British and Local Culture

England, Britain or the UK?

First – Do you know where you live? England, Britain or the UK? These terms are often used interchangeably, however they all mean different things. Although it is unlikely that anybody will take offence if you use the wrong term, you should know the difference:

  • The UK – United Kingdom. Made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (sometimes called Ulster)
  • Great Britain – made up of England, Wales and Scotland.
  • England – one of the 4 countries that make up the UK.  

Each of the four countries – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales – has its own unique history, culture and, in some cases, laws. Each country also has its own flag and patron saint – you’ll notice each of these saints has a special day and there are usually celebrations.

Cultural issues

The UK is a multi-cultural society so there is not too much that you need to worry about. Probably the most important is that the British are a very polite nation and will expect you to be the same. You should say please if you want something and thank you if you receive something. If you wish to interrupt someone, you should say excuse me and if you accidentally walk into someone then you should say sorry. When you are in a restaurant or waiting at a bar you should never click your fingers for attention – if you do then you might find that you are ignored completely for the rest of the evening.

You will notice a lot of differences in the way British people speak and behave – this can also vary from town to town! Some of the more obvious ones you will encounter:

Accents

You will encounter many different accents while living in the UK. After a while you will get used to the local accent and will understand it better. If you do not understand what someone is saying, ask if they can repeat themselves slowly. Do not be surprised if other people ask you to do the same, after all, yours will be a new accent for many locals! Do not feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when you do not understand someone – this is completely normal (often, British people will have difficulty understanding another British accent!).

If you want to know more about the way local people speak and the local dialects, BBC’s Voices 2005 in Staffordshire can take you through the History of the Potteries Dialect  and  give you a taste of the different accents in Staffordshire

Queuing

The British are generally very polite and orderly and so whenever more that one person wishes to do something – buy and item in a shop, take money out of a cash machine (ATM) or wait for a bus – it is acceptable to stand in a queue, behind the person who arrived before you. It is considered rude and very bad mannered to queue-jump or push in – to stand in front of someone who was already in a queue.

Football

It will come as no surprise that the English are fanatical about football (known in some countries as Soccer). To a lot of people, it is much more than a hobby – it is an obsession! People can be extremely proud of their local team. Be careful not to say anything bad about someone’s chosen football team – it can be taken offensively. In the English football league, there are four divisions: the Premiership, the Championship, League 1 and League 2.

There are 2 major football teams in Staffordshire, Stoke City and Port Vale. Football matches are played mainly on Saturdays (the kick off is usually 15.00) and one day during the week (the kick off is usually 19.45).

Tea

It is not just a stereotype – the British really do drink lots of tea! However, in Staffordshire, tea can be used to describe the evening meal.

Oatcakes & Pikelets

These cereal-based food items are local to Staffordshire, particularly Stoke. Oatcakes are soft, flat and round, similar to a pancake. They can be eaten sweet or savoury and usually the filling is rolled up in the oatcake and eaten with your hands.

Pikelets are smaller than oatcakes with lots of holes in the top. They can sometimes contain fruit such as sultanas and raisins. They are eaten toasted or grilled, often with butter and/or jam. 

Fish and Chips

This is a traditional, typically British takeaway meal consisting of a piece of fish (usually cod, plaice or haddock), coated in batter and deep fried and wrapped in paper. It is served with deep fried potatoes – chips.

Going Out  (drinking)

You will find that many British students will go out socially for a drink or go dancing two to three times a week. Popular places for this on campus are the Students’ Union bars. It is perfectly acceptable for you to go into a bar and not drink alcohol – there are many alternative soft drinks available.

Attractions in Staffordshire

If you want to get out of the University and have some day trips, Enjoy Staffordshire has a list of attractions for you to enjoy in Staffordshire. Stoke-on-Trent is also ideally located in the middle of England within easy travelling distance to major cities like Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and London by train or car. You will not be bored. 

Faith and religion

The University is a multicultural and multifaith community. We provide a very supportive environment. For details of multifaith support, please go to the Multifaith Chaplaincy.

Common UK Phrases

Certain English language terms can mean more than one thing in different parts of the UK. To help you understand us a bit better, this is a list of phrases and words you may hear when you arrive.  Meanings of certain words can change slightly depending on the area of the UK where you live. You may well have heard a number of these already, but we thought we’d give you a flavour of the terms used typically in the Staffordshire area as well as around the country!

Ace - If something is ‘ace’ it is brilliant or really good.

Bank Holiday - There are about 8 in total spread throughout the year, and they are official holidays that most people in the UK have as a day off from work. 

Bear With Me – if someone says this to you, they are asking you to wait a short time until they can help you. They may also say ‘Can you hold on a minute’.

Brolly - Is short for umbrella.  An essential item in England!

Catch – In the UK, we often say we are going to ‘catch the bus’ or ‘catch the train’. Don’t worry, we just mean that we are going to get on the bus or train!

Cheerio - A friendly way of saying goodbye.

Cheers - A word used when drinking with friends. It can also mean ‘thank-you’.

Christian name – This is your first name, the name that you want people to address you by.

Dear - If something is ‘dear’ it is expensive.

Duck  – Don’t be alarmed if someone calls you a duck! This is a friendly term used by people in Staffordshire, often tagged onto the end of sentences.  Other variations throughout the country include ‘pet’, ‘love, and ‘sugar’.

Fortnight – This is a quick way of saying two weeks.

Give us a bell – Another way of saying call me on the telephone. You often hear people use the word ‘us’ to mean ‘me’.

Give me a ring – This also means call me on the telephone.

Grub - Means food, although it can also be an insect.

Gutted – People will often say they are ‘gutted’ when disappointed about something. However, it is often used when the issue isn’t too serious.

Hiya - Short for hi there, a friendly way of saying ‘hello’.

It’s your round – If this is said to you, then it’s your turn to buy the drinks!

Jammy - Means you are really lucky.

Kip - A short sleep.

Left, right and centre – A phrase used to mean you’ve been looking all over for something.

Mate – This is another word for friend. Although the same as duck, it can also be tagged on the end of sentences as a friendly term.

Nice one – If this is said to you, it means you have done a good job.

Not my cup of tea – this is an alternative way of saying that something is not to your liking.

Nowt - Means nothing.

Off colour – Another way of saying you’re not feeling very well.

Pear shaped - Means something has gone wrong, ‘its all gone pear shaped’.

Piece of cake – If someone says to you that a particular task is a piece of cake, they are telling you that it is really easy.

Porkies - Is another word for lies.  When someone it not telling the truth, It is a form of rhyming slang.

Quid - A pound in money can also be called a quid.

Shambles  - If something is a shambles it’s a real mess.

Shirty - Means that someone is getting bad tempered.

Ta - is short for ‘thanks’.

Uni  - Short for university.

Waffle - Means to keep talking on about nothing.

You’re Kidding!  – Usually said in disbelief, when you are asking if something is really true.