9 Things International Students Don’t Understand About The UK

Studying in the UK is really exciting, but there are lots of fun local quirks that’ll take some getting used to. To help you out, here’s our list of the top things international students don’t understand when they first come to the UK.

1. Tea is life

Things International Students Don't Understand About The UK_tea

For pretty much every British person, tea is the ultimate comfort. Whether you’re deep into a late-night study session, on your way to a lecture in the morning or just relaxing with friends in the evening, tea is at the core of all life in the UK. You might not take an immediate liking to the milky, sugary version that most Brits drink, but give it a go and you’ll soon be reaching for a ‘cuppa’ whenever there’s a spare moment in the day. Just note that you will be come addicted. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

2. Everyone talks about the weather

Things International Students Don't Understand About The UK_weather

Bring two British people together and, within mere minutes, you can guarantee the weather will be mentioned. Warm, sunny and fresh, or cold, rainy and grey  it doesn’t matter! A huge amount of conversations you’ll have in the UK will revolve around the weather. This doesn’t mean that everyone’s obsessed with rain, though. Chatting about the climate is just how people in the UK get talking to a stranger, so join in and you’ll be making new friends in no time.

3. ‘Sorry’ is the most important word

Things International Students Don't Understand About The UK_sorry

‘Sorry’ is the word you’ll hear most of all in the UK. British people are incredibly polite and will go a long way to avoid insulting or upsetting someone. This can be quite extreme though. Imagine you accidentally bump into someone in the street, they’ll almost certainly say sorry to you first. Even if you manage to really hurt or annoy someone, ‘sorry’ will be the first thing to their lips despite you being wholly in the wrong. It’s an infectious habit Brits have, and you’ll soon be doing just the same… Sorry!

4. There’s no ‘British’ accent

Things International Students Don't Understand About The UK_accent2

Everyone knows the British accent: Mary Poppins, the Queen and Harry Potter, right? Wrong. For such a tiny island, the UK has an amazing range of accents. From the Welsh sing-song to the friendly Yorkshire accent, it can be easy to lose track. Although this may seem confusing at first, don’t worry! You’ll quickly get used to and even love the variety of voices you’ll hear all around you. Before you know it, you’ll have picked up the local accent from where you live and you’ll be speaking like a true Brit!

5. The food can be really good

Things International Students Don't Understand About The UK_food

With a northern European climate comes the need for true comfort food, and nowhere does it better than the UK. The locals tend to be less keen on native British food than you might expect, but don’t let this put you off, because there’s nothing better than a good roast dinner on a Sunday afternoon, or fish and chips served in newspaper to make you feel warm inside. Don’t forget that the UK is also home to more varieties of cheese than France, so make sure you sample plenty of these whenever you can.

6. There are some weird traditions

Things International Students Don't Understand About The UK_traditions

Whether the locals want to admit it or not, the UK is built on a love of tradition. This is obvious in the glamour of the royal family and the iconic red telephone boxes that you still see everywhere, but it’s the stranger traditions that really make the UK special. For example, every 5th November is Guy Fawkes night, a commemoration of a failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. The evening involves plenty of fireworks and, oddly, burning effigies of the main plotter on outdoor fires. Some British students love these traditions so much, they’ve invented societies for them!

7. Queuing is an art

Things International Students Don't Understand About The UK_queueing

Next to tea and talking about the weather, queuing is a skill people in the UK have really mastered. Whether it’s for the latest pop-up restaurant or simply at a bus stop, polite queues form everywhere you look. This is far from being a formal rule, but accidentally push into a queue and you’ll get nothing more than a few annoyed stares from those behind you. British etiquette is to be terribly polite, after all!

8. Slang is everywhere

Things International Students Don't Understand About The UK_slang

Chuffed. Knackered. Kerfuffle. None of these are words you’re likely to have learned in language school, but they make up a huge part of conversation in the UK. If there’s something you don’t understand, just ask – English is bursting full of interesting idioms that Brits will be more than happy to explain to you!

9. Everyone is glad to see you

Things International Students Don't Understand About The UK_welcoming

Ultimately, even if everything seems a little strange at times, studying in the UK is a fantastic experience that’s made even better by the welcome you receive. Even if people may seem quiet or excessively polite at first, you’ll soon realise that everyone is really pleased to see that you’ve chosen to call their country home. So, get out there, meet some new people and have the time of your life!

If you’re thinking of studying in the UK, you’ll need to read these first:

5 Key Websites You Need To Study In The UK
5 Best Student Cities in the UK in 2016

And if you want to read up on the language before you arrive:

Studying in the UK is truly amazing, so don’t blame us if you never want to leave!

39 Ways Studying In The UK Will Ruin Your Life

    3 Responses

    1. Hi Tom,
      Thank you for the article. I was an international student in UK 20 years ago, reading your article has brought good memories of UK! Thanks… things are still the same in UK, these British habits are the same after all these years….

    2. Am happy with the way Britons treat people , i would like to come and study in the UK please ,is possible that l can find sponsorship for undergraduate?

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