The University of Southampton
International Voices

My first impressions of the UK


Everyone who comes to a new environment, especially to study or work overseas,  would definitely face cultural shock. Well, for me, the biggest challenge was the clothes then the food when I came to the UK. Before I started my main course, I also attended a pre-sessional course in summer. So I experience British summer in advance to other international classmates.

What to wear?

Before I came to the UK, I got advice about how to start a conversation with the British, definitely the safest topic is ‘WEATHER’. However, how can I adapt to the unpredictable weather in UK before I chat with the local about weather? As far as the people who are from the equator or tropical zone are concerned, we always feel cold in the UK. For example, when I attended my pre-sessional course in July, one day ,the temperature was maybe 12~15 degree. Our temporary tutor who was pregnant, she just wore a sleeveless dresses, but for us ,most Asian classmates, we wore a T-shirt and coat, one of my classmate even wore turtleneck sweater. At that time, I felt confused about how can I dress up? Even  now, it is winter but in the street you can see some people wear like summer style, like T-shirt or shorts!
I even doubted that there was no real summer in the UK until one day in August I traveled to London,when I enter the coach in the underground without air condition, I felt that was real summer because the temperature in coach almost 30 degree.  After that I watched the news, it said that was the hottest days in the UK. Moreover, I found many people like to sit down under the tree in park during that time because there are nearly no air condition in the house or flat .


London Underground without air condition.

photo by Hongyu Shi


Long escalator in London Underground

photo by Hongyu Shi

The food and cooking skills
For Chinese students, once you go abroad you can improve two skills, one is speaking English maybe, another is cooking. Some of my Chinese classmates suffer choosing food in the campus cafeteria, two extremes, one is high fat like pizza, burger and fish & chips, another is simple and always cold food like salad and different kinds of sandwich. Well, the only way to save my stomach is cooking by myself. I can cook a range of foods, from classical spaghetti to traditional Chinese Fired Rice. My flatmate spent two weeks to improve his cooking skill! He went from the basic fired rice and fried vegetables to ‘shredded chicken in sesame sauce’ with complex process. Oh,I feel hungry now!
To be honest , now I insist in cooking by myself, not only for my health , but also it can help me save money on food.


Cooking for myself

photo by Hongyu Shi


Finally, I would like recommend an interesting documentary, called ‘Very British Problem‘ . In this documentary, the British talk about very British problem in different topic: weather, clothes, rules and so on with their experience.


Hongyu Shi

Msc Education


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