The world of James Bond is British. Some fic writers choose to ignore that, which makes its own sort of sense - Bond and Q and M talking about elevators and sidewalks and blueberries becomes a sort of AU, no more implausible than Fleming's vision of Bond appearing in the new-movie universe, with potential for getting together with a young Q while a female M snarks with a bad-ass Moneypenny.
Other authors try for a realistic England and London with British English and culture. Some do very well - which makes it more jarring when something is suddenly totally wrong.
For people trying to represent reality, I recommend these guides to British English…
Brit-pick hints for Sherlock authors - tips re individual words
Detailed guide covering words, newspapers and politics.
Kate Fox - Watching the English.
Don't understand how class and awkwardness permeates every aspect of British life? Read this book. It's slightly dated but very funny.
So here's a few pointers on the most glaring errors in Bond fic. It was just going to be pubs, kettles, tea and traffic, but I got on a roll...
Writers of Sherlock and HP fic or anything else set in modern London may find this useful:
Pubs and Drinking
Kettles and Tea
Britishness, the UK and royalty
Healthcare and employment
Brits don't get 'buzzed' when they drink alcohol. 'Tipsy' would be a good word for 'a little bit drunk'. Words for drunk include hammered, wasted, trollied, sloshed and pretty much anything ending in -ed, including of course our favourite 'fucked'.
Brits don't 'smirk', unless they are a villain being very smug. Someone saying "I'm going to kill you, Mr Bond," is allowed to smirk. All other characters 'grin' or 'smile'.
Londoners will call people 'mate' (especially men) or 'love' (especially women, children and the elderly) - which means a man calling a woman 'love' can sound patronising.
Love is also a common term of endearment. 'Honey' isn't common.
Brits don't use 'regular' to mean normal (it implies a regular frequency and usually refers to bowel habits).
They do use please, thank you and sorry a lot. 'Can I get' in a coffee shop is considered rude - it's 'could I have, please'.
Don't use the words 'Paki' or 'spazz' - these are hugely offensive slurs.
'All right?' is a common greeting in London. The expected answer is 'yeah, you?' 'All right, yeah,' though could also get 'eh, ticking over' or 'not bad, yourself?'
'Cute' isn't a general word used much or in the same way, and only American tourists call anything 'quaint'.
Bond and co are hardened middle-aged men and shouldn't sound like excitable teenage girls!
Pubs and Drinking
Google Maps will confirm there are dozens within walking distance of MI6 - it's next to the south side of the river by Vauxhall station. At least six reachable in under five minutes. Bond and co would never drive to the nearest pub - the traffic is terrible, they could get to a pub more quickly than getting to a car in an underground car park and out of the building, and there would be nowhere to park, and they'd be over the limit for drink-driving afterwards. There's probably a bar in the basement or top floor of MI6, anyway.
Failing that, a good place for the MI6 Christmas do would be King Henry VIII's wine bar in the sub-basement of the MoD (Ministry of Defence), which is hired out to groups who meet the security criteria. Though people who went to older Cambridge colleges tend to be a bit sniffy and say it looks just like their college bar (16-century basements all look pretty similar)
Vauxhall is also a centre for gay pubs and clubs - while gay BDSM clubs such as the Hoist closed in Dec 2016, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern is still across the road from MI6 and I'm sure some staff would head there occasionally with the excuse they wanted to keep away from other colleagues, honest. Consider this a fic prompt!
Pubs generally open around 11am and nowadays serve food, varying from adequate microwaved curry and burgers to excellent Michelin-star-worthy food (in which case it will be known as a gastropub) Many people moan the demise of your classic boozer into yet another gastropub suddenly welcoming diners, women, tourists and god forbid, children, but given that drinking at lunchtime has gone from near-obligatory in the 80s to forbidden in most contracts in the 2010s, it's been a necessity - especially with more men going home after work rather than staying out for a few pints most nights.
Most pubs have boring names - look some up (Google Maps is your friend, again) and save the 'Goblin and Basket' etc for your Harry Potter fic.
In Nov 2005 the law changed - before that, pubs had to stop serving at 11pm ('last orders' would be called, often by ringing a bell), then 'chucking-out time' would be after the legally-permitted drinking-up time, 20 min later. Only venues with an entertainment licence (ie nightclubs, and a few places playing live music) could carry on serving alcohol. Off-licences (shops selling alcohol to be consumed OFF the premises) also have to stop selling at 11pm, though in practice your local shop was very likely to agree to give you a bottle in exchange for double the price. Bond would have no problem finding a corner shop (small shop selling alcohol, bits of food, open late, not necessarily on the corner but there will be one round the corner wherever you live) to serve him.
