Life in the UK

1. Introduction.

2. Manners and etiquette.

3. Dress code in the UK.

4. Customs and traditions.

5. Spare time in the UK.

6. Food and drink.

7. Adjusting to the UK.

8. Becoming a 'Brit'.

9. Further infotmation.



1. Introduction

There are currently around 61 million people living in the UK (National Statistics Online – March 2009). Despite the UK being a relatively small surface area, experiences of living here can vary greatly. The UK is a highly multicultural society with no official language. However, English is the main language and the de facto official language but there are other languages spoken; in Wales, English and Welsh are both widely used by officialdom, and Irish and Ulster Scots enjoy limited use alongside English in Northern Ireland. Additionally, the Western Isles council area of Scotland has a policy to promote Scottish Gaelic. The Student Life website has more detailed information on the countries that make up the UK.

The traditional UK culture has changed somewhat over the last 50 years and incorporates elements of other cultures due to its diversity. The following sections provide an insight into typical UK culture as it stands today.


2. Manners and etiquette

‘Small talk’ is commonplace in the UK but it can often be difficult to choose suitable topics to chat about. There are also certain subjects that should not be broached. The Student Life website gives examples of small talk topics and also gives information on tipping, food etiquette and business etiquette. The ProjectBritain website also features information on manners and etiquette.


3. Dress code in the UK

It can be important to wear the correct type of clothing for certain events such as during working hours and at formal social occasions. The Dress Code Guide gives you advice on what to wear for specific events.


4. Customs and traditions

The UK is a nation of unique customs and traditions, many of which have been around for hundreds of years. The LEO Network has a good resource highlighting British culture, British customs and British traditions and the Student Life website also has an online calendar showing events in the UK running throughout the year.


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5. Spare time in the UK

Many people enjoy spending social time in pubs (public houses) in the UK. It gives people an opportunity to chat to friends and enjoy an alcoholic drink. Usually there is no table service in UK pubs and you must order your drinks at the bar and pay for them immediately. It is not usual to tip the barman every time you have a drink as it is in the USA and the legal age to drink in a pub is 18 years. More information about public houses can be found on the Student Life website.

British people also love to watch television and the average amount of time spent doing this per week is 25 hours. Shopping and listening to music are also very popular. If you prefer the outdoors there are many countryside walks in the UK. The WalkingWorld website features over 4,000 walks you can take in the UK and you can print these off and use them for a small annual subscription fee.


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6. Food and drink

Due to the very multicultural nature of the UK, food is extremely varied and every continent throughout the world is represented in UK cuisine. The UK does have traditional food however, with the different countries within the UK having their own traditional dishes. The ProjectBritain website highlights the types of food regularly eaten by UK people.


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7. Adjusting to the UK

Moving to another country can be very stressful and lonely and it can take time to adjust to your new lifestyle. Many people suffer from culture shock and may wish to return to their home country days, weeks or even months after they arrive in the UK.

If you are having a particular problem in the UK and need help then you can contact the Citizens Advice Bureau who may be able to give you advice.

The stress of living in a new culture can also have an impact on your family unit and may affect your personal relationships. If you are having relationship problems you can contact Relate who offer a counselling service to couples (all couples are welcome and this service is not only restricted to married couples).


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8. Becoming a 'Brit'

Should you or a family member decide to settle permanently in this country you will need to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen or for indefinite leave to remain. Part of this process requires you to take a test to show that you know about life in the UK. If you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you can do this in two ways: by taking the Life in the UK Test or by taking combined English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and citizenship classes. The UK Border Agency has details on how to become a British citizen.


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9. Further information

Britain – Culture Smart! (Available through Amazon).

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