Moving to the UK is a big step in your life. You might already be familiar with some of the British culture and etiquette through television shows. However, many international students still worry about how they will adjust to life here.
While there are probably many differences to your own culture, here are a few British manners and customs you will notice quite quickly.
- The British humour
The British sense of humour can be difficult to understand and often involves the use of irony and sarcasm. As an international student, you might not always know whether someone is being serious or making a joke. However, the more you speak to your fellow British students, the easier it will become to recognise and understand the British humour. That does not mean that you will find it funny though!
- Being polite is important
It is considered polite and respectful to say ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ in many daily situations, for example when someone holds a door open for you or you accidentally bump into another person. As a general rule, you can never say ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ too much.
- Join the queue
You will soon notice that the British love queuing and people take this very seriously. It is regarded as rude to push into a queue or not wait your turn. You will find queues at bus stops, in shops, banks etc. Even if you are in a rush, you should join the queue at the end of the line and wait. If it is not clear where a queue begins and ends, it is fine to ask other people if they are waiting.
- Respect people’s personal space
While people in the UK are usually open and friendly, you might notice that at times a person you are speaking to is more reserved. This is not because they are being deliberately unfriendly. Usually they are trying not to invade your privacy. Let them know if you are happy to talk about personal things and they’ll soon open up to you.
- Be on time
Punctuality is very important. You must make sure you are on time for lectures, tutorials, seminars, interviews and when meeting people. If you are late, it often leaves a bad impression on the people you are meeting, even if you are ‘just’ meeting friends. Make sure you call the person you are meeting if you know you are going to be late.
You may find British food strange to start with. It may taste different and be cooked differently to what you are used to. However, there are some firm British favourites which you should try while in the UK, such as ‘roast dinner’, fish & chips and a pie. You will also find thousands of restaurants in London offering food from around the world and if you are in self-catering accommodation, you can cook your favourite foods from home. London has many international food stores which import groceries from other countries.
If you haven’t applied to study in London yet, start your research today. You can use the course search to find thousands of courses available across nearly 50 universities in London. And take a look at the Application Advice section for information on how to apply, visas, tuition fees, scholarships and more.