Now, pubs may stay open later (it's easy to amend the licence) but usually do so only on Friday and Saturday, until 12 or 1am, so chucking-out still applies.
Key feature of English pubs is: you do not get table service.
A pub will never have a waitress taking orders. You want food or drinks, you order at the bar and ask the barman or barmaid nicely (not 'barkeep'). Many people may be standing by the bar - the bar staff will remember who arrived in what order, and serve them accordingly, studiously ignoring the knobhead pushing in and waving a sheaf of twenties.
You then take the drinks to your table. A waitress may bring food to your table, identified by a wooden spoon you've been given with the order number on it, (or by a number on a small brass plaque on the table, in a chain pub) but will not bring you drinks (maybe a tea or coffee), or take orders.
This system is possibly why Brits order in 'rounds' - when it's your turn to buy a round, you offer to get a drink for everyone at the table - though only people nearing the end of the previous drink should accept. Over time, this should all even out - anyone who is a tightwad and doesn't 'stand their round' will be ostracised. In a workplace, the senior staff will be expected to buy rounds more often and the most junior will be exempt.
In practice you buy for three or four people at a time, and often one colleague comes to the bar with you to help carry, and to keep you company. This is an opportunity to chat someone up that Bond would make great use of.
You pay for both food and drink when you order. So Bond never has to settle the bill (not 'check'!) before leaving a pub, unlike in a restaurant. The only exception is if someone has 'put their card behind the bar' (literally, given their credit card or a wad of cash to the bar staff who will keep it) so that designated people can 'run up a tab' by giving a certain name. It's not uncommon for someone to put a card behind the bar for a party and then return a couple days later to collect it - we can assume MI6 all have multiple credit cards, so no need to pay a bill before running away.
Obviously this system is open to abuse, and bar staff try to be alert to anyone saying "yeah, I'm with them" and trying to get drinks for free. We can predict that MI6 staff take pride in getting their colleagues to pay for their drinks this way as much as possible (another fic prompt!). Sensible bosses will hand over a card and tell the bar staff an amount to stop at - which means staff will ensure everyone gets one or two drinks but doesn't order three double whiskies nor bottles of champagne.
Brits won't order Scotch (especially not 'on the rocks'). It's a whisky. No E (unless it's Irish). You'd order it by name - Lagavulin, Laphroaig, or a blend like Bell's etc, possibly with a glass of water on the side. Irish whiskey or bourbon (American whiskey) would also be requested by name, but this never happens unless a teenager is ordering a Jack Daniels and Coke.
You don't order cocktails in your typical pub, only in an upmarket bar or specialist cocktail bar. The sudden silence when my 16-year-old friend ordered a Tequila Sunrise and walked through one of the roughest pubs in town with it still terrifies me!
Since around 2005, the drinking age of 18 has been more rigidly enforced in pubs and shops. Before that anyone over 13 or so could get a drink fairly easily. Note that it was legal for 16yos to drink wine, beer or cider with a meal - now they need an adult with them to do so, and a packet of crisps doesn't count as a meal. Presumably a scotch egg does (Covid rules reference).
For reference, the legal drinking age at home in England is five. Letting small kids get drunk might be considered neglect nowadays, but no-one is going to call social services on some teenagers having a party and drinking. If police do turn up, as long as the kids apologise for the noise, turn it down, and offer the plods a drink, it'll be fine (the cops should turn down the drink but might be willing to take a couple cans away).
Pub snacks include crisps and pork scratchings (come in packets like crisps), though nowadays more exotic fare like bread and olives are available, and the jar of pickled eggs has just about died out.
Smoking was banned in English pubs and other indoor public places in 2013. There's often a back yard people can smoke in.
Since the 90s, lunchtime drinking is now frowned on but not banned. A drink with a pub lunch would be acceptable.
'A drink after work' is rarely just one (even if you claim to be having just a 'swift half' or a 'cheeky pint') and over an evening our MI6 crew are likely to drink quite a lot.
Kettles and tea
Yes, Brits are tea-drinkers. This doesn't mean everyone drinks it, but it does mean a kettle is a staple of every kitchen and hotel room everywhere. Should a kettle be inexplicably missing, you can get a new one for £5 or £10 from the nearest supermarket or many other shops. The sentence "I'll see if there's a kettle in the kitchen" makes no sense - if there's electricity, there will be a kettle.
Don't say 'electric kettle' - it's a given. Which also means the kettle won't whistle or shriek or boil dry and interrupt your characters - they simply reach the boil and turn off, so you'll only hear the frantic bubbling and a small click, usually along with a light turning off. Don't say 'teakettle' either. Unless Alec (a Yorkshireman), other northerner or an elderly person refers to someone falling 'arse over teakettle' down a hill. Bond and Q would say 'arse over tit'.
