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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: 


You will 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. 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 have difficulty understanding another British accent!). Perhaps listen to 6 Towns Radio to get used to the local accent! 


 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 is considered polite to stand in a queue or line, behind the person who arrived before you. It is considered rude and very bad mannered to "queue- jump", "cut" or push in to stand in front of someone who was already in a queue. 


The British typically add courtesy words into day to day conversation. You will be expected to 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’. If you have trouble hearing someone or would like someone to repeat themselves, you should day "Sorry?" or "Pardon?" rather than saying "What?". It is also considered rude to click your fingers or shout for attention for attention if you are in a restaurant or bar – if you do, then you might be ignored for the rest of the evening. 

Addressing your Lecturers

The lecturers here are happy to be addressed by their first names here which is quite different to lot of different countries and cultures. Whilst you should of course respect the lecturers station and their position, using formal language whilst addressing them isn't necessary.


It will 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 is 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 is 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. Do not worry if you do not like British tea (which in other countries is known as English Breakfast) as you can still find many herbal teas, green teas and chai teas in shops but if you ask for a cup of tea, you expect the standard black tea with the option of milk and sugar.

Coffee is also extremely popular though most people will only have instant coffee in their home. You can buy italian-style coffees or filter coffee from cafes and restuarants if you would like something stronger.

How to make a cup of tea (a brew)

First start by putting the tea bag in a mug and boiling the kettle. Ask your guest how many sugars they like in their tea.

Once you know how many sugars they like in there tea, add sugar to the mug.

Wait for the kettle to finish boiling then add that to the mug with the tea bag and sugar.

After adding water ask them how strong they like their tea.

Strong= leave in the tea bag for a while (5/8 minutes).

Average= do a couple stirs leave in for a minute and take out.

Weak= don't leave tea bag in for long.

Best thing is to stir the tea bag and then press the tea bag against the side to get the flavour out before you put it in the bin. Use this for both strong and weak brews.

If they ask for a builders brew it means they want it to be strong. Builders brew is slang.

Lastly ask them how much milk they want in there tea and add depending on how much they ask for.

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. 

Hear it from real people! 

See what Europeans really think about British culture

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. 

Written communication

Sometimes it is difficult to write to someone you don't know or don't know very well. This can be especially tricky in an academic environment. Here's some quick tips for SMS (text) messaging and emails:

  • Know your audience. If you are messaging a classmate, there is no need to be formal but if you are contacting someone at a company or the university, be sure to greet them and say who you are.
  • If sending someone and email, it's polite to include a greeting and sign it off at the end.
  • If you know the name of the person you are emailing, it's best to greet with a 'Dear Name' or 'Hello Name' depending on whether or not it's formal.
  • Titles are only really used in more formal situations or when you don't know someone's name. It's still always better to address something 'Mr. Smith' or 'Professor Smith' rather than 'Sir'. If in doubt, you should address someone by their job title.
  • Generally, you should not address things to 'Sir' as the person answering the email may not be male.
  • Likewise, while someone countries use titles like 'Miss', 'Madame' or 'Mam', this is not common in the UK and some women might find these terms offensive.
  • You will likely be able to address anyone in the university by their given name or preferred name.
  • It's always nice to greet someone in a text (SMS) but if it's not the first in a chain, you don't have to. If the person doesn't have your number, be sure to say who you are.
  • Another form of communication is through emojis, emojis can convey a lot of emotion in a message, if you are writing a joke and you want someone to know its a joke and not take it seriously you can add a laughing face.
  • For people who may be neurodivergent, or people who struggle to understand the tone of a message as it can get lost in communication sometimes it might help to use a thing we call tone indicators, it is to present emotion in the message for example / srs at the end of a text or an email means serious message:
  • /j – joking
  • /hj – half joking
  • /s – sarcastic
  • /srs – serious
  • /lh – lighthearted
  • /pc – positive connotation/ meant to be taken in a kind manner
  • /nc – negative connotation/ meant to be taken in a mean manner

Nicknames and slang

In England it is normal to use different names when addressing people, they aren't being rude its just because they have either forgotten your name or it is a term of endearment. Different nicknames can be used in different towns and cities across England, one thing you will learn is that someone from down south will use different nicknames and slang in comparison to someone from up north.

