What to expect when you go abroad for the first time

By Jennifer Rieck

Going abroad for the first time is a unique experience which will remain with you all of your life. For this reason it is important to do what you can to prepare, at least for the practical part of it! For the rest, it is best to go with an open mind – so be ready for any kind of adventure that could arise!

Since English is such a widespread language and many non- native English speakers know the basics, visiting England for the first time might be easier than expected. Most people have listened to music in English which can be heard on the radio or on television internationally. English is also the principal language of other media such as internet and television to which nearly everybody has access nowadays. Being familiar with the language on arriving will help you to go about your daily business with ease, make you feel at home more quickly and help you to make friends.

However, don’t be fooled into thinking you know it all! The UK is home to countless accents, dialects and language varieties that will inspire and surprise the linguist in you. Linguistic variation can make things harder so be sure to ask people to repeat themselves when you don’t understand them or to speak more slowly and clearly. English people are known for speaking too quickly!

In the UK it is important to adapt to the local people and their customs. Every culture has a ‘social etiquette’ and you will find that your experience is much easier if you respect it. The locals will be nicer to you if you are polite and well mannered. The British tend to be more formal when they don’t know you, hence the expression ‘British politeness,’ so it is important not to ask anything too personal when you first meet a local.

You should AVOID bringing up the following subjects, even if they are acceptable in your own culture:

  • Asking about money ex. ‘What do you earn?’
  • Criticising British customs ex. ‘British food is terrible!’
  • Asking about somebody’s marital status
  • Asking somebody’s age (especially if they are older than you- this is very disrespectful)
  • Commenting on somebody’s appearance or weight ex: ‘Maybe you should try going to the gym.’

Finally, what to do in the case of homesickness? Well, luckily for you, the UK is a culturally diverse country and nothing is too far away. So, if you’re craving your own culture, why not hop on a train or bus to London, one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities where you will be sure to find your native cuisine, language and people. This could be a great opportunity to plan a fun weekend with friends!

Remember that the British are open people and, when addressed in a friendly way, are very happy to make you a part of their group and help you to settle in and feel at home. So don’t be shy and do what you can to embrace the new culture and, most importantly, enjoy yourself and make it an experience of a lifetime!

Posted in The LTC Blog, Student Life |