Speaking Off: The Telephone : British Reserve Extends Down The (Telephone) Line

A survey for British Telecom, the UK telephone company, shows Britons much less likely to make casual telephone calls than their American cousins. “It seems that in Britain, we cling to the notion that we should only make calls to friends or relatives when we have some definite news or information to impart,” the company concluded. “The idea of simply ringing for a chat is one that still seems alien to the British. No such inhibitions affect the Americans, however.”

14% of Britons call to say thank you after a dinner party; 22% of Americans do.

Moe than twice as many Americans (33%) as Britons (14%) call to offer congratulations to friends on some auspicious event, such as the birth of a child or successful completion of school exams.

Three times as many Americans (45%) as Britons (14%) call to offer sympathy to a friend who is ill or who has suffered some misfortune.


Only 17% of Britons call home to warn their spouses/partners that they would be late getting home because of an office party, and women (12%) were the worst offenders. In America, 23% say they call home.

And if they’re not much for chit-chat to fellow human beings, you can be sure Britons won’t talk to machines. Fewer than 3% have telephone answering machines, compared with 14% of Americans.

Source: The Quentin Bell Organization for British Telecommunications plc, London.