This article was published by the Great British Mag content team on 15 January, 2020.
Over 10,000 Nigerian students study in higher education each year in the UK. The UK is a great place to study with many internationally respected schools, great career prospects and lots of exciting opportunities to have new experiences and gain new life skills. Here are 10 things we think you should know about the UK:
1) The UK is more expensive
The average living costs for an international student is around £12,180 a year on top of your tuition fees. This can vary depending on where you choose to live in the UK. In London, Oxford and Brighton living expenses are much higher than in cities like Birmingham or Liverpool. Don’t expect to get a lot of space for the high rent either!
If you want to live in a big city but not pay really high prices for accommodation and activities, try a city like Edinburgh, Coventry or Nottingham. These cities all have great universities and colleges and provide lots of exciting activities but come at a lower cost. There are other ways of saving money, like taking your lunches to school rather than buying on campus, and shopping in cheaper supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl.
2) Respect for elders is shown differently
It may seem like British people do not respect their elders, but they do it in a different way. In the UK, it is okay to call someone older than you by their first name. People only use titles like ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’ in formal situations.
Even if your lecturer is significantly older than you, you can call them by their first name and address them informally, like someone the same age as you. It is customary to give up your seat on public transport to someone older than you, hold the door for them and ask them if they need help if you see them struggling to do a task. It may look different, but you must still treat your elders with respect in the UK, understanding that they have much more life experience and knowledge than you!
3) Ask questions in tutorial sessions
If you do not understand a topic or point raised in your course, you can book a tutorial session with your lecturer. Sometimes lecture classes are big or the teacher does not have time to answer everyone’s questions, so they will ask you to come back after classes for a one-on-one tutorial session. This way they can talk to you privately and you can ask your questions without worrying about looking silly in front of others. It also gives tutors the time to fully explain the point.
If a lecturer asks ‘Any questions?’ or if you are in a small lecture group, you will probably get time to talk to them. If you are in a big auditorium, you probably will not get this chance. Most lecturers give students their email addresses so they can book a tutorial session with them. If it is a small, easy-to-explain question, ask it via email and your lecturer will probably answer it there.
4) The weather can change quickly
Great Britain has a bad reputation for being cold and wet, but it can sometimes be warm. Recently the summers have actually been very warm, and your school or university may not have air con in every room. What many people don’t realise is that it can be hot and cold, wet and sunny, all in the same day.
The cold can be very cold so make sure you buy gloves, scarves and a hat for the winter months. In the summer is can be very hot but it can still rain and some days may be still cold. Download a weather app to make sure you keep up with the ever–changing weather. Just because it was sunny yesterday doesn’t mean it will be today!
5) Queuing is a culture
You can easily anger a British person by not queueing. Brits queue for everything, they queue at bus stops, the queue at bars and they queue in shops. Sometimes it might not look like it’s a queue, but it is best to ask someone where the queue ends before jumping in.
Skipping the queue, or joining the line mid-way will make British people angry and they will likely tell you you’re in the wrong. They don’t mean to be unfriendly, it’s just something they culturally take very importantly. If you are told off, apologise, and then ask where the queue ends.
6) The British smile
The British are not a big fan of small talk, especially when you meet in the street. You may walk past someone you know and wish to stop and talk, they might be in a rush and do not have time to stop, so they will just smile at you. Simply smile back and carry on, it’s a good sign they cannot or do not want to talk to you.
You will notice public transport is very quiet. Many people will be looking down at their phones, having their earphones in or reading a book. To preserve this quietness, people will just smile instead of talking. This should never be seen as a sign of rudeness, it’s just the way people interact when busy or when they don’t feel like chatting.
7) ‘Alright’ is used as a greeting
If someone asks if you are ‘alright’ they don’t actually mean ‘How are doing?’, it’s just another way of saying hello. People from the UK prefer using more casual greetings, especially outside of formal situations.
‘Alright’ is an informal greeting, usually said in passing or when you don’t know someone very well. People may say this to you in bars or restaurants, when you pass someone you know in the street or when you sit down next to someone in class. The best response is to respond with ‘alright’ back or to something very casual like ‘not bad, you?’
8) Tea is not green tea or Ovaltine
Tea is very popular in the UK — they drink it like it’s a sport! If you are offered a cup of tea, it will usually be black tea that is made using boiled water and a teabag, often with milk and sugar. This is usually just called tea and most households and daytime drinking establishments offer it.
If you want another type of tea like Ovaltine, Earl Grey or Green tea, you will have to specify it. More and more cafes and restaurants will serve other teas but you will have to ask for it by name. If you simply ask for a tea, you’ll get black tea which you will have to add your own milk and sugar to.
9) Avoid rush hour if you can
If you do not need to travel between 8am and 9am, and between 5pm and 6pm, it’s best you avoid it. Public transport, especially in big cities, will be very busy. You will not be able to get a seat on a bus or the train as it will be filled up with people heading to and from work. If you do have to travel around this time, add extra time to your journey.
Be careful travelling around during rush hour, it easy to get a little overwhelmed and to get lost. If you are just learning about the transport systems in your area, avoid these times. People are often on their way to and from work during this period, so they will not be as helpful or as friendly to others. They are usually in a rush and irritated by the number of people travelling. Even in small towns, public transport will get a lot busier during this period.
10) Don’t be worried about your accent
The United Kingdom has a broad range of accents, not just from all the international students, but from the natives. The UK has lots of different accents — some you may be unfamiliar with, and some you may struggle to understand.
Some accents are very strong, such as Scottish, Welsh, and Brummies (Birmingham based) ones, some are softer like those from Oxford and Cambridge. You shouldn’t feel self-conscious about your accent because lots of people have accents in the UK. You will also likely not be the only non-English native in your class, so don’t worry!