These are the most commonly used ones in Stoke on Trent and neighbouring towns that your classmates and teachers might use.


  • duck
  • pet
  • mate
  • chicken
  • hunny/hun
  • darling
  • sugar
  • sweetie
  • sugar plum


  • bloke- a man
  • leg it- run away
  • pissed- annoyed/ angry but also drunk
  • soz- sorry
  • nowt- nothing
  • kip- a snooze or a power nap
  • gutted- sad or disappointed
  • fag- another word for cigarette
  • gander- to look around
  • daft- when someone is being a bit stupid
  • knackered- tired/ exhausted
  • minging- gross or disgusting
  • trainers- American word is sneakers
  • nicked/ to nick- to steal something or it has been stolen
  • cheers- to say thanks or you clink your drinks together and say cheers
  • bloody- doesn't really have a definition its more of an expression "bloody hell"

Slang is very popular in England it is how we communicate with our friends but we don't use this slang in essays or when talking to our teachers or professional people in an interview or in the workplace.

How to meet people

Making friends as a kid is easy. You see your classmates every day and you have lots of time to play and get to know each other.

As an adult, this can be much trickier but you'll often find that the friends you meet in university are the ones you hold on to for longer.

What are some ways to make friends?

  • Start a study group. If someone is taking the same course as you, you will automatically have something in common. Study groups are a great way to improve academically while meeting new people.
  • Join a club, society or sports team. It can be hard to start a conversation out of the blue but when you have a common interest, you already have a conversation starter.
  • Come to social activities put on by the Student Support and Experience team specifically for international students.
  • Use communal spaces. If you live in a hall of residence, use the common spaces or leave your door open while you are in. Everyone wants to meet people so breaking down physical boundaries is the first step.
  • Say Yes! It can be very intimidating to go someplace new or spend time with a new group of people. New experiences can be scary but they can also be wonderful. Try going to a bowling alley, night club or karaoke night.
  • Remember you are not alone. For some, socialising is harder than it is for others and that's ok. You'll find that most people, even the ones who seem very confident, get anxious when they are in a new situation or don't know anyone. If you feel anxious, remember that most people have experienced this and look at taking little steps towards becoming more social. If a big party is scary, try asking a few people to have a meal in the pub. If you are nervous about making conversation, suggest an activity like a film or a table tennis match.
  • If you are finding social anxiety to be overwhelming, there are resources that can help you manage this. Check out the Wellbeing pages for more information.


Pubs are a big part of British social life. Pubs used to be known as "public houses" and traditionally they provided a place for travellers to eat and drink as well as spend the night. Today, it is a place where people congregate to relax, eat and drink. Some pubs have games you can play like darts or snooker and some might host regular quiz nights where pub- goers can compete in teams answering trivia questions. Most pubs are open for lunch and dinner and will stay open for drinks into the night.

Pubs are different from restaurants or bars and they have their own unique set of rules:

  • In a pub, you order at the bar, this means you need to know your table number when you order food. You normally also pay when you order. However, at some pubs ordering from a barcode at the table may be available to you.
  • In a pub, you might be expected to participate in the rounds system. This means that one person in the group will buy everyone's drink for the first "round" and then a different person will buy the next and so forth.
  • While drinking is a huge part of going to the pub, it is not the same as a bar. Children are normally welcome at pubs until about 9pm and plenty of people go for food or to socialise.
  • Most pubs will also show local or national sporting events. Be prepared that pubs will likely be very busy if a game is on!
  • Pubs are normally fairly casual. Many people will visit the pub when out for the day whether they are hiking or shopping and you can normally go straight to the pub in whatever you wore to work.


