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British and local culture

You’re going to call the UK home for a while so why not start by learning about our culture, regional differences and some of our quirky terms! 

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 mean different things:  

  • The United Kingdom or UK - made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  

  • Great Britain – made up of England, Wales and Scotland. 

  • England – one of the four countries that make up the UK.   

Each of the four countries – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – has its own unique history, culture and in some cases, laws. Each country also has its own flag and patron saint with a special day and celebrations. 

Cultural issues 

The UK is a multi-cultural society so there’s not too much that you need to worry about. Here are a few things to consider: 

Accents 

You’ll encounter many different accents while living in the UK. After a while you’ll get used to the local accent but if you don’t understand what someone is saying, ask if they can repeat themselves slowly. Don’t be surprised if other people ask you to do the same, after all, yours will be a new accent for many locals. Don’t feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when you do not understand someone – this is completely normal (often, British people have difficulty understanding another British accent!). Perhaps listen to 6 Towns Radio to get used to the local accent! 

Queuing 

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

Manners 

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 say ‘sorry’. Never click your fingers for attention if you are in a restaurant or bar – if you do then you might be ignored for the rest of the evening. 

Football 

It’ll come as no surprise that many of the English are fanatical about football (known in some countries as soccer). To a lot of people, it’s much more than a hobby – it's 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 two 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). 

Drinking tea 

It’s not just a stereotype – the British really do drink lots of tea! (about 165 million cups daily, or 60.2 billion a year) However, in Staffordshire, the word "tea" can be used to describe the evening meal. 

Staffordshire oatcakes & pikelets 

These food items are local to Staffordshire, particularly Stoke. Oatcakes are a savoury dish - soft, flat and round and looks a bit like a pancake. 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’re eaten toasted, often with butter and/or jam.  

Fish and chips 

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

Going out (drinking) 

You’ll 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’s perfectly acceptable for you to go into a bar and not drink alcohol – there are many alternative soft drinks available. 

Hear it from real people! 

See what Europeans really think about British culture

Faith and religion 

The University is a multicultural and multifaith community. We provide a very supportive environment. For details of multifaith support at the University, please visit our Faith and Spirituality pages. 

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, here’s a list of phrases and words you may hear in the Staffordshire area as well as around the country:  

Ace - if something is ‘ace’ it’s brilliant or very good.  

Bank Holiday – there are eight official holidays, spread throughout the year, 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’re ‘gutted’ when disappointed about something. However, it’s 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 very 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 task is a piece of cake, they are telling you that it’s very easy.  

Porkies - is another word for lies. When someone it not telling the truth, it’s 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.