Moving to another country and adapting to a new culture can be challenging, and it may take a while to get used to new traditions and customs. You can usually pick up new cultural norms and ways of life by living and studying in a new place, but it always helps to read up on what to expect. British culture can be confusing to many overseas visitors, even if English is their first language. From cockney rhyming slang to world famous British humour, there’s a lot to learn!
UK Cultural Guide
Before you settle in to your new home in London, take a look at our UK cultural guide for international students to help you adapt to the UK lifestyle.
How to greet someone
Personal greetings and gestures differ all over the world, and usually change depending on the type of person you’re meeting. Europeans on the continent may kiss on both cheeks when meeting a friend – but we Brits are more reserved! When meeting someone for the first time, a handshake usually takes place, especially if it is a formal meeting. Friends and relatives often hug hello and goodbye, and sometimes a simple wave is used. Phrases such as “Alright?” “Hey” and “Nice to meet you” are often used.
When meeting your host family for the first time, you can explain how you would greet new people in your culture.
In the UK it is important to be polite to everyone you meet, including waiters in a restaurant and strangers on the tube. British people use “please” and “thank you” in almost all requests and responses, and if you ask for something without saying please or receive something without saying thanks, this is considered rude to native English speakers. Whenever you say yes or no, consider the use of please and thanks. It’s not common practice in other countries to thank the bus driver or shopkeeper, but it is in the UK.
Us Brits are famous for queuing and we take it very seriously! If you notice a queue forming at a bar, a bus stop or a shop then you shouldn’t skip the queue.
Food and drink
Britain isn’t really known for its world class cuisine, but there are certain specialities you should try while you’re living in London. You’ll notice that Brits love a cup of tea, and afternoon tea with sandwiches and scones is a long standing tradition. Fish and chips is our national dish, and we also love pies and pasties. When it comes to alcohol London is a great place to try gin, and if you head up to Scotland visit one of the many whisky distilleries.
If you are staying with a host family, you’ll be able to adapt to the new culture a bit easier and ask any questions you may have about the language or traditions. The home set-up may also be different from your home country, for example mothers often go back to work after having a baby and many families have a pet.
Take a look at our other blog articles for help and advice about studying in London.