British Culture And Etiquette
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Guide For International Students On British Culture And Etiquette

Higher education in the UK offers a unique opportunity to broaden knowledge, enhance horizons and enrich personal and professional lives. The UK is a home to world-class universities and every academic year, it welcomes more than 400,000 international students. While studying in the UK as an international student, you must not only manage multiple academic and social pressures, but you must always navigate the challenges of British culture and language. Therefore, as an international student heading for the UK, there are several unique and often quirky British customs, language and cultural differences you should take note of. Below is a Guide For International Students On British Culture And Etiquette.

Guide For International Students On British Culture And Etiquette

The best way to learn is from experience but having some background knowledge on British culture will be invaluable as you navigate your way through the British maze.


The most over-used word in the British language is probably the word ‘sorry’. Brits have a huge tendency to over-apologies, from the weather to when someone bumps into them on the train. According to a survey, the average person in the UK uses the word ‘sorry’ around seven times a day, with someone apologising up to 20 times.


The British take queuing very seriously; they are very orderly; they have a strange habit of forming queues wherever there are large groups of people. They wait their turn and go by a ‘first come, first serve’ basis. Under no circumstances should you push or jump in as you will be confronted with scathing looks, so be warned.

Being polite

Learning the ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ (PS and As) is taught to Brits from a very young age. Traditional British custom states that ‘manners maketh the man’, so try as much as possible to sprinkle as many P’s and Q’s when having a conversation. Being polite will always be well-received and it will put you in a good stead. A ‘please’ is almost always followed by a ‘thank you’.


Punctuality is highly valued in UK. Being late is regarded as rudeness. It is advisable to arrive 5-20 minutes early for a business or more formal meetings, when studying in the Uk, try not to arrive late to lectures as no one likes to be interrupted mid-flow. If you are late, remember to say ‘sorry’ and enter quietly. Being 5-10 minutes late in a formal or larger gathering like parties is less of a problem.


The British truly believe that almost anything can be cured with a good-ol’ cup of tea! In fact, it’s very much part of the fabric of British life. Offering a ‘cuppa’ is a great way to break the ice and make new friends. English breakfast tea is the most popular type of tea, followed closely by the Queen’s favourite – Earl Grey. The conundrum is whether one pours the milk or tea first (…but if you go for milk first, you’re wrong)!

British Humour

Brits are polite and generally don’t express strong opinions, but sometimes they may not necessarily mean what they say. Often you will have to “read between the lines” because British sarcasm uses a mixture of irony and mockery in a humorous way. Sarcasm is very context-dependent, but an example is when someone expects something to happen and it does and they say ‘well, what a surprise!’.

Making new friends is easier when you can make them laugh, so if you can laugh at yourself, you will be well-liked too. Regale your new friends with humorous tales of your escapades and near-misses and watch them envelop you with their affection.

The key to British etiquette is to always be open and accepting. There will be cultural and language barriers, which could take some time to overcome. But these tips and tricks should help you settle into your new life in the UK. It would be wise to do as the Brits do when in Britain!

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