unfailingly polite.  In restaurants, I sometimes double please.  "Could I please have the taco salad please?"  I know this isn't correct English, but as my children will be happy to tell you, I'm a bit of a Nazi in the manners department.  Over here, it's the norm to just say "I'll have the taco salad."  So although I do like to blend in with my surroundings as much as possible, I just can't bring myself to order anything without at least one please!

Brits are also a nation of thankers.  When I was issued a speeding ticket a few years ago, I know I actually thanked the police officer for it.  It's what we do.  We also don't really like to complain (unless we're talking about the weather).  If we get a bad haircut and are asked if we like it, usually we reply "Oh yes, thank you" whilst gritting our teeth, desperate to rush home to try and fix it.  We're polite.  It's what we do. 

I'm not saying that Americans don't have good manners - of course they do!  American people are very friendly, helpful and courteous.  Both countries just do things differently.  And of course, I'm not perfect.  If I open doors for others and they walk on by without acknowledging me, I like to loudly say "you're welcome", just to make my point that they didn't thank me.  Unnecessary probably, and somebody might just take offense one day and punch me for being rude!

So anyway, if somebody could please enlighten me as to where the mmhhmm comes from, I'd be most grateful.  I may even thank you more than once for explaining it to me! 


  1. Oooooooh this is a good one! I will say mmmhmmm sometimes, but I don't really know why. Perhaps, I'm not in the talking mood or I'm in a hurry or I'm having a bad day. I will generally say you're welcome though. BUT what is most interesting is I think my mmmhmmm's have gotten more frequent since living in the UK. Maybe 1 out of 3 holding doors open for people do I receive a thank you. It was one of the first things I noticed when I moved to Aberdeen was the lack of appreciation for doing kind deeds for others. My MIL who is HUGE on manners also noticed it right away. I'm wondering how our views clash here? I do agree with you that British have manners that are very strict and followers, almost as if it's breaking the law to disobey.... with the biggest one being The Queue.

  2. Oh wow! That's interesting Debbie, it's been a while since I've lived in the UK now I guess, maybe manners there aren't how they used to be, which is really sad. Ha, the queue, I always feel sorry for tourists who have no idea they're making so many people mad with their lack of queue knowledge :) We are sticklers for a good queue indeed!!