International Student Advice – Learning the Social Customs

When coming to the UK to study you’ve no doubt got loads of questions about what you can expect from life over here. After all, it’s a great place with lots of exciting things and opportunities to offer its students of all walks of life.


However, if you don’t know much about the country, it can be a little daunting knowing you will soon be submerged in the culture, which can be made even more nerve wracking if you’re background is a lot different to British ways of life.

Therefore it can be a great idea to learn a bit about the way British people live and what are the  general social conventions to help you fit in comfortably and to avoid making any social faux pas!

The British are notorious for being laid back, however, so if you do slip up, you’re unlikely to be too embarrassed for too long!


Here are a list of useful tips and tricks to know for your adventure in the UK.

General British etiquette and customs

Starting with the basics, knowing how to greet someone is a good place to start on your arrival in the UK! Depending on the formality of the situation, it’s common to greet someone with a ‘hello, how are you/nice to meet you’ and then introduce yourself. When in a particularly formal situation; at a meeting or introductions with people of authority, a handshake is the most usual way to greet someone.

Us Brits are renowned for our politeness and reserved nature, so it can be a good idea to practise your ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ as we take pride in being polite, and those who forget these little words can be considered as quite rude. You will no doubt notice that people in the UK say thank you a lot!

Additionally, when out and about, if someone is in your way, say a simple ‘excuse me’ and they will soon move for you, and if you accidentally bump into someone say sorry and it will be fine.

Avoiding those awkward social faux pas

With the basics on your side there should be no problems, but it can also be useful to think about things to avoid doing that may irritate others or cause offence. There are a few simple things to remember, particularly when out and about.

When waiting for something, Brits always queue and will be highly irritated when someone skips in front of them, so make sure you always stand in line for things like buses and in shops.

When getting to know your flat mates in your student accommodation with Urbanest and other companies, be sure to ask them lots of questions about themselves, but nothing too personal at first as British people (particularly the English) can be quite reserved and private.

British people are generally extremely tolerant and respectful of people from other backgrounds, so if you do have any issues in your student accommodation (or at university) voicing your concerns should not be an issue. We don’t like to offend people, so will most likely want to solve the issue immediately!

You can read more about things like British etiquette regarding things like dining out in this article, but the best tips to remember are to be polite, respectful and interested in those around you and you’ll certainly have an amazing time!