Culture Question:

I want to know something about the manners of gentlemen in Britain

(posted: Nov 2009)

The word gentleman originally referred to someone of ‘gentle’ birth, someone of high social standing born into a noble family. A gentle man was from a family rich enough that he did not ever have to work. He could devote himself to developing ‘proper’ manners for his society. Compared to the common worker who lived a rough life and often behaved with rough manners, a nobleman was, well, gentle.

Many of the behaviours of a British gentleman concern how he should treat ladies. Some of those behaviours are as follows:

  • He should stand up when a lady enters a room
  • When walking outside he should always walk between a lady and the road
  • When a lady enters a room, if there are no seats available, he should give up his seat for her
  • He should carry a lady’s parcels or bags
  • When dining out with a lady he should always pay for her meal
  • He should never swear in the presence of ladies
  • He should not smoke when ladies are present

In general, a gentleman treats others, especially ladies, with respect. He does not use force to get what he wants. Rather he uses charm and wit.

The stereotype of the British gentleman is one of a strong, capable man who responds with grace to any situation. Even in the midst of a brawl or battle he acts with politeness and restraint, using only as much force as necessary. John Steed, a character from a classic British TV show, “The Avengers”, and James Bond, are examples of the British gentleman spy. These are characters who know how to dress for high society, how to behave with kings, presidents and, most of all, the ladies, and who can handle whatever situation comes their way. These are, of course, fantasy characters.

The stereotypic British gentleman may live only in idealized histories and celluloid fantasies, but gentlemanly behaviour will still earn you respect both professionally and personally.

There are links in the ‘Further Reading’ section on the right to some articles about being a gentleman. Enjoy the reading.


English Learning Blog. “British Gentlemen”, ( 12-Nov-2009

Return to Culture Questions page

   -  top of page -


British gentleman


Further Reading:

Etiquette of a Gentleman
Etiquette of a Gentleman: Part II
Etiquette of a Gentleman: Part III