Posted on November 11, 2021
#cultureshock #studyabroad2022 #internationalstudents 

Studying in the UK is an exciting and unique opportunity to explore a new country and its culture. A significant part of studying abroad is getting used to the new rules and the unique culture in your selected country. Read below for some of the most common culture shocks you are likely to encounter when studying in the UK to avoid embarrassment and cultural faux pas!

1. Queuing is the backbone of British culture.

Queuing is the backbone of British culture

Sure, you may read this and think that queuing is pretty standard in every country. However, the queuing etiquette in the UK is something to rival any other country. The Brits will form a queue where there was no queue to avoid any awkward interactions. The most significant rule to follow to ensure you don’t ruffle any feathers is to ask if someone is in the line. Suppose some people gathered around a point or near a till it is highly likely that there is a queuing system. If you fail to ask the crucial question of “are you in the queue” be prepared to be met with tutting, sighing, head shaking and probably a high-pitched “um, excuse me?”

2. The tap water is safe to drink!

It might seem extremely odd to suddenly start filling up a glass with water straight from the tap if you are used to avoiding this at all costs in your home country. However, the tap water in the UK is perfectly safe to drink and will likely save you the torture of carrying back a massive crate of water for your weekly shop! Not to mention this is a great little way to save yourself some money.

3. Get used to the pub culture.

If there is one thing Brits are known for, it is going to the pub! They love nothing more than a quick drink after work or a spontaneous night out. If there is one thing Brits are good at, it is finding an excuse to go out for tea, a drink or dinner. Of course, if you are not a drinker or not a fan of drinking, it is still worth going to the pub or cafe for a soft drink and a bite to eat to catch up with your friends. This is also an excellent opportunity to learn about your local area and visit different local restaurants or shops. After a few trips to the pub, you will undoubtedly get to know your local area a lot better

4. Sorry is the most overused word

Sorry is the most overused word

Brits like to avoid most forms of confrontation in their day to day lives. So, naturally, sorry is said numerous times throughout the day. Unfortunately, the overuse of the word “sorry” does make it less meaningful, and you might be shocked at how frequently it is used. If someone’s bag touches your arm, if someone is overtaking you on the pavement before someone speaks to a stranger, if someone would like to sit next to you on the train - the list of scenarios is endless, and all are guaranteed to produce a sorry.

However, since it is so common to say sorry, you will also be expected to mimic this behavior. If you fail to say sorry when expected, some will instantly think you are being rude - even when this is not your intention. If you live with other Brits, you may find that they are very apologetic, therefore expecting you to be apologetic. Being courteous to your housemates will always go a long way. If in doubt, say sorry to be on the safe side!

5. The North-South Divide

If you are new to the UK, this might not be something you have heard of before. However, in the UK, there is an ongoing debate that the people in the North of England are vastly different to the people in the South, and it is often joked that the two sides do not get along very well. The North is usually known for its friendliness and welcoming nature, whereas the people in the South are viewed as more reserved, sometimes stuck up and far less friendly. Of course, this is not an official debate - and one that you will probably observe for yourself depending on where in the UK you are studying! If you are used to people in the North, you might find the people in the South different from what you are used to.

6. Smoking rules are much stricter.

Smoking rules are much stricter

Back in 2007, the government banned smoking in all public areas. While you may be used to not smoking indoors, it can seem strange not being allowed to smoke outside in certain areas too. If you are in a restaurant with outdoor seating, you will not smoke here as it is viewed as a “public area”. All universities and campuses are also considered “public areas”, so it is always important to check where you can smoke if you are a smoker. 

Of course, there will be many small cultural shocks that you will face when studying in the UK. These can seem overwhelming initially, but it is something that you will quickly get used to and are all part of your studying abroad experience. This can also be an excellent opportunity to teach your English friends about your culture and help them understand each other better.

By Tyler Cormack, Student Engagement Officer at UK University Search

Company Bio:

UK University Search connects thousands of students worldwide with UK universities through in-person and virtual fairs, webinars, and handy blogs. Find the perfect course and UK university for you using our free University Search tool.

Author Bio:

Tyler Cormack studied English Literature and German at the University of Southampton and spent her year abroad in Germany as an English Language Assistant. In her free time, she enjoys tutoring, reading, and slowly making her way through her never-ending list of films to watch. She is currently working as the Student Engagement Officer at UK University and Apprenticeship Search.

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