Then there is the question of accents. In the olden days, a British person’s accent indicated his or her social standing. Eliza Doolittle had the right idea — elocution could make or break you. Wealthier families would send their kids to fancy private schools to learn proper pronunciation.
But these days, in a sort of reverse snobbery that has gripped the nation, accents are back. Politicians, newscasters, and movie stars have been favoring deep accents over the Queen's English. While it's hard for American ears to pick out all of the variations — and some accents are so thick they sound like a foreign language — most Brits can determine where a person is from based on his or her accent.
All across the British Isles, you'll find new words, crazy humor, and colorful accents. Pubs are colloquial treasure chests. Church services, sporting events, the Houses of Parliament, live plays featuring local comedy, the streets of Liverpool, the docks of London, and children in parks are playgrounds for the American ear. One of the beauties of touring Great Britain is the illusion of hearing a foreign language and actually understanding it — most of the time.
(Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at email@example.com and follow his blog on Facebook.)