British Meal Times

British Meal Times – Introduction

British meal times can be confusing for foreign visitors.

This post will look at the cause of this confusion and offer some solutions, plus a valuable tip for avoiding embarassment.


For those of you who prefer your content in video format, here’s a video based on this blog post.


The Things That Are The Same

Before looking at the things that cause problems, we’ll look at the British meal times that are easy and cause no confusion.

  • Breakfast – first meal of the day – literally to break your fast
  • Elevenses – coffee break in the morning at arund 11 o’clock
  • Afternoon tea – traditional tea and cake around 3-4 o’clock
  • Supper – a snack before bedtime
  • Brunch – a substantial meal between breakfast and lunch, usually at the weekend

British Meal Times That Cause Confusion

Some people say “breakfast dinner and tea“, while others say “breakfast lunch and dinner“.

As you can see, the same word is used for the midday meal and the evening meal. Your location and social class will determine which you use.

Generally speaking, lower class people from the north of England will say “breakfast dinner and tea” and upper class people from the south will say “breakfast lunch and dinner“.

The British still have a class system, with lower class, middle class and upper class. They understand the class system and don’t really talk about it.

As a foreign visitor, you probably don’t understand the class system and need someone to talk about it, in order to know what is going on. This article might help you to understand this a bit better.


The Problem

If you’re invited to dinner, what do you do? Does they mean the midday meal or the evening meal?

If you arrive at 12:30 and the host looks at his watch and says “We didn’t expect you until 6”, it is awkward to try and explain that you thought that they were poor and lower class.

To a lesser extent, if you get an invitation to tea and you turn up at 3 o’clock and the host expresses surprise and you apologies and say that you thought that they were posh …

In both cases it is embarrassing, as you have accidentally put someone into the wrong class, which is not considered friendly.


A Valuable Tip

There is a way to avoid causing offence and to avoid showing ignorance.

When you accept the invitation, ask what time you should arrive.

That way, you’re showing consideration for the host and avoiding a problem at the same time.


British Meal Times – Summary

As we have seen, using the same word for a different meal can really confuse a foreign visitor but now you know how to avoid the problem.

Did you know about this before now? Or do you have an interesting story about it? Please tell us in the comments section below.


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