People fill a kettle only as far as necessary. A half-full kettle would make three mugs of tea and boil in under two minutes. One mug - 30 seconds. If cooking pasta etc, most people boil water in the kettle and then pour that into the saucepan - it's faster.
If someone asks for tea, they mean something from the tea plant, basically black tea! Do not rummage through a selection of herbal teas - herbal tea is not tea! Green tea, jasmine and Chinese teas, etc don't count either. If they want camomile tea they will say so.
If someone offers tea, the response is "Thanks, just milk/black/no sugar/milk two sugars, please." Your job when asked for tea is to put a teabag in a mug, add boiling water within 20 seconds of the kettle boiling, add milk and sugar if requested, remove teabag after a minute, and hand it over. Especially if it's first thing in the morning.
Don't over-think it. Some characters might ask for 'Earl Grey if you've got it', but generally PG Tips, Yorkshire Tea or any standard tea is both expected and welcome.
Later in the day, characters might have tea preferences and pull out their own preferred tea, possibly even loose-leaf tea (though a tea ball in a mug is more likely than a teapot, at work), but someone who drinks tea at all won't say no to any cuppa offered.
Tea snobs who would even consider paying for specialist teas are few and far between, and even they would likely leave the special stuff for a mid-afternoon or after-dinner treat. Any exotic tea bought overseas would be overkill for your typical tea-drinker who just enjoys a cuppa and sometimes has Earl Grey. There is no evidence Q is such a tea snob (you can make him one, but you'd have to show him drinking single-estate teas from Fortnum's or Jing and likely being a bit embarrassed about it, first).
The concept of Q-branch running out of tea does not compute. Any office has a dozen boxes of tea knocking about for shared use as well as individuals keeping their preferred brand. And lots of boxes of herbal teas that people got bought and have never drunk.
In summary, Q and friends are likely to drink anything hot, brown and caffeinated that's called tea, even if they have preferences. The only exception is if they go to America, where the sensible option is simply to give up on tea (the concept of boiling water just doesn't seem to compute, and the teabags are always crappy Lipton's or Twinings anyway) and drink coffee for the duration.
Instant coffee is pretty common in England, especially first thing in the morning. Coffee machines are far from the first thing anyone would buy for a house, though many people have a cafetière (UK for coffee press) and you can get little ones to use at work. Coffee stands and shops now exist on most London train stations and street corners.
People will say 'let's go for a coffee' in the morning and have a 'tea break' in the afternoon, regardless of what's actually drunk.
London is in a constant state of near-gridlock from 6 am to midnight. Imagine New York with no straight roads.
Central London (which MI6 is on the edge of - Vauxhall station straddles Transport for London (TfL) Zones 1 and 2, and is inside the Congestion Charge Zone) isn't somewhere anyone drives about in unless they're paid - apart from anything else, there's nowhere to park.
There is no way MI6 staff would drive to Soho when they're across the road from Vauxhall station and can hop on the tube to Oxford Circus or the train to Waterloo and then tube. If attending a meeting in Whitehall with Ministers, they would walk along the river, crossing over Vauxhall or Lambeth bridge, or hop on the bus (probably the 87, known as the 77A until 2006, but other routes pass along there too). MI5 is on Millbank on the north side of the river, on the corner when you get to Lambeth Bridge, so again less than 10 minutes pleasant Riverside walk, past the Tate Gallery.
Google Maps including StreetView, and Citymapper, are your friends.
It's possible but unlikely that MI6 staff working odd hours would drive to work - much more likely that they take public transport (not 'transit' or 'transportation'!) or cycle or have a motorbike. The Tube and local trains stop around half past midnight. Taxis (the classic-looking ones where the cabbie has passed The Knowledge test and knows how to get you anywhere in London, flag one down on the street, called black cabs no matter what colour they are) and minicabs (ordinary cars - phone for one or go to an office with a yellow flashing light outside, driver will use a satnav) are readily available, but MI6 will have accounts with the Government Car Service which has vetted drivers.
If characters are driving from MI6, then they'd want to live south or west. To be honest, cars and garages are a security risk they'd probably want to use as little as possible. Car bombs were the weapon of choice for the IRA, Animal Liberation Front and others, so senior MI6 staff probably check under any car before getting in.
