We’ve created this guide to help you get closer to your UK customers. A web presence that is in tune with Britain’s culture will make your customers feel well disposed to you, and give them the confidence to do business with you. By understanding these little yet important details, you'll be in a good position right from the start in your new market.
2 The main language
British English is the main spoken and written language in Britain. Even though it is a culturally diverse country, most customers would expect to be communicated to in British English.
British English spellings differ from American English spellings. One example is that many words in English have a “u” where there is none in American English.
Here is an example:
American English uses a z instead of the s used in British English:
Should you be formal or informal when addressing your UK customers?
In Britain, most products are written about in an informal way. At times this can verge on playful. Products with this informality include YouTube, Gmail and Google Play.
Ease of doing business in the UK
The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2019 report ranked the UK as 9th out of 190 countries.
4 Numbering systems and formats
- This is a dot or full stop (.)
- e.g. 1.5 hours.
- The thousand separator is a comma (,)
– e.g. 1,524 people.
- Telephone numbers are usually in the format of (+44) 123 4567 8910. Freephone numbers are usually 0800 123 4567.
Good to know
The British normally write out numerals from 1–9 (one, five, nine) and double digits are written as numerals, i.e. 12, 24, etc. The separator for ranges of numbers is an en dash (–)
e.g. 11–19 people.
5 Currency format
UK’s currency is the Pounds Sterling. This is represented by the pound sign £ and its trading three letter code GBP.
The pound denominations are £50 £20 £10 £5 £2 £1. The pence denominations are 50p 20p 10p 5p 2p 1p.
6 Date format
In Britain the date format is DD/MM/YY, e.g. 24/03/17.
Or if written out in full, it should be "24 March 2017" (no commas and no ordinals like th, nd, or st).
When writing out dates in full, including the day, put a comma in after the day, e.g. "Monday, 27 March 2017".
The separator for ranges of dates is an en dash (–), e.g. "24–27 March".
When both dates are in different months write out the months in full. Use a space at either side of the en dash (–), e.g. "28 March – 4 April".
You could also use this in one month, e.g. 27 March – 29 March.
7 Hour formats
Both the 24-hour and the 12-hour clock are used in the U.K.
In everyday speech the 12-hour format is preferred and should be written as 9.35 p.m. or 6.21 a.m. (i.e. the separator between the hours and minutes is a full stop, and the p.m. and a.m. parts must always have full stops).
The 24-hour format is favored on digital devices like PCs, phones, tablets, etc. and is the standard format on Android where the separator is a colon, e.g. 14:24.
8 Working days
Standard working days are Monday to Friday.
Remember, the British say and write “Monday to Friday”, not “Monday through Friday.”
9 Things to avoid in the British market
Every culture has different superstitions and traditions which are always worth noting, especially when entering a new market. The British consider the number 13 to be unlucky. The date Friday 13 is also considered to be unlucky, particularly for travelers.
10 Important localisation tips
Here are the top five translation tips that will make you sound like a local in no time:
Take note of the U.S. vs UK differences in spelling, punctuation, pricing, date formats, measurements, terminology, etc.
Stay clear of colloquialisms and expressions used in your language, as they may not translate in the UK market. For example, “he’s too big for his breeches”.
Take account of cultural differences so that you don’t confuse or offend your British audience. For example, don’t mention Thanksgiving in a promotion or assume that it is understood in the UK.
Marketing copy created for a U.S. audience is not always ideal for a British audience. In such cases, use a transcreation service which will help you keep the original idea and tone, while making the copy more suited for a British audience.
The U.S. prefers title case all over their copy. But the UK writer hardly ever uses title case, even in titles and tabs. It is considered a bit “shouty”.