If you’re a Chinese student preparing to study in the UK, you may be wondering what British culture is like. The UK is very different from China in many ways, so here are 10 things that you will want to know before you arrive.
1. British teachers will not pressure you to study all the time.
British teachers might recommend that you do your work a certain way, but they will not force you to do anything – all your decisions will ultimately be up to you. If you do not want to study, they will not try to make you (though it’s a good idea to study). Your teachers will also encourage you to pursue your hobbies outside of the classroom, develop a work-life balance, and live a pleasurable life that goes beyond studying.
2. British universities emphasise critical thinking
Your teachers will not want you to memorise what they say and repeat it back to them. They will ask for your opinions about the material and encourage you to challenge their ideas. There is rarely a “right answer” unless you are studying a hard science (meaning a subject like maths, physics, or chemistry). This teaching style means that your lectures will feel more like conversations.
3. Brits socialise in the pub more than the coffee shop
Although there are lots and lots of coffee shops in the UK, the local pub is considered the hub of all social life. Student life revolves around having a drink and you will find this is when you’ll get to know people you study with much better.
Don’t worry if you don’t like to drink alcoholic drinks; pubs serve non-alcoholic drinks, and most serve food as well. You will also find some host quizzes or music nights, and you’ll be able to join teams to compete.
4. Brits love tattoos
In Britain, tattoos do not necessarily mean that a person has a bad past. Brits love to decorate their bodies with tattoos. It is seen as a way of expressing yourself through a kind of art. Many Brits get tattoos that are beautiful or meaningful to them, such as flowers or a loved one’s name. People even get silly tattoos of things like smiley faces or Pikachu.
5. British breakfasts are huge and delicious
If you order an English breakfast at a restaurant, you will be given a huge plate with bacon, eggs, sausages, tomatoes, baked beans, mushrooms, and toast. You may also have the option of getting black pudding or chips with your breakfast, as well as coffee, tea, or juice. While most Brits don’t eat these huge meals every morning, they certainly love them.
6. You can find lots of good Chinese teas in the UK
While it’s true that coffee is hugely popular in Western countries, for Brits, nothing beats a good cup of tea. There is a huge tea culture in the UK, and you will have no trouble finding all your favourite Chinese teas here too.
7. Brits are very friendly
British people will probably strike you as friendly – too friendly. Complete strangers will call you “dear” or “love.” It may seem weird that people you don’t know are calling you these things, but they are simply trying to be kind.
8. When Brits ask how you are, they don’t actually want to know
It’s common for Brits to greet each other by saying, “Hi, how are you?” or “Hi, you alright?” but unless they are a close friend, they don’t actually want to hear how you are doing. They are only asking to be polite. It’s best to respond by saying, “Fine, thanks, and you?”
Similarly, many Brits will say, “See you later” or “See you soon” even when they have no plans to see you again soon. These phrases are casual ways of saying goodbye.
9. Clothing sizes are a lot bigger in the UK
If you wear a large in China, you may well wear a small in the UK. UK clothing sizes run much bigger than Chinese ones do so it’s a good idea to try on clothes before you buy them. If you are very short you should look for clothes that are labelled “petite.”
You may also notice that women’s clothes have lower necklines, skirts are shorter, and tops are tighter. Clothing and makeup are seen as a way to express your individuality, and many British women (and some men, too) like to wear heavy makeup.
10. Brits are extremely sarcastic about everything – including their friends.
Your new British friends will be sarcastic about everything. They will even be sarcastic towards their best friends. This is because in Britain, sarcasm is a popular form of humour. When Brits are sarcastic to each other, it is their way of joking around and having a good time.