All Londoners use the Tube and have the map imprinted in their brains - at least the central parts. MI6 probably also know most bus routes which can be quicker, especially outside rush hour, and Vauxhall is one stop from London Waterloo on the trains (Bond could get from work to Southampton in little over an hour, but driving across London to go north could take longer - he'd be best off getting the Tube to Euston or St Pancras in 20 minutes, then getting a train, or collecting a hire car from somewhere near the northern end of the Victoria line. There's probably a Q-branch minion in charge of a garage near Ashford in Kent, for supplying MI6 cars to take to Europe via Eurotunnel or ferry.
It takes at least an hour, likely more, to drive from Vauxhall to Heathrow. It's less by Tube. Bond may also fly to Europe from City Airport where check-in is much faster, and it may be quicker to drive to get there if it's not rush hour. There is a helipad in Vauxhall (there was a crash a few years ago when a helicopter missed it) and transfer to the private airfield at Biggin Hill is apparently nine minutes.
Driving times are often shortened in the films - to shouts of laughter from UK cinema audiences when Bond is in Oxford and says he'll see M in half an hour (two and a half, more like). As a rule, driving in England has more traffic and takes much longer than you think, except in the middle of the night. Scotland and Wales similar, with very bendy rural roads. From MI6 to the Scottish Highlands would be a good 10 hours non-stop.
Blueberries are not native to England. Scones come plain, with raisins, or with cheese. Possibly with chopped glacé cherries They do not come with blueberries or chocolate chips. I'm sure some trendy baker makes such things, but unless you're making a point about someone being a fashionable wanker, no blueberry scones, please.
Equally, no blueberry pancakes, and not just because fat pancakes are American and English pancakes are crepe-like flat ones. Yes, if you go out for brunch, there are places that will sell American pancakes (listed as such), but it's much more likely Bond and co would go to a café (usually called a caff) for a fry-up. In someone's house, it's very unlikely they'd make either style of pancake for breakfast. People don't, unless there's children or it's the morning after a big party.
A fry-up or full English breakfast will have eggs (probably fried, though scrambled or poached is possible), bacon, sausage, tea and toast, plus any of fried mushrooms, fried tomatoes, baked beans, black pudding, fried bread… You don't ask for eggs over easy or anything - you take what you get which is usually fried with some fat ladled over the yolk so it tastes like it's over easy. The Regency Café in Pimlico is near MI6 and an institution for breakfast. Just make sure you're ready to order before reaching the front of the queue or be prepared to be shouted at and humiliated.
Typical Chinese food in England is based on Cantonese food, though Chinatown now offers every variety imaginable. This means certain American Chinese staples don't exist on a typical takeaway menu: moo shu pork, General Tso's chicken, pot stickers (I think these are various dumplings?), egg rolls (we have spring rolls which may be the same thing) and fortune cookies. You will get complimentary prawn crackers.
Curry or 'Indian' (curry houses are usually run by Bangladeshis) food is incredibly popular, as it's usually both cheap and excellent. Chicken tikka masala (a dish made up for Brits a century or two ago, in India or Birmingham) is our national dish, though when not wanting comfort food, Bond and co are more likely to order from the more-authentic part of the menu. There will be fifty places who can deliver curry to MI6. I imagine they leave it with Security. When ordering you would call Security to alert them first and confirm they can take a peshwari naan from what arrives - I once lived in a similar high-security workplace and it was common for Security to bring my pizza to me with a slice missing!
Just south of Vauxhall towards Stockwell is a large Portuguese community, so lots of places serving pastel de natas (custard tarts) and Brazilian food.
London does now have a few Vietnamese, Korean, Cambodian and Mexican restaurants, but not many - most people won't know the various dishes. I'm told the Mexican food isn't very authentic but when the margaritas are cheap and strong, who cares? It's certainly better than Taco Bell (which has never managed to get a hold here).
There are about three drive-thru McDonald's in London, and no other drive-throughs (until Covid). Most Brits will have no idea what to do at different windows if in America.
Cheques are near-obsolete. Since the Nineties, people have banked via phone and internet.
Rents are paid by standing order (you tell your bank to pay a set amount each month), and most bills by direct debit (you tell the bank to pay the company what they ask for each month, but they have to refund you if you quibble the amount). No-one has ever put cheques in the post to pay bills - even before online/phone banking, you'd pay at the bank or in a post office.
A current account (American: checking account) is free to run, and you can withdrawn cash for free from cash machines/cashpoints (American: ATMs) when you want (a few machines charge everyone, eg in motorway service stations or football stadiums), and you'd get a chequebook for free (in the last 10 years you might have to ask for one). Obviously the interest rates are terrible, to pay for this.
London rents are sky-high, surpassed only by Manhattan, Tokyo and Zurich (roughly). Rooms and flats are small; almost no-one owns a house in Zone 1. You pay a deposit (not a 'down payment') to secure a place, typically for a 6 or 12 month lease which can then run on indefinitely.
