Britain can be a confusing place for an international student. With so many new things to see, eat and do, you may find yourself feeling a little overwhelmed when prepping for your trip.
But don’t worry. If you’ve already taken the step towards studying (or thinking about studying) in the UK, you’re already halfway there.
Follow this guide on decoding British culture, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a fully-fledged honorary British student.
What to eat
There’s more to Britain than just the famous fish and chips, although no time in the UK would be complete without a good portion next to the sea.
Brits love pie – and in some parts of the country, you can find pies with almost every type of savoury and sweet filling. If you’re new to pies, Steak & Ale pie is a good place to start and is a British classic.
No stay in the UK is complete without at least on Sunday lunch (or dinner, depending on where you are in the country!). Most people have different ideas of what should be included in a Sunday lunch, usually based on family recipes. Most commonly, it includes some kind or roasted meat – chicken or beef usually – roasted potatoes, vegetables and gravy. Then different people have different ideas about which “trimmings” to include – favourites include stuffing (balls of breadcrumbs, herbs and sausage meat), Yorkshire Puddings, and ‘pigs in blankets’ (sausages wrapped in bacon).
Not strictly a food, but still worth mentioning! Tea in England is usually served with milk and (for some) sugar. Expect to be offered a lot of cups during your time in Britain – it’s a Brits’ favourite icebreaker.
What to see
The good thing about the UK, is that it’s small enough to see most of it. Even if you’re only studying for one a term or two, you’ll have plenty of time to see all the major British sites – and even some of the more ‘off the beaten’ track ones!
The UK’s capital is a must-see for anyone staying in the UK. With sites like Big Ben, London Dungeon, Buckingham Palace and Camden Markets, London should definitely be the top of anyone’s bucket list.
Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, is home to cobbled streets, beautiful buildings and – if you visit during Summer – the famous Edinburgh fringe. A must-see for any culture (or Harry Potter) lover!
Oxford and/or Cambridge
Home to Britain’s oldest and most prestigious universities. Even if you’re not studying at Oxbridge, it’s worth a visit to either (or both) of these quaint little towns. Visit the thousand-year-old university grounds, or sit by the fire in one of their many old English pubs.
If it’s old English pubs, and quaint streets you’re looking for, the city of York is also a delight to visit. The ‘shambles’ is a highlight – a rugged, cobbled street which looks like it’s come straight out a children’s book.
Manchester – and its neighbouring city Liverpool – offer a much different feel to Edinburgh, Oxford or York, but still one which is very much worth seeing and experiencing, especially if you’re a music fan. Manchester and Liverpool were the birthplaces of a score of music legends, including The Beatles, The Smiths, Arctic Monkeys, Oasis. The Northern Quarter, with its bars and hidden speakeasies, is a must-see for anyone spending the evening there.
The lake district
If you’re looking to escape from the city, The Lake District is the perfect place for you. Filled with jaw-dropping views, tiny villages with thatched houses, and country pubs, this is the perfect destination for anyone looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of university life for a few days.
If you’re studying up North, the peak district is a great alternative – although, as you might guess from the name, it’s much hillier!
What to say
Depending on where you’re studying in the UK, and where your peers are from, you’re likely to hear some very interesting (and often confusing) phrases.
For instance, a popular trend in the UK is using phrases which typically mean bad to mean the opposite. For example, “sick”, “dank” and “wicked” are often used to describe something which is good, or exciting.
British slang translator:
“Alright”, “What’s up”, “Hey”, “Heya” : Hello
“Cheers” : Thank you
“Dodgy” : Wrong
“Chuffed” : Very happy or pleased
“Gobsmacked” : Shocked/stunned
“Jammy” : Extremely lucky
“Minging” : Disgusting
“Knackered” : Very tired
“Our kid” : Used in the North-west of England (usually around Manchester) as a term of endearment
Studying in any foreign country will always cause a little bit of a culture shock. However, after a little while, you’ll start to pick up the lingo, eating habits and pastimes – and soon you’ll be the one offering the tea!
By Luna Williams, political correspondent at the Immigration Advice Service (IAS). IAS is a team of immigration solicitors based across the UK.
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