UK culture: lifestyle, higher education, food and traditions
The culture of England and the United Kingdom is vastly diverse. Made up of four countries; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, each sector of the UK has its own identity and traditions.
Our guide on the UK for international students will teach you everything you need to know about living abroad for your studies.
How to immerse yourself in UK culture
Living in the UK can seem daunting to international students at first. Rather than trying to avoid culture shock, you should try to embrace it. A great way of doing this is to immerse yourself in UK culture and traditions.
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the culture of the United Kingdom is to visit museums. A lot of museums around the UK are free to visit and they are an excellent way to learn the history of where you are studying.
Food is a huge part of culture wherever you may study and the same can be said for the UK. Trying local food and drink is an authentic and fun way of immersing yourself in UK culture, whether this be fish and chips or a classic cup of tea.
Going for a walk around the area, as simple as it sounds, is a great way to learn more about the locals and lifestyle of where you are studying. Just by taking a walk you can learn about British architecture, and you may even come across famous landmarks and attractions.
Attending events is another great way of learning more about culture in the UK. These can include festivals, sporting events and live shows. Sporting events like football and rugby are a large part of culture in the United Kingdom.
The weather in the UK, although unpredictable, is rarely extreme. Even though it is known for raining most days of the year, the UK does experience distinguishable seasons. It has also been said that you can experience all four seasons in just one day.
- Summer – June to August
- Autumn – September to November
- Winter – December to February
- Spring – March to May
Festivals are a large part of UK culture with over 800 music festivals alone taking place every year. Although music festivals are one of the main attractions in the UK, other festival types also include wellness, arts and literary and food.
Food festivals, showcasing national and international cuisines, are becoming increasingly more common around the UK with each city having its own.
Higher education system in the UK
The United Kingdom is known for its the high standard of its education system. It boasts some of the top universities in the world.
How does the UK education system work?
There are four parts to the UK schooling system: primary, secondary, further, and higher education. Primary, secondary, and further education (college and apprenticeships) are all mandatory.
Once you have finished your mandatory studies, you are able to apply for a higher education degree at a university of your choosing.
A bachelor’s degree is an undergraduate degree you can study after completing your mandatory schooling. A typical bachelor’s degree takes three years to finish, however, there are some programmes that can take up to four years.
As an international student hoping to study a bachelor’s degree in the UK, you will be able to study a pathway programme such as the International Year One in Accounting and Finance at Kingston University International Study Centre. The International Year One programme will prepare you to join the second year of your bachelor’s degree at the University, allowing you to graduate in the typical three years..
Another option you have is studying a foundation year such as the International Foundation Year in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at Kingston. A foundation year allows you to spend a year in the International Study Centre gaining an understanding of your field of interest before progressing to the first year of your three-year degree at the University..
International tuition fees for a bachelor’s degree in the UK can be expensive so you need to find the course that is right for you.
A postgraduate master’s degree is completely optional but is a great way to gain further understanding of a specific subject area. Having a master’s degree will also mean you have more career opportunities available to you after completion. Many masters courses in the UK take just one year to complete, however, you can choose to do it over two years by adding work experience into your studies.
Postgraduate preparation programmes are also available, such as the Pre-Masters Programme in Business and Management. This programme provides a pathway to a master’s degree and has two study options available; two terms or a condensed 12 week fast-track.
Tuition fees for a masters degree can be just as expensive as studying a bachelor’s. Fees vary depending on which university you go to and the course you are studying.
Grading system of education in UK universities
The UK has a unique grading system for higher education. The aim of the system is to be more specific when describing your academic achievements. Each grade has a subsequent word which describes the quality of work. These are:
- First-class: 70% and above - excellent to outstanding
- Upper second-class: 60-69% - good to very good
- Lower second class: 50-59% - satisfying
- Third-class: 40%-49% - sufficient
- Fail: 0-39% - unsatisfactory
Food & traditions
Food culture in the UK is often based around social gatherings and interactions. Typical UK culture food consists of fish and chips, full English breakfast, a Sunday roast, and a cup of tea.
One of the first things you will be offered when walking into a British home is a cup of tea. Having a cup of tea (or coffee) is the basis of many British social interactions.
The national dish of the UK is surprisingly not fish and chips, although it was for quite some time. Recently chicken tikka masala has been named as the UK’s favourite dish, which is said to have originated from the South Asian community in Britain.
As the UK is vastly multicultural it is likely you will find food from all over the world almost anywhere you go.
Religion & Beliefs
The UK, known for its multiculturalism, is unsurprisingly diverse in its religious beliefs. Although the Church of England was the official state-sanctioned religion for quite some time, it now makes up less than half of the religious population of the UK. Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism are also prevalent within the United Kingdom.
However, not everyone in the UK practices religion, it is estimated that a third of UK residents have no religious connections.
The UK economy is the fifth largest in the world and its most thriving sector is the service industry, with business and finance sitting firmly at the top. Other important industries include:
- Oil and gas production
No matter where you decide to study in the UK, we hope you enjoy exploring the culture and traditions as an international student.
Which education system is better, the UK vs US?
The education systems in the UK and the US are different but they both offer an excellent schooling experience.
If the length of your course is a deciding factor for you, the UK has shorter degree courses which also means lower tuition fees.
How many cultures are in the UK?
As this is something that is ever evolving it is difficult to pinpoint an exact number. However, in 2021 the UK House of Commons shared migration statistics showing that 9% of people living in the UK had the nationality of a different country. That’s around six million people sharing their culture and traditions to make the United Kingdom a hive of multicultural wonder.
What are British cultural values?
- Democracy – a culture built on equality and freedom where everyone is aware of their rights and responsibilities
- Individual liberty – the freedom to respectfully share thoughts and opinions
- Respect and tolerance – respecting the beliefs, values, and ideas of others