When I say rooms are small, an 8 foot by 11 foot bedroom is a double. Typically you'd have a bedside table (not nightstand) on each side of the bed and hopefully room for a wardrobe (not closet, even if it's fitted) and chest of drawers. A walk-in shower cubicle is very rare; bathrooms may be 5 foot by 8 so the shower is over the bath.
Front-loading washing machine will be in the kitchen - dryers are rare. People hang washing up over radiators or on a rack on the balcony/wherever it fits, though often there's a washer/drier so you can dry about a third of the washer's load. James Bond, of course, has his shirts and suits sent to the dry-cleaner's. He may take all his other clothes to the laundrette (not laundromat) for a 'service wash' - you give them a large bag of laundry and it's returned with everything washed, ironed, and folded. Q and the minions would not do that.
Keeping a car is expensive. Insurance and 'road tax' is about £100 a month for a sensible driver's sensible car. Almost no flats in central London will come with parking. MI6 would pay for insurance for work vehicles but it's very unlikely Q or Moneypenny own a car. They would both have driving licences, though (note spelling) and would have passed their driving tests on manual cars (stick shift).
Hire cars (not 'a rental') are easy to find - there's some across the road from MI6.
Many other guides explain British clothes vs American terminology, and authors tend to do quite well here, with the exception that Brits never say 'a button-down' - it's just a shirt. Also always a T-shirt not t-shirt or tee. I have no idea what a Henley is, and a 'flannel' means facecloth here - it's a lumberjack shirt. (cue Monty Python Lumberjack Song)
Note that silk shirts are appropriate for fetish clubs or possibly for wearing with ostentatious suits and bling in Monte Carlo or the Med, not day to day unless you're a woman in the early 90s.
Bond was expelled from Eton after two terms age 13, then went to Fettes College in Scotland. Both are private/independent schools, ie fee-paying, often in the UK known as 'public schools'. That's ’public’ as opposed to having private tutors, as was the alternative 200+ years ago. Government-run schools are 'state schools'.
Bond in the films went to Cambridge University (as have many spies in history, from Christopher Marlowe to Guy Burgess and Kim Philby). In the books he went to Geneva to perfect his French and German.
It's likely Q went to Cambridge too, as the top place for maths in the country (and also excellent for computer science and engineering, which he might well have attended lectures for).
The differences between US and the English and Scottish education systems are huge. If you want to make a story realistic that's set partly at school or uni, talk to a Brit first.
A few pointers for starters: tertiary education is never called school (a School of X is just a way to say Department or Faculty). It's a university or sometimes college. Many secondary schools (age 11-18) are also called X College, e.g. Eton College, but college generally means sixth-form (last 2 years of secondary school) or further education (as opposed to higher ed, ie a degree)
You have lessons at school, then at uni it's lectures, seminars, and tutorials (tutorials are called 'supervisions' at Cambridge). You don't 'go to class'. Nor do you 'major' in a subject - you apply to do ('read', traditionally) a subject like Engineering, Maths or Natural Sciences and only study that for your three or four years.
UK unis don't have dorms (boarding schools may, but it just means large bedrooms for many kids, though Eton just has bedrooms). A US dorm is a Brit 'hall of residence'. Cambridge colleges are basically glorified halls, with a chapel, dining hall, bar and common rooms and nice gardens, and various university lecturers attached who may live in college.
You don't share bedrooms at uni (there are a few exceptions). The older buildings in Cambridge have many staircases with two to four rooms on each landing. Most staircases now have running water but in the 90s blokes would often stroll across the court to another staircase for a shower or bath, wearing nothing but boxers or a small towel. Do we think Bond would be one of these, shocking matronly tourists? The college porters (a mix of receptionist, security guard and source of avuncular advice, often ex-military) would point out the lads were in their home and they encouraged the young gentlemen to be clean…
There are three women's colleges but otherwise there is no separation between men's and women's accommodation (same for halls in most UK universities - there aren't 'mens floors' like US dorms seem to have)
England: Kids take GCSEs (was O-levels until 1988) age 16, in May-June, then may stay at school or a '6th form college' for two more years to sit A-levels at 18. OWLs and NEWTs, basically.
You take about 9 subjects for GCSE and 3 or 4 for A-level. I would lay money that if Q did A-levels, he'd have done Double Maths (Maths and Further Maths), Physics and Chemistry. Maybe an extra maths course or two.
Nowadays unis don't like admitting students under 17 and like to leave them at home being tutored by Cambridge maths fellows. For good reason. Two of my friends in the early 90s were 15 when they started their degrees, and it didn't go well for their mental health.
