This article about what Malaysian students need to know about the UK was published by the Great British Mag content team on 20 January, 2020
The UK is the second most popular place for Malaysians to study in the world with one of the largest international student communities in the country. With its rich heritage, the UK offers Malaysian students the opportunity to meet new people, discover new interests and attend some of the best educational institutes in the world. Here are 10 facts you should know:
1) A lot of social activities start late but restaurants close
You will find events start quite late in the UK and you and your friends may not even leave your accommodation until after dark. People usually don’t leave for the bars and nightclubs until 10pm or 11pm, and stay out until the early hours. This is why so many of your classmates will seem so tired in the mornings. Bars open a little earlier, but many nightclubs will not open until past 10pm and will not be busy until midnight.
Although, restaurants close quite early in the UK. British people eat early, around 5pm, and do not hang around to sit and talk after dinner. Restaurants are usually closed by 11pm and food usually stops being served around 9 or 10pm. The only food you can get late at night is from fast–food restaurants like McDonalds or Domino’s Pizza.
2) There are Malaysian restaurants but they are expensive
You will find Malaysian restaurants and takeaways in the UK, especially if you live in a city. Brits love trying international food, so you will find restaurants dedicated to all types of Asian cuisine but it will be much more expensive than the restaurants you’re used to.
Learning to cook before you leave for the UK will save you money and help you make friends. You may miss home cooking and the food from restaurants never quite tastes the same, so learning to cook will save you money and help ease homesickness. Your housemates and friends will love to try new food and flavours. Cities will usually have Asian supermarkets that sell popular Asian ingredients, spices and vegetables.
3) University life is very easy going
The university environment is very easy going. You won’t be confined by strict rules and can expect to be treated as an individual. There are still some basic rules, for example, most lecturers won’t like you to be late or to eat in class, but overall you’ll notice it is much more relaxed.
Universities really want to encourage their students to express their individuality freely and discover who they are as people. You are expected to act like an adult and you will be treated as one.
4) People are openly affectionate
In the UK, it is totally normal to be affectionate with each other in public. People will hug and kiss in the street, in restaurants, and on public transport, including same–sex couples.
Friends are also physically affectionate with each other. Friends usually greet each other with a hug, even males. You will rarely see handshakes outside of formal or business occasions, instead people will greet by simply saying hello, high waving, hugging or even fist bumping. You’ll also see friends put arms around each other, hold hands and sit on each other’s laps.
5) Hold the door for people
Whoever approaches the door first should walk through and hold the door for the person behind them. This is a normal custom no matter the gender or age of the person behind you, it is normal for men to hold doors for women and women to hold doors for men. If someone does this for you, don’t forget to say thank you!
6) More independent learning
Independent learning is an important part of being a student in the UK. This style of learning may take a little while to get used to but it will help you develop self-motivation, time management skills and help you become more organised. These skills will help you in life and in your future career.
You will be treated like an adult which means you will be expected to manage your own deadlines and workload. You may have to log onto your university intranet to access your timetables and homework assignments. You will be expected to be responsible for your own learning, if you don’t understand a point, it’s your responsibility to ask your tutor a question. Don’t worry if you find this difficult, tutors, classmates and trained student support will also be there to help you!
7) Great Britain has a great public transport system
Whether you are based in a city or a town, you’ll be able to travel via the public transports system. Most means of public transport have discount cards and tickets for students, this makes travelling easy and affordable. Car parking is expensive, especially in cities and traffic can be very bad, so taking public transport can be a more effective way of getting around.
The UK has a large train network that makes travelling between cities quick and easy. Glasgow, London and Tyne and Wear all have underground rail systems that make travelling around the cities easier. Most UK towns and cities offer regular bus services, it’s one of the most popular ways to travel in the UK. You can buy a ticket from the driver when you board the bus, except in London where you buy in advance or by using an Oyster card.
8) It’s okay to not drink alcohol
For students over 18, drinking and going to nightclubs is a very popular pastime and a great way of making friends at university. It’s okay that you do not want to participate in drinking alcohol, people won’t think any less of you. If you are comfortable doing so, you can still go to bars and clubs to drink soft drinks, dance and have fun without having to drink alcohol.
The current generation of students are drinking less than previous ones, instead, students are choosing to have games nights, film nights or to stay at home and watch boxsets together over going to parties. Suggest trying these activities with housemates, classmates and new friends if you are not comfortable going to places that serve alcohol. Universities will also have lots of societies and clubs dedicated to sports, interests, and hobbies.
9) People don’t dress conservatively
The British women show a little more flesh than you may be accustomed to seeing. Even when the weather is cold, women will still go out in the evenings wearing short dresses and crop tops. A lot of British women love dressing up with heavy makeup, high heels and short dresses when they go out.
Universities and colleges do not really have dress codes unless you are working near machinery or are on work experience. People can wear whatever they like to classes, this includes casual or smart clothing and outfits you may think are a little too revealing. On warmer days women may wear shorts, sandals and thin t-shirts to class. It is also common for young men and women to have bright dyed hair, piercings, and visible tattoos. This is a way for Brits to express their individuality and personality!
10) People will be interested in your home country
When you say where you are from, people will probably be curious about the culture, food and weather of Malaysia. They may even ask questions about your religion, lifestyle, and laws as a way of opening conversation.