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International student support

UK culture and way of life

Information about UK culture and customs.

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The UK is rich with culture and customs. Although some of these may seem different and unusual we hope you will be able to experience and enjoy as much as possible during your time at York St John.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) have lots of useful information and advice on all aspects of living and studying in the UK. Check out their page on UK traditions and culture.

'Culture shock' describes the impact of moving from a familiar culture to one which is unfamiliar. This can affect anyone and is quite normal. Your fellow international students will share the experience but so will many UK students who are away from home for the first time.

If you experience culture shock it does not mean you made a wrong choice in coming to York. Our dedicated international student support team is here to help you in all aspects of support you may need. UKCISA also provide useful information about facing culture shock.

We provide you with a busy Welcome Week programme, which takes place at the start of each semester.  This will help you settle in easily, with advice on everything from accommodation issues to opening a bank account and from registering with the health centre to finding your way around the campus and city.

We are here to guide and support you.

Life in the UK

British etiquette

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, and so on.

Time keeping

It is important to be on time 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.


In the UK it is polite to queue and wait your turn in a café, bank, shop or anywhere that you receive a service. You will be seen eventually, you just have to wait.


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. If you smoke in university accommodation you could receive a fine.

Gender and relationships

You may experience 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.


Meeting other students

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 or 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 is an excellent way of meeting other students, developing your skills and hobbies and, of course, having fun! Have a look at what's on offer on the YSJ Student Union website.

Global campus programme

Meet students of all nationalities at our weekly Global Campus Cafes

You can also join our YSJ Global Campus forum on Facebook. This is a space for you to meet, talk and plan. You might want to ask for tips from UK students, give advice to students coming from your home country, or even meet exchange students who have studied at your home institution. 

Be sure to get involved in our Global Campus forum


UK weather

Another aspect of UK life which could be different, confusing or surprising is the UK weather and British people love to talk about it!

Weather in the UK is famously difficult to predict, as it is always changing.

For the most up to date weather forecast see the York BBC Weather website.

Semester 1: September to December/January

In September it can be quite sunny and pleasant while in October the weather usually stays mild but starts to cool off.

November and December can be very misty and cold and there is a chance of frost and snow from late November onward.

It is best to dress in layers at this time of year and make sure you have a hat, scarf and gloves.

Semester 2: January to May

January and February remain very cold and there is still a good chance of frost and snow.

March is the start of spring, but it can be be very unpredictable and might be both chilly and warm on the same day! No year is the same!

April and May are when it generally starts to warm up and the city comes alive with spring flowers coming into bloom. There is a good chance of rain throughout the year, but especially in the spring, so be prepared with a light rain coat and umbrella.


Walking through the city streets when it's very rainy or snowy can be a challenge so it is a good idea to invest in a good pair of walking boots or rubber 'wellies' when you arrive in the UK.

Make sure you bring at least a couple of nice dress-up outfits for evenings out, or for events like Summer Ball in May.

Dress shoes are important also, because some pubs and bars in York do not allow trainers or sneakers during evenings at the weekend.


Studying in the UK

Studying in the UK could be different to studying at home, from teaching styles to class sizes to exams, it can take some getting used to. Just remember, you are not alone!

UKCISA offer a good introduction to studying in the UK. This explains key terms and gives useful information. They also have lots of tips to help you prepare for success.

Study support

You can also talk to your academic tutor or contact International Student Support for advice. Our Study Development team can help if you are having trouble getting used to studying in the UK. 

Find out about study support on our Study Skills pages.

Help and support

Wellbeing support

Our wellbeing team can help if you need emotional and psychological support. They also have resources and advice for topics including homesickness, worry and relationships.

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Language support

The Insessional Support and Language Development team can help you improve your English language skills. They offer 1 to 1 tutorials as well as online study materials.

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Report and support

We expect all our staff and students to treat each other with kindness and respect. You can report incidents of hate crime, domestic violence and sexual harassment using Report and Support.