Uni degrees are all Honours unless you fail to reach the standard of a Third (ie Third Class of Honours). They are normally three years and until recently you only had to scrape through your first two years as only your Finals (exams at the end of the final year) counted. In Cambridge this was still the case in the 90s though some subjects also counted final-year coursework. The top 15% or so get First Class Honours (a First), most get an Upper or Lower Second (a 2:1 'two-one' or 2:2 'two-two' aka Desmond). A Third or an Ordinary (non-Honours) degree usually means you were ill for a while.
Until the last few years, all lectures and supervisions/tutorials were optional, and even the practicals. Students wouldn't fret about 'being late for/missing class'.
Fraternities don't exist. There are many societies for every interest, though. Bond might well have joined the Officer Training Corps, college rowing societies, rifle or pistol-shooting society, orienteering or mountain-climbing societies, French, German or other language and cultural societies as well as drinking societies. Though who knows - he might have first met other characters backstage at the ADC theatre in Cambridge and been in a Footlights pantomime? (Fic prompt… I can see Bond and Q being recruited by Stephen Fry!)
Of course, it's England - all college and uni societies involve drinking, possibly more of that than the topic they ostensibly exist for.
Bond and Q will be very familiar with guns of all kinds. Your average Brit knows the long ones are rifles or shotguns and the short ones are called handguns, pistols, or revolvers, but with no idea which is which.
Until the early 2000s, the only routinely-armed police in the UK were in Northern Ireland and Gatwick Airport, and then also guarding the Houses of Parliament. Now there are a few more in Central London, airports and also in other city centres since the Manchester Arena bombing. There are squads of armed police - the Met (Metropolitan Police, London's police force) one is called SO19 - but they are only called out when someone has reason to believe criminals have firearms.
Most Brits outside London will never have seen a cop or anyone else with a handgun, though farmers and others in rural areas will have shotguns, rifles and air-rifles. The reaction to seeing anyone with a gun on their person will be to get the hell away.
Conversely, the Londoner reaction to being told there's a bomb likely to blow up Westminster or anywhere nearby will be 'What, again? Are the other Tube lines running?' Or hitting the wannabe bomber with anything handy, like a narwhal tusk (see news articles).
The IRA made so many bomb threats (some real) in the 80s that 'X station is closed for a security alert' was a more common excuse for delays than signal failure, and especially since the 2005 bombs, it's back to normal. The code "Would Inspector Sands please come to …" means a possible explosion risk.
UK armed police and military are meant to both start with a polite conciliatory approach, and draw weapons around level 3 of threat (level 2, in Northern Ireland) - colleagues with military experience tell me American forces have guns drawn at level one. This makes forming partnerships with locals in Afghan etc very different.
Bond will be operating at high threat levels most of the time, but needing to keep his firearms hidden from the public so he doesn't cause mass panic simply by someone seeing he's armed.
Dating - possibly more of a contrast with TV and films than real life, but very different.
The concept of a 'non-fraternisation policy' in a workplace is totally alien. Offices may ask for relationships to be declared, especially if you're in the same team or management chain, but apart from trying to avoid someone being in the position of appraising their partner, no-one cares. Getting together with someone from work is possibly the norm, especially somewhere like MI6 where a partner would need security vetting.
'Dating' as portrayed in American TV doesn't exist. More accurately, the idea of having a 'date' with someone one night and a 'date' with someone else another (and hence arguments like 'we never said we'd be exclusive') doesn't exist - I blame my mom's attempt to explain this for me being polyamorous!
The word 'dating' isn't used for seeing someone regularly, unless perhaps being ironic or you're a teenager.
Instead, you 'go out' with someone. But the first date (we do say that, also 'blind date') is a bit different in that if it goes well, you agree to do it again, and you don't then go for dates with someone else until you've split up with the first person. Once someone's in their 20s or so and accepts that casual sex exists, then there might be an acknowledgement that 'that was fun, maybe we might do it again sometime'.
So if you've had one successful date, how do you know you're in a relationship and not just multiple one-offs? You start appearing places together and if asked, eventually stop shrugging and admit it.
How you get the first date? It's a cliché, but for anyone currently middle-aged, it usually involves the parties getting rather drunk and falling closer together until they end up kissing, often at a party. A deep kiss (French kissing, schoolkids might say) is a 'snog'. The phrase 'making out' isn't really used - someone would say a couple are snogging or canoodling (slightly old-fashioned and jokey word, but used), or 'getting it on' or 'copping off with them'
Then we get to words for having sex. Bond is ex-military - he's going to have no problem saying fuck, cunt, arse as appropriate, especially with another man.
