Nicola Adam column: Sorry seems to be the easiest word

Nicola Adam

Nicola Adam

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The same social mores that see us queuing for miles manifests itself in all sorts of strange etiquettes in British behaviour.

Etiquette may be considered something of an old fashioned ‘upper class’ affliction but in reality us normal folk exhibit plenty of traits and sometimes in the strangest of ways.

This struck me recently while on the bus. I admit a rare occurrence for me (my spiritual home is the M6) This bus was one of the park and ride variety - maybe different etiquettes apply because I was the only passenger not riding free with a bus pass but ‘Britishness’ was on full volume. It of course started with the aforementioned queuing which started single file in the shelter (with couples an exception) and continued out in to the pouring rain. Of course every single person could have fitted in the shelter but polite manners equalled pensioners and yours truly shivering damply in sideways sheeting rain instead. How quaint.

On the bus and it was clearly de rigeur not to talk to anyone, look at them,or sit that closely unless you absolutely had to. Eye contact is a no-no unless like me you crack a joke to break the tension. They nearly called the police so I suppose it worked. Then as we filed off the final hurdle of British polite behaviour - every single person had to thank the bus driver. Lovely northern friendliness of course although the driver looked like he would rather chew his own leg off than nod and mile for the seven thousandth time that morning.

Then there is smiling at strangers. This, by common consent, seems acceptable on country walks or at 5am in the morning while traversing a lonely street. But on a busy pavement, eye contact with a random person is not the done thing, unless you are a vicar, lollipop person or happy to be arrested.

Interesting too, that we have to apologise for everything. Well not everything - just the stuff we shouldn’t be. If an old man steps on your foot, you apologise to him. Ditto if a child trips you up. But if a car swipes off your wing mirror, other words beginning with S will suffice.