Welcome to the UK - What you need to know

In order to live like a Brit, we’ve put together a guide to life in the UK including popular British culture & etiquette, a run-down of the yearly weather conditions as well as international call tariffs.

Popular British Culture & Etiquette

Here at Student Living we have devised a guide to typical British culture that, as an international student, we think you’ll find pretty useful.
As in most foreign countries and cultures, there’s a certain etiquette and way to behave. As the Brits are fanatics for adhering to protocol, here’s our top 10 tips to behaving like a Brit.
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Punctuality

Generally speaking, you’ll find the Brits are a highly punctual nation, finding it rude and impolite to turn up late to an appointment.
Although students in their early University years may slack in this area, they’re very much aware of the need to be punctual and will usually call ahead if they know they’ll be even five minutes late.
You’ll find this especially true of the older generation.

Greetings

The handshake remains the most popular form of greeting in the UK. Usually with a firm grip, however, none mandatory
You’ll also find that some Brits take after their European neighbours by offering a kiss on the cheek (both cheeks in some instances) or even a tight embrace. You can usually follow their lead in this, so wait for it before you go kissing every new person you meet.
Brits aren’t keen on prolonged eye contact, so whilst it’s important that you do make eye contact, we don’t recommend staring for too long as this might make a new friend feel uncomfortable.  

Making friends

British students are a friendly bunch with an open mind. It might take a little time and effort at first to establish your friendship with British students, but once you have, it’s likely your friendship will last a lifetime.
As in most countries, it’s all about putting yourself out there and making an effort. You’ll soon find that there will be a range of opportunities at your fingertips to make friends, whether this be by attending University activities and study groups, or going to student parties and hangouts.

Tipping

Tipping isn’t mandatory or expected every time you dine out in the UK as it is in the States and Canada. That said, it is a very much appreciated gesture that not only hospitality staff appreciate, but also taxi drivers and even hairdressers.
Keep an eye out for restaurant bills as many add on a service charge of between 10-15%, so in these instances you wouldn’t need to tip.
Usually if Brits are going to tip, they will give 10% of the total amount and leave it on the bill presenter.

Politeness

The British are renowned for their polite and often reserved manner, having earned a reputation for not always speaking their mind in fear of hurting people’s feelings.
Unlike a lot of people in Germany who speak their mind in a direct manner, Brits will often skirt around a sticky subject and try and deliver their message as kind as possible.

Drinking alcohol

The age limit for drinking alcohol in the UK is 18, therefore, it’s a common occurrence you’ll see at University for students to be drinking alcohol. In fact, for some international students, it’s the most common ‘national impressions’ they find.  
Having said that, there is no pressure do the same. If you don’t normally drink alcohol, then there’s no need to start just because your British peers are doing do.  
It’s not uncommon to see a group of students heading out for a ‘night out’, especially during a 1st years first week – Fresher’s Week. This is the week where students across the UK will go out most evenings for a week to celebrate their impending undergraduate course.
In the UK, a ‘fresher’ is the term used to describe a new undergraduate student at University.
If you’re drinking alcohol, it’s best to always plan ahead so that you know how you’re getting home and what area of town you’re heading too. It’d be a good idea to also make a note of taxi numbers and bus routes for extra precaution.

What’s the weather like?

The Brits are a nation renowned for their love of talking about the weather, no matter if it’s positive, negative or simply to reference.
In order to plan ahead and know what clothing you’ll need per season, we’ve given you a run-down of an annual British year.

Spring (March, April & May)

A time of sunshine, sudden rain showers & blooming trees, flowers and plants.
The temperature around this time can vary from 36.7°F to 60.4°F (3°C to 15°C)

Summer (June, July & August)

Typically, the warmest UK season, a good British summer will bring long sunny days, occasional thunderstorms and during lucky years, even heatwaves. You’ll soon realise that British summers are unpredictable and are usually different from one year to the next.
Temperatures during the summer months can vary from around 49°F - 70°F (10°C to 21°C)

Autumn (September, October & November)

Weather during the autumn months can go from being mild and dry to wet and windy in an instant. It’s a beautiful season where the leaves fall, change colour and the temperature takes a dip.
Temperatures during the autumn vary from 38°F - 64°F (3°C-17°C)

Winter (December, January & February)

Winter is the UK’s coldest time of year with periodic freezing temperatures, icy conditions and even snow. That said, you’ll also find beautifully crisp sunny days with milder temperatures.
Temperatures during the Winter period range from 34°F - 45°F (0°C - 7°C)

British call tariffs

Whilst studying in the UK, you’ll no doubt need and want to keep in touch with family & friends back at home.
At Student Living, we’ve put together a guide to show how you can do this without it costing the earth.

Free internet calls

Some argue that the internet is numbing our brains, but there’s no arguing that the internet has revolutionised the way we keep in touch with family and friends.

Skype

Skype is free to download, and is undoubtedly the most popular and well known video calling platform of them all. You can either sign up via email or using your Facebook account where you’ll have free realm to call using Wifi or by topping up your account.

Apple FaceTime

If you have an Apple device, whether it’s an iPhone, iPad, iPod or a Mac, you’ll be free to use Facetime which basically allows you to call another Facebook user over Wifi or using your available data.  

Viber

Similar to Facetime, Viber is an app that you download and use to call users who have also downloaded Viber using a good Wifi connection.

International calling cards

You might not always have the luxury of 4G or Wifi, but don’t worry as there are a number of providers that allow you to re-route your calls by creating an international calling account with companies such as Planet Numbers.
This gives you huge savings for international calling – think 1p per minute instead of around 24p per minute which is the typical price of an international call.

International SIM's & call tariffs

For international calls from the UK, there can be a big difference in costs dependent on the network provider you’re with.
You can find a great list of network providers that provide the best deals for call abroad here.
If you need to find the international access code for a country – click here.