Night clubs are another way to go out and socialise in the UK.

Unlike pubs, night clubs are primarily for dancing and drinking. Of course, you don't have to drink alcohol, but you will find that most people in the club are drinking.

Night clubs tend to be darker and louder than pubs and people visiting night clubs tend to be more formal in the way they are dressed. If you've not been to a night club before, you might find it very crowded and difficult to talk to people or locate your friends. This doesn't mean it's not fun but it is something to keep in mind before you go.

Things to keep in mind when visiting a night club or bar:

  • Night clubs and bars open later and stay open late into the night.
  • You often need to wait in a queue before you can enter a night club and you may need to show your ID. Some venues may also require you to show proof of your Covid vaccination or a negative Covid test.
  • Some clubs and bars have dress code where you cannot wear casual clothing. While it varies from place to place, things like trainers, t-shirts and casual jeans may not be acceptable.
  • There are different kinds of night clubs that play different kinds of music and have different atmospheres. Some may play current pop music while others will play heavy metal and some clubs cater to the LGBTQ+ community. It's best to ask which around about the different clubs to find one that will be the most enjoyable for you.
  • You may find that British women get very dressed up to go to a bar or a club. You will see women with lots of make-up and showing a lot of skin. While this might not be typical in every country, this is a normal part of going out in Britain and it is important that everyone must be respected regardless of what they choose to wear.

Going to someone's house

Going out isn't for everyone and a wonderful way to get to know people is by having more intimate or personalised visits to people's homes. This of course comes with it's own set of things to keep in mind.

  • You shouldn't arrive early to someone's house unless you have been asked to. If you are invited to someone's home for 8pm, for example, you will not be expected to arrive right on time. You would probably be expected between 8:15 and 8:30. You don't, however, want to arrive too late. If a meal is being served, you might want to check if there is a planned time.
  • What kind of event are you attending? Is this a dinner party with a few people or a party? Will food be served? It is perfectly fine to ask the host some details so you know what to bring and what to prepare. For example, if dinner is being served, you don't need to eat before but if it for drinks and "nibbles" it would be good to make sure you have a meal first.
  • Don't go empty handed! You should always bring something to someone's home. Most often, this is what you will be drinking but this could also be a dish of food to share or some snacks depending on the event.
  • If you are hosting someone in your home, is it polite to offer them a drink. Often this is just tea or coffee but you will be expected to make the drink for them. For the English they are very particular about their tea. Here are some instructions for a good cup of tea:

The LGBTQ+ community

At Staffordshire university, we are proud to be inclusive to our LGBTQ+ community, but we also know that some people might not be fully aware of the social norms and customs we have when it comes to being a part or supporting those who are in the LGBTQ+ community. We aim to create a safe and respectful community at Staffordshire university and that means being aware of the people around us including your classmates or lecturers whatever they identify as, we want them to feel as included in our community as we do you. At the university many students and staff might be wearing pronoun badges which helps others understand what the person wants to be addressed by and this will also be available to you as well.

What are the different pronouns?

  • she/ her- presents as female
  • he/ him- presents as male
  • they/ them- presents as non - binary
  • she/ him/they- gender fluid

What is non- binary?

Non-binary is when someone doesn't identify as either male nor female they may feel a mix or both or not relate to either at all.

What is gender fluid?

Gender fluid is someone that moves between male and female. some days will identify as female other days as male.

What is transgender?

Transgender is someone that doesn't identify with the gender that they were given at birth and the majority of the times identifies as the opposite gender.

Top tip: if you are confused with someone's pronouns it is best to ask them. For example, "hi, may I ask what are your preferred pronouns?" or if it gets too much to remember or you are too shy to ask it is best to stick to neutral terms.

Gender neutral terms you can use:

  • mate
  • they
  • them
  • folks
  • people

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.