In survey after survey the United Kingdom is listed as being one of the friendliest tourist destinations in the world, welcoming people from all over the planet with a degree of hospitality not found in many other places. There are various reasons for this, to do with the nature of the tourist industry in the UK and, more importantly, what might be called the British personality, the way in which the people of the country, on the whole, are tolerant and welcoming of others.
Although the city of London has something of a reputation as being daunting and not so welcoming, this has got more to do with its size and the sheer number of people crammed into its’ streets and building, than any reality likely to be encountered during day to day interaction with people. One of the reasons for this, it has to be admitted, is sheer necessity; tourism plays a huge part in the economy of London and the UK as a whole, and a vital percentage of this appeal lies in the warm welcome that people feel they receive. It’s not as if London were some sun baked Mediterranean island which can rely upon the white beaches and crystal clear waters to bring people back year on year. On the contrary, the British weather, even at the height of summer, is often notoriously unreliable, and it is the experience of visiting London, as a whole, which will resonate in the mind of tourists and encourage them to come back again. This extends from the way in which local people engage with visitors, to the service received in shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels. It’s no coincidence that all of this falls under the umbrella title of the ‘hospitality industry’, since making people feel truly welcome is the ultimate aim of the tourism business. There is a difference, however, between the somewhat forced ‘have a nice day’ welcome that people are often presented with when visiting a country like America, and the warmth of a London welcome, in that the welcome in London may be more understated but it will definitely feel like it is a genuine expression of how the other person feels, rather than something they feel they have to say.
Another key part of the friendliness which people feel when they visit London can be put down to the British sense of humour, which tends to be understated, often self-deprecating, but always inclusive. Strike up a conversation with your waitress, bar man or the person serving you on a market stall and you’ll find that they are almost always more than happy to stay and chat for a while, and that the conversation will be laced with jokes, quips and laughter.
One of the interesting points to make about British hospitality is that it is often expressed by people who aren’t, themselves, actually British. Huge numbers of those who work in the service industry have come from overseas to make a home and life for themselves, and yet are just as likely to offer a warm ‘British’ welcome as someone who has lived here all their lives. Perhaps they’re replicating the way they have been made welcome, or perhaps there’s just something in the air or water which naturally encourages the warmest of welcomes.