'Love' or 'sweetheart' is probably a better endearment than 'honey' which is very American - can also use sweetie, darling, pet…
There's a joke that any word ending in -ed in English means either to be very drunk or to have had sex. "I got totally blattered last night and blattered her silly" is a word I've just made up but would be totally comprehensible.
Condoms would generally be used for penetrative sex, especially between men; incredibly unlikely for blow jobs since the 80s when they found they weren't really a risk for HIV transmission.
Not cursing, that's what evil fairies do. Brits probably do it more than most Americans, but who they feel free to swear in front of and the words they use will vary by age, sex, social class and seniority.
You generally can't go wrong with Bondverse characters saying shit and fuck and bloody hell a lot, generally not in front of M but it wouldn't be unusual. They won't say 'shite' except in the word 'gobshite', because they aren't Irish nor trying to pull their punches. Londoners would only use the word ironically so 'this is a pile of shite' would be implying it's worse than a pile of shit.
(There are a few English dialects where the word is used, but if you don't know them, best avoided. Too many good stories ruined by an impression that shite is British for shit!)
Cunt is not a sexist insult in the UK. It's almost only used about men, when bastard isn't enough. However it can also be used as a friendly greeting (mainly by men to men), especially if Glaswegian. Like 'pal' in Scotland or 'mate' in England, the intonation makes it clear whether it's a compliment or a dire threat.
Body parts - fanny is a politer word for cunt, ie vagina and surrounding area. Yes, Brits find the phrase 'fanny pack' hilarious once they realise it's not a tampon or similar. We call them 'bum bags'.
The buttocks are your bum, bottom, or arse. Not ass, but sometimes butt. You have an arsehole (and someone may be one).
Women are more likely to use euphemisms for the vagina and vulva, eg "come inside me", though Moneypenny would be more forthright. Men tend to think more in terms of pussy and cunt but be a bit more circumspect saying those words until they know their female partner is happy about them.
MI6 is opposite London's most famous gay pub/club the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, with several other gay venues in the area making it rival Old Compton Street in Soho. Your average modern agent will take this in his stride.
However when Bond grew up (assuming he's 45 between 2010 and 2020, then he was born 1965-75) gay male sex was illegal until 1969, then legal but still very underground for over 21s.
People could be and were fired for being gay, refused jobs or housing etc until the late 90s, and it was illegal to be gay in the military until 2000. The age of consent was dropped to 18 then equalised at 16 in the late 90s-2000s. 'Section 28' was a law passed in 1988 which banned local authorities (ie state schools) from 'teaching about acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship', which teachers interpreted as not being allowed to mention homosexuality at all (not that most of them ever did beforehand).
This background will affect characters. Watch the recent C4 drama 'It's A Sin' for more idea if you're too young to remember the impact of AIDS.
While 00 agents clearly need to whore themselves out as part of their jobs, so doing that for someone of the same sex is as plausible as the 00 programme existing at all, sexuality was one of the key things security vetting looked for, because of the threat of blackmail.
By the late 90s it was known that being gay was OK for getting clearance, as long as you were either already out or you agreed that if it came to it, you could be outed to your family (ideally rapidly before it got into the newspapers). But it's quite plausible that sexuality would be repressed and denied. Or that any agent or Q is a flaming queen when not on duty. Who knows?
The chances of Bond or Q calling themselves pansexual or demi or grey or ace is nil, even if that's how they behave. People over 30 don't.
On the whole, the English don't do it, and they certainly don't talk about it in public. Your traditional Christian is CofE (Church of England) and goes to church solely for 'hatches, matches and dispatches', plus the odd Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve if it's a family tradition. Going to church any other time is, to over-generalise, for immigrants and a few sad old ladies.
Exception: parents may take take small children to Sunday School for the free babysitting, and possibly attend for two years to get the child into a church school (state schools, but as the Church owns the buildings that it donated 100 years ago, they are allowed to discriminate). Most vanish as soon as their youngest has a place.
Attending church/chapel is less uncommon in Wales, Scotland and NI, especially in rural areas.
The UK (the sovereign state which is a member of the UN in its own right) is 'the United Kingdom Of Great Britain and Northern Ireland'. Great Britain is the big island of the British Isles and has England, Scotland and Wales on it.
England, Scotland and Wales are countries, just not independent countries. Wales was conquered in the 1100s and mostly has the same laws as England, though some matters have been devolved to a Welsh Assembly in the last 10 years. Scotland acquired the same monarch as England in 1603 but has a different legal system, school system, and issues its own currency (also pounds of the same value) from four different banks. So while English notes (not bills) are accepted in Scotland, the reverse is often not the case simply because people don't recognise them. Best disposed of in supermarkets or machines. Apart from matters of defence and immigration which are still handled by Westminster (ie UK government), most governing is handled by the Scottish Government.
