Understanding British sense of humour and jokes in conversation with the English

British Sense of Humour

British Sense of Humour Explained

Understanding the British sense of humour

Article by Link School of English in London



Perhaps you are an English learner trying to understand English jokes and sense of humour? Do you find British humour odd or not funny at all?

I recently saw British humour described as an oxymoron… I beg to differ; just because something doesn’t fit the norm, is different, unique, or has a culture of it’s own doesn’t mean it isn’t valid or isn’t funny. However, to an ‘out-sider’ I can see why some might think this.


Understanding British sense of humour and jokes in conversation with the English
British Humour


Sarcasm and self-depreciation in British humour

British sense of humour is often associated with sarcasm, irony and self-deprecation (or putting one’s self down). Witty, mocking or dry remarks are casually slipped into conversations. There is no warning sign that the person is now joking, and because it is so sarcastic, it often leaves non-Brits unsure about whether what was just said was just some harmless humour, or someone making a serious, or offensive point. This can lead to awkward conversations of trying to work out which it is. Many would say that this is exactly why the British sense of humour is so funny.

You may be also interested in: Stereotypes about the English


Is British humour insensitive?

Not only is British humour self-deprecating, it also makes you the target or indeed, the butt of jokes. This can seem shocking, and even crass to many; but “joking about your dead grandfather or your cousin’s dyslexia is completely acceptable in the country of tea and scones, so long as it is done in jest.”* While some people do not mind this sense of humour, many cultures feel that British humour takes things too far, and are insensitive.


Can you laugh at yourself?

British humour is the ability to laugh at one’s self and others, it doesn’t let you think too highly of yourself, and if you do, you can be sure it will bring you back down to earth.


Explore British humour and comedy

Some well known British Comedy shows and TV programmes include: Only Fools and Horses, Miranda Hart, Monty Python, The Office, Peep Show, Fawlty Towers…. the list is endless – check them out on YouTube!



Can you recommend other British comedies? Share your favourites with us! Do you know a really good English joke? Share it in the comments below!

Related articles:

– Stereotypes about the English (with podcast)
– Tips on How to Make Fewer Mistakes in Spoken English
– English Conversation Classes

4 thoughts on “British Sense of Humour”

  1. Pingback: British Summer Customs and Traditions | British Culture | Summertime | Link School

  2. Pingback: English Jokes Explained | English Humour and Typical Jokes | Learn English | Link School

  3. Hi,

    I wonder if you can help me, I really struggle in social situations because I have no sense of humour. Is there any tips or advice you can give to help me?

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