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Studies in Great Britain: How to adapt to British Culture

One of the words most commonly used to describe British culture both on the European continent and in America is “different”. However, the usefulness of this description is obviously limited. If you want to go to Great Britain for a longer period of time, for example for your studies, then a much more precise description is needed.

Perhaps the most prominent cultural specifity is the pound. No other country has this currency and from wherever you come, you will need to exchange money before your stay and ensure that your credit or debit card will work in British ATMs, preferably without you having to pay a substantial fee, so that your access to money in the needed currency is guaranteed at all times.

More troubles may come up when you book your accommodation. Not only are they incredibly expensive, but the rent often has to be paid every week instead of once a month, as is usual in most European countries. Another problem are room types: For example, many people assume at first that double and twin rooms are the same, although in fact they are not. In both cases you rent a room which you will have to share with another person. However, in a twin bedroom you will both have a bed, whereas in a double room you might be sharing a bed with a total stranger. Not a good thing to notice only after your arrival at your new flat…

Cultural differences can cause even bigger problems. You may think it is funny when one person bumps into another and both people start apologising profusely, but in the United Kingdom this is an ordinary occurrence. Consequently, if somebody bumps into you, you are supposed to do that, too. If you do not smile and say sorry you will be perceived as impolite. Depending on your country of origin this can seem entirely unreasonable, but in England it is custom, nevertheless. Thus, it is important to say “sorry”, “thank you” and “please” at all the right times and better say them more often then strictly necessary, just in case.

Furthermore, the English often seem reserved and indirect to other peoples, however this does not mean that they are disinterested, not at all. It is again all about being polite. British people are very conscious of their and other people’s privacy. This also shows in the way they hold themselves: Make sure not to intrude into their personal space, it is again considered to be rude.

At last there is the famous British humour, which is so rich in puns and irony, but certainly an acquired taste. It is not easy to understand at first, but with time everybody can pick it up and suddenly you might even find yourself delighted by a joke you would have had trouble understanding only a month before. If that happens you have really come a long way towards adjustment to British culture.

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