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Adapting to Life in the UK

Life in the UK is probably very different to life in your home country and international students can find it hard to adapt. You may feel some ‘cultural surprise’ when you live and study at York St John University (even if you have lived in the UK before). It will take some time but you will soon adjust and feel comfortable in York and the UK. Below are examples of British culture which you may find helpful.


Being polite

The British use expressions such as ‘please’, ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’ a lot more than other nationalities. It is easy to occasionally misunderstand and interpret something as impolite; it might be a gesture, a different way of addressing someone, looking someone in the eye when you speak, expectations around offers of hospitality, etc.


Queuing (waiting in line)

In the UK it is polite to queue and wait your turn in a café, bank, shop or anywhere that you receive a service.



It is perfectly natural and understandable to look for other students of your own nationality to mix with socially. To help you make the most of your university experience it is good to meet British students too. British students might meet up for a cup of coffee/tea and a chat, or they might go to a pub for a drink, which does not have to be alcoholic. Joining societies and clubs, such as Global Friends is an excellent way of meeting other students of all nationalities. Global Friends run Global Teas which happen on the first and third Wednesday of every month, you can go along to socialise, have fun and enjoy free drinks and snacks.


British culture

A great way to experience British culture is to take part in the HOST UK programme which offers opportunities to spend a weekend, a week or Christmas with a British family.


Students having coffeeRelationships and gender issues

You may experience cultural differences from what you are used to, for example displays of affection in public, how people (especially women) dress, degrees of openness around sexual orientation, how men and women relate to each other.



Smoking is not allowed in public buildings; including restaurants, bars, pubs and on public transport. You are also not permitted to smoke anywhere on the University campus, apart from outside the Students’ Union at certain times. If you smoke in university accommodation you could receive a fine.


Time Keeping

It is important to be punctual in the UK. Lectures and lessons will start at the scheduled time and you will interrupt the session if you are late. Punctuality is also important for appointments, for example with a doctor. If you know you will be late or if you will not be attending (a lecture or class for example), it is important that you phone or email beforehand to let the person know.



It is important to be courteous to whoever you are talking to, no matter who they are or what their job is.


Student life

More information about living in the UK can be found on the UK Student Life website.

GB Mag logo

GB Mag welcomes all international students studying in the UK with the latest on lifestyle, fashion, technology, student life and British culture. Sign up to their newsletter to receive invites to exclusive events and socializers.



We hope you enjoy your time in York and the UK and leave having had a positive, enriching and valuable experience. If you have any worries or questions about anything while you are here, please visit the Student Advice Desk (in the Holgate Building) or email the International Student Support Officer: a.layton-bennett@yorksj.ac.uk