Dealing with culture shock for international students in the UK

Dealing with culture shock for international students in the UK

When you first arrive in the UK you might find differences almost in every aspect of your lifestyle. Students are advised on being aware of such differences before arriving in the UK to avoid any culture shock that may affect your academic life.

UK welcomes thousands of students every year thus you may not find it very hard to get adapted to the UK culture during your period of studies. In fact, many students cherish their living experience in the UK and also tend to learn a lot about different cultures and ethnicities due to its multicultural environment. The United Kingdom has a multi-ethnic society representing all major religions and many languages. Therefore, there is very less chance for you to be felt alienated when you arrive in the UK.

Culture in the UK

Double Decker Bus in London

UK culture can be different to yours in terms of social behaviour, climate, language, food and values. As you know the UK has a westernised culture so, social behaviour, attitude, conceptions and beliefs could be different to what you have been following in your country.  Not only that how you greet and treat people would also be different.

The UK is a country that gives priority to human rights therefore you can always expect justice, equality and fairness. Most importantly everything is operated according to the systems placed thus it is important that you obey such systems.

In general you will find a busy environment in the UK and you may feel that people are distant. Certain social behaviours may provoke you as you may be used to a closed culture. However, you will get used to the environment as you go on but you would need to embrace the differences that you see and experience with an open mind.

You may find it difficult in communicating in English from time to time if it is not your first language. Even if you are fluent in English you would find certain regional accents are sometimes difficult to understand. Time will solve these issues as you get accustomed to new things when your involvement is on a daily basis.

You would also find the climate to be annoying if you are coming from a country with a warmer weather as the UK is a slightly cold country with comparatively a longer winter season.

In the UK, people dress in various manners due to various fashion and styles followed by people. However they all are looked up to and you would not find people criticizing your dress code. Due to different values and beliefs you would feel that your ideas and opinions are sometimes neglected.

When you experience the above differences you may tend to feel homesick and you may start missing the lifestyle that you are used to. Some students face a culture shock at initial stages due to the unfamiliarity. Therefore, it is always advised that you are aware of the UK, its society and its people before you arrive.

Living in the UK

Living in the UK would be challenging for you initially until you get used to the new environment. The cultural, social differences and language differences might influence your mental health which in turn would affect your education. It is your attitude and your perceptions of embracing new things would make the difference. So be positive, enjoy the new things you experience, make friends and get yourself familiar with the society. Then you will open doors to many opportunities.

Engage yourself in something that you would like to do in addition to your studies. This will allow you to be exposed to the environment and get used to it. It could be sports, entertainment, nightlife, shopping or a walk in the park. Wherever the city you are going to live you will find a way to continue at least one of your hobbies.


In our "Articles" section, you may find some travel and living guides that might be helpful for you whiling studying in the UK.

What you should do before and after you arrive in the UK

In order to avoid any culture-shock, you can make yourself aware of British culture before you come to the UK and prepare yourself to experience such differences by:

  • talking to your friends who had returned from the UK

  • getting more information from your university

  • getting more information from British Council of your country

  • talking to mutual friends in the UK and make an attempt in making friends who are already in the UK, or

  • watching some British TV shows such as Sherlock Holmes and Top Gear.

After you arrive, you will have many options to avoid feeling lonely:

  • The UK is a cosmopolitan country so you will find different community clubs, clubs in the university, religious festivals where people from your country are participating. This would be an opportunity for you to get a glimpse of your culture while living in a different culture.

  • Choose to live with a family from your country.

  • Living in the University accommodation is a safe option with many benefits. You will find many interactive activities that enable you to make friends with different cultures.

  • If you still face any mental distress you must contact your university and seek for some counselling. The universities in the UK are aware of such issues as their friendly staffs have been dealing with international students for years.

Always embrace the change, enjoy and concentrate on your education. The cultural, academic, language, food and climate differences will only be disturbing you at the initial stage and you will gradually overcome the problems. You definitely will start enjoying the lifestyle in the UK just as many other international students. 

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