British Culture: An Outsider’s Point of View

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What is British Culture? The term is unclear but what is clear, is that there are many social values often frowned upon by international students. Altogether, an experience to learn from.

Some may term the culture as unacceptable whilst, others may learn to love and adopt it. I believe this is one of the main issues which many international students face- holding on to their culture in the UK during their stay or adopting that of the country so as to be better accepted. I will comment on what I found to be international students' view of the British culture.

The Shocks

Often what many international students find shocking is the ‘going Dutch' culture. This means that everyone pays for themselves. This has often been a source of laughter or snide comments. International students tend to come from societies where they are used to one person paying for the whole table, and each person would have their opportunity to pay for the bill on different occasions.

There are also the social values of the culture in regards to family life. In the United Kingdom, divorce and single motherhood is a common phenomenon which is perhaps not as outstanding in more conservative societies. Many have linked it to the ‘clubbing and pub' culture which involves evenings of consuming litres of alcohol and recreational drugs (students can find alcohol and drug rehab programs here), dancing to the break of dawn and possibly leaving with an acquaintance (also known as a complete stranger). This seems altogether rather offensive to students from conservative societies (and me, as to why men can be so forward and disrespectful). The dress codes are also a source of concern, especially as the winter months approach when "surely she must be cold?" is a question often on the international student's mind.

The Benefits

Liberal societies call for liberal behaviour, although there can be negative repercussions, we must admit to the positive ones. It is very interesting the way in which freedom of expression is so upheld in this society. Students are actively allowed to express their views on any topic and think ‘outside the box'. Students are encouraged to be politically engaged, whether in peaceful demonstrations or writing for student papers. This is certainly a welcome change.

Moreover, as a ‘Londoner' the fact that the English and people from all over the world live together in one city amazes me. Although we may all have our own cultures and values, we are still able to live together peacefully. Many people of different races and religions become friends and some fall in love. This supersedes cultural differences and embraces the personality within the person. If London is to teach one anything is that prejudices are often false and ‘Don't judge a book by its cover' cliché probably originated in this vibrant multicultural city.

This article can in no way be generalised. I am from a society which has adopted, or is quickly adopting, many western values (to our detriment or not) so it has not hit me as hard except for the freedom of expression which I love and embrace. However, many students from other communities may find what is seen as British culture rather daunting!


Angelique is a student blogger for Foreign Students. Originally from the Seychelles, she is currently a Law student at the University of London. You can read all her older posts here.  

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