Cultural Awareness in the UK
Find out about customs and behaviour in the UK

International Students Connect

Just Connect for international students in the UK

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Explore cultural differences and similarities between the UK and your country.

Discover what behaviour the British appreciate and what drives them insane.

Examine and appreciate the reasons behind the way people behave.

According to Oscar Fovarge

1   When asked, everyone is 'Orright!'.
2   The milk goes in the cup first.
3   The UK is made up of five distinct countries: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London.
4   The evidence that an important British ritual has just taken place is the squeezed teabag on a draining board.
5   The fastest student food on the planet is axle-grease on toast.
6   A sport's fan's behaviour depends on the size and shape of the ball.
7   Academic gossip travels at the speed of delight.
8   The answer to 90% of questions about entertainment is 'Stephen Fry'.
9   'Excuse me' can be passive aggressive, while 'scuse me' is friendly.
10 Bread. Sausage. Very nearly the same thing.
11 To show someone you really like them, shorten their name to one syllable then add 'zza'.
12 The British invented most things, but then sold them to Americans for little or nothing.

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Five little words can go a long way in the UK to maintaining social harmony.

Visitors to the UK are amazed that people say 'Sorry' when they have done nothing wrong. If one person bumps into another, they both say 'sorry'. In this case, 'sorry' is shorthand for 'no problem' or 'nothing to worry about'.

You may be surprised how often people say 'thanks' or 'thank you', for example in a shop. You may count half a dozen for one simple transaction. It shows that the buyer respects the person working in the shop and does not see him or her as some sort of low-paid servant.

Requests beginning with 'Could' and 'Would' express politeness and show that the person asking is not making a demand. It's mostly used with people one doesn't know well, but can be used with friends in recognition that the other is doing one a favour or being especially helpful.

'Please' is often used at the end of a brief request to show politeness. For example, 'A single ticket to Birmingham Central, please.'

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Queuing really is an important element of social interaction in the UK. A line is easy. You can see individuals standing behind each other in recognisable order. However, some queues - for example in a busy shop or pub - look like small crowds. Do not be deceived. Almost everybody, including the person serving behind the counter, will have an idea of a person's position in the queue. You can try to jump the queue, but don't be surprised if you are ignored or quietly penalized, as the following story demonstrates.

A busy professional man was late for his train and pushed into a queue to buy his ticket. (Yes, even Britons can break queuing rules.) Nobody said a word to him. But the woman standing in front of the pusher-in turned to a man two places behind and said, 'Would you like to come in front of me?' The woman then turned to the person who had been three places behind and said, 'Would you like to come in front of me?' In this way the pusher-in found himself at the back of the queue where he should have been in the first place. The man who the woman had called forward first, then turned to her and said, 'Would you like to come in front of me?' So she was back in her original position. In the end, the only change was in the redness of the queue jumper's face.


Go into any café or takeaway sandwich bar and you'll find plenty of bacon or combinations with bacon on offer. If you do not want bacon in your roll or sandwich, double-check with staff that there is none present.

Even products advertised as, for example, 'chicken' can include tiny strips of bacon, as this is supposed to enhance the taste of everything.

One survey that tried to establish the aroma that was most attractive to British men discovered that all the expensive substances produced by top brand perfume manufacturers could not compete with the smell of bacon frying in the kitchen. Even recent studies that associate the consumption of large amounts of processed meats with disease has not dulled the British love affair with the humble bacon rasher.

Quiet Carriage Fotolia Small  THE QUIET CARRIAGE

On most trains there is a 'Quiet Carriage'. It's often the first or last carriage and was created for people who don't spend every minute of their lives on their mobile phones telling their friends everything they're doing.
Many British people get really irritated by others who think that talking on their phones is being quiet. They often don't complain, as British people don't like to 'make a fuss'. But they roll their eyes, sigh a lot and say things like 'Good grief!' or 'For goodness sake!'. However, train staff on board will tell people to stop talking or move to another carriage. If you want to make a call, go somewhere else for a few minutes.


For many more cultural awareness topics, go to our Facebook page. You are also free to contribute your own observations on British behaviour, what it means and how you can react in the best way.
Among other things you can explore how people behave and what it all means in these cases:
Rites of passage in the UK. For example, Fresher's Week at college or uni.
How and when humour is used in the UK and the rules about when and where it can be used.
How the behaviour of sports fans depends on the size and shape of the ball.
Special days and dates in the UK and how people behave.
when they are clearly anything but.