Starting university can be a daunting prospect in its own right. However, starting university in a completely different country can be even scarier. There may be a thousand and one questions racing through your mind, things like “what will it be like? And will I fit in?” These are perfectly normal questions to ask, especially if you have never visited that country before. Every country in the world has its own culture and set of values, and the UK follows that rule. We will now walk you through what ‘British’ culture really is, and what is it about Britain that makes it so unique. So here goes:
Britain is a diverse, welcoming, multicultural society. Take London, for example: it is one of the most (if not the most) culturally diverse cities in the world. The 2011 census found that 37% of London’s inhabitants were born outside of the UK – and guess what, Essex isn’t any different. There are over 16,000 students from over 140 different countries, living, learning and being ‘rebels with a cause’ together.
Britain may not have the biggest international reputation when it comes to food; however, there are still some classic iconic British dishes.
The most well-known British dishes are probably the Full English breakfast and fish and chips. Fish and chips always taste so much better when eaten in a seaside town, as you watch the waves lap up onto the beach. And you can try the Full English breakfast in most cafés.
Britain is also known for its cream tea. This is usually made up of a pot of tea (or coffee) small cakes and sandwiches and scones with jam and cream. But don’t ask a Brit whether the jam or the cream goes on the scone first as you will start a debate that will never, ever, end. And if you visit Cornwall or Devon while you are in Britain, remember the Cornish have jam before cream, whereas in Devon its cream before jam (which is wrong, just saying).
A lot of British meals are based around ‘meat and two veg’. And Brits love a ‘Sunday Roast’ usually roasted beef, pork or chicken with two types of vegetables (usually root vegetables) and some form of potato. With the trimmings, there are also pigs-in-blankets (sausages in bacon), stuffing and Yorkshire puddings (which is not actually pudding) and a good helping of gravy.
Toad-in-the-hole is also a favourite in Britain, sausages cooked in Yorkshire pudding and usually served with veg and gravy. The Brits have a habit of giving their dishes very strange names.
And we can’t forget marmite. You’ll either love it or hate it.
However, due to Britain being such a multicultural society, there is food available from all over the world. For example, curry is quickly becoming the nation’s favourite dish.
Want to know more? Check out this article.
It is a common misconception that everyone in the UK speaks the same way as the Royal Family. You are very likely to come across some of the exciting regional accents and dialects of English that exist across the UK, such as East London (Cockney), Newcastle (Geordie), Scotland (Scottish), Wales (Welsh), Northern Ireland (Irish), Essex and Somerset. Regardless of where you come from, it is perfectly normal to find it difficult to understand some accents – and yes, even British people can struggle… This is totally fine, but if you think it is happening so much that it is affecting your learning or socialising, have a word with your tutor. If you don’t feel like that’s an option, SU Advice will be on hand to help, or you can visit the Talent Development Centre who run English support classes.
In the UK, one of the first things you will notice is you will get asked ‘how are you?’ quite A LOT. People use this as a form of greeting, so it is perfectly acceptable to just reply with “good thanks, how about you?”
The greeting of ‘you alright?’ is also a normal way to greet someone. The funny thing is that you don’t need to wait for a response or to provide one - you can just say ‘good thanks?’, or nod and walk away.
People in Britain will also say sorry a lot. “I’m sorry but,” is usually a way to start a complaint. But people also say sorry when someone walks into them, their food is cold in a restaurant and when they ask for something in a shop.
Also, for some very informal examples of British dialect check out Korean Billy's YouTube channel - an international student in the UK who created this channel as a result of the dialect he came across.
Essex has its own expressions and dialects too, for example, the word ‘mate’ doesn’t always mean a friend, but can be used on anyone.
The word proper is also used as a substitute for the word ‘very’ “wow, its proper warm today”.
Bleak can mean bad and disappointing, “that lecture was a bit bleak today”.
Banter is the ability to not bore the person talking to you “we’re mates he has good banter”.
Sometimes someone in Essex will say “I’m not even joking but…” to start a story about something bad that has happened to them or offended them.
Sick doesn’t mean you’re ill, but it’s used as a positive statement to say something is great. “That song was sick!”
A mug isn’t always for tea and coffee, it’s also a term in Essex to describe someone when you feel someone else it taking them for granted.
But most of all, the term you will probably hear the most is ‘Innit’. This has no real purpose in a sentence, but kind of serves as a verbal full stop. “I’ve got chicken for lunch, innit.”