Bond is Scottish. Obviously his posh Scottish accent (can sound similar to posh English) has mellowed and he goes for a neutral English accent, but he would never unironically claim to be English. He enjoys whisky but to what extent he might follow any other Scottish traditions is up to you. Generally any Scotsman with good legs will leap at the chance to wear a kilt.
Northern Ireland may be legally a province, but don't call it that. Best don't mention it without a lot of research. Really. Watching Derry Girls would be a good start (only 12 half-hour episodes and very funny). The Good Friday Agreement meant that since, residents of NI who felt British (Unionists) could be British, and those who felt Irish could ignore the border with Ireland (the country which takes up the majority of the island of Ireland) as both the UK and Ireland were EU states. Now Brexit means a border with the EU is needed again, and it's kicking off again. Wikipedia is a good place to start reading about 'The Troubles'.
Mallory is a former Lieutenant Colonel in the SAS, who served in Northern Ireland and spent three months as a hostage in the hands of the IRA. Which is a bit surprising as usually kidnapped soldiers would be dead within 24 hours.
Beautiful place, NI. Deserves more tourists especially to its coast. It issues its own banknotes which while legally acceptable in GB, will never have been seen before, so best give any to a machine or bank.
The Channel Islands (Jersey, Guernsey etc) and the Isle of Man are Crown Dependencies, not part of the UK or even the EU.
Gibraltar on the southern tip of Spain is a British Overseas Territory (and it joined the EU), as are the Falklands, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, etc.
The UK Government does not have jurisdiction over the Crown Dependencies, but if 00 agents answer to the Queen then they may.
Elizabeth II is not the 'Queen of England' as there hasn't been one since 1707 when we had the Act of Union between England and Scotland and got a 'Queen of Great Britain'. She is obviously now Queen of the UK (and a bunch of other titles)
Brits are not particularly fussed about royalty, especially now only senior royals are funded via the Civil List and, as they pay tax, are practically self-funding. The Queen is deeply respected for having held the post since 1952, worked hard in the war and ever since, and for keeping her mouth shut. Princess Anne is also respected. The other younger royals, less so, though William is popular.
The 2012 London Olympics opened with a great sequence including James Bond (Daniel Craig) escorting the Queen to a helicopter and showed them parachuting down. The Queen insisted on being in the film herself rather than a double being used, though it's unconfirmed whether she did the parachute stunt herself (one imagines not, but it's a cool image).
Healthcare and employment
We have the NHS. It suffers from underfunding under certain Governments, but there's nothing stopping you going private if you want. Evidence of the popularity of the NHS is that private insurance policies won't cover primary care (ie GPs) or emergency care - only outpatient care and elective (ie timetabled) surgery, which are where you might want to jump the waiting list. The doctors would likely be the same ones you'd be waiting to see on the NHS, on their day off.
Given there's no extra money in it, care tends to be more pragmatic and less prone to over-testing. Generic drugs are the norm, not brand names. Dentistry aims for healthy functional teeth, not a mathematical curve nor unnatural smooth white gleams.
No-one will ever be in debt for healthcare reasons (though certain foreign clinics will get the hopes up of people whose loved one is likely to die, who may try raising stupid amounts of money for what is usually a scam). The joke is the British remake of Breaking Bad would be one episode...
Note acetaminophen is known as paracetamol. Vicodin and similar were never widely prescribed, though codeine, tramadol and morphine are used where appropriate. You pay for prescriptions to be filled in England (at the chemist, by the pharmacist) but all drugs are the same token price, currently £9.35.
The nearest hospital with A&E (Accident and Emergency, ie an ER) is St Thomas's, downriver from Vauxhall, also on the south bank, opposite the Houses of Parliament. Anything beyond nurse-level medical attention would have the agent sent there, with appropriate security. People would just assume it was a criminal being treated who needed police outside the door!
The minimum annual leave is 25 days, of which 8 are bank holidays (or other days in lieu). Sick days are counted separately. As civil servants, Q and Bond would be expected to take their leave each year, barring emergencies, and would get paid sick leave, certainly up to six months as needed. Not taking leave would be a sign of M being an incompetent manager. An Occupational Health assessment might be needed before someone could return to work, probably by one of the 'people in Medical' that Bond hates.
I'll stop there, but happy to answer questions. Remember the cliché that Brits think 100 miles is a long way, Americans think 100 years is a long time; let your characters walk to the pub, and don't over-complicate the tea! Have fun writing.