Like any visitor to a new country, you will have to adjust to the way of life in the UK and get used to British culture. Compared to your home country, you may notice differences in things like timekeeping, the way British people behave and what’s considered rude and polite. You’ll find more information about this in ME@BU, along with lots of other useful information and activities to help you prepare for becoming a BU student. These will help you consider your own cultural identity and personal values.
Some insights into UK culture
When discussing different cultures it is important to be aware of stereotyping. By a ‘stereotype’ we mean a generalisation – for example, the assumption that British people are cold, reserved, proud and drink a lot of beer! Britain is a very diverse society and so it is difficult to provide a clear definition of ‘Britishness’. Stereotypes can be a useful form of shorthand when trying to predict behaviour or adapt to a situation but many people do not conform to their national stereotype.
- Do not assume too much
- Ask questions
- And remember that culture is relative; for example, how extrovert somebody appears to be will depend upon how extrovert you are yourself.
Most people in the UK dress in casual clothes. Despite the cold weather, you might be surprised to see many students walking around in the evening in very light clothing, particularly if they plan to go to a nightclub later.
Some people’s behaviour may confuse, surprise or offend you. For example, you may find some people appear cold and distant, or always in a hurry. The relationship you have with your tutors and lecturers might be more formal or less formal than you are used to. In the UK we often address our tutors by their given names. You may also find the relationships between men and women different.
Rules of behaviour
Food and eating
Typical British foods
Thinking about culture
- Think of five adjectives that you think best and least describe your culture, whether this be ethnic/religious group or national identity
- Think of several things that you think your culture may be considered good or bad at
- Identify some common cultural characteristics by asking yourself some of the following questions. How do people from your culture:
- Greet each other in formal and informal situations? Do you kiss? Shake hands?
- View the role of women in society? Are they considered as equal to men?
- Consider the concept of age? Is age considered in a positive or negative light?
- View authority in the workplace, at home and in society in general?
- Dress in formal and informal situations? Is dress a symbol of status?
- Consider personal space? Do you like to be close to people when talking or do you like to keep your distance?
- Feel about time-keeping and punctuality? Is it considered acceptable to arrive late for a meeting?
- Is the way that you perceive your culture similar to the way you think others perceive your culture?
How well do you know yourself? Without thinking too much, quickly write down answers to the following questions:
- What is it about the way you were brought up (raised) that has had the most impact on your character and personality?
- What characteristic do you most dislike in other people?
- What food do you think you will most miss when you come to the UK?
- Which aspects of your character will people in the UK be most suspicious of?
- Which aspects of your culture do you value the most?
- Which aspects of your character will help you the most when you come to the UK?
- Which aspects of UK culture will you appreciate the most?
Go back and check your answers after a few months of living in the UK. Have any of your answers changed?