If you’re currently looking ahead to study an English language course or Foundation course at New College Manchester then we imagine you’re probably highly organised in relation to your finances, accommodation and all those other important details. But those bigger issues aside, what can international students really expect from life in Manchester?
It’s very hard to prepare for the cultural differences you’re likely to encounter before you leave home, so we’ve prepared a simple guide which highlights the everyday differences you’re likely to face. Manchester is an incredibly diverse and international city, so we all have our own customs and values to an extent, but as a rule, these simple tips should give you a realistic picture of life in the UK.
In the UK, lecturers and tutors usually appreciate their students challenging ideas and posing interesting debates, which may be slightly different from what you are used to at home. As a result in university lectures and seminars, you will often hear students asking questions and expanding on a topic. This isn’t considered rude at all and discussions are considered as beneficial to the whole class, especially if you are applying outside learning to a topic.
In the UK it is common to shake right hands when meeting someone for the first time but if you feel uncomfortable with this, then a warm smile or a small explanation will put the other person at ease. You should always remember that people are generally very understanding, so do what makes you feel comfortable.
You may see friends hugging as a greeting or parting gesture in the UK and couples will freely embrace in public. This may be very different from what you are used to at home, but please don’t feel uncomfortable; it is just what has evolved to become acceptable in the UK.
It has become a bit of a running joke that we like to queue in the UK, and to be honest this stereotype is actually very true! Britons view queuing as the fairest way and if you move in front of someone whilst queueing this is considered very rude.
In Manchester, local people are generally very polite and will say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when speaking to people and ‘excuse me’ if they would like to get someone’s attention. It is often remarked by Americans that Britons are quite reserved but if you are meeting someone for the first time they will usually be more than happy to tell you all about their life, family or profession! Good conversation starters in the UK are as you would expect, and if you would like to start a conversation, asking someone what they like to do with their spare time is always a good option.
In the US tipping is practically mandatory and it is considered rude not to leave a tip even if the service was bad! In the UK however we generally have a more relaxed and meritocratic approach and a 10% tip is a good guide if you have had a good meal. Although the hospitality industry is probably the sector most associate with tips in the UK, you may also want to leave a small tip for a taxi driver or hairdresser, but this is completely at your discretion; it is always appreciated but certainly isn’t expected.
In the UK, despite our multi-cultural population, national holidays are usually centred around Christian celebrations. Schools, universities and places of work will usually shut down over the Christmas period (late December to early January) with Christmas Day (25th December), Boxing Day (26th December) and New Year’s Day (1st January) all holiday days. Schools and universities will usually enjoy a long 2-3 week break around Easter (this varies each year but is usually late March/early April) and workplaces will have a 4 day weekend taking Easter Friday and Easter Monday off work.
Schools and universities have a summer break and this can be anything from May- October (universities) to late July-early September (schools). Aside from the main holiday periods we also have two bank holiday Mondays in May and one towards the end of August.
We hope that’s introduced you to some of the most popular everyday cultural variations and hopefully shown you most Mancunians are polite and understanding too! Many of our courses also contain a cultural studies element, so if you’re still slightly worried about the cultural differences, we aim to dispel any fears you might have. Remember, many of our tutors have lived in different countries around the world, so please talk to us if you have any concerns.