The UK may be small, but it is an exciting place that is full of history and tradition. This article will help you learn how the British enjoy spending their time, along with their most beloved traditions. Here are 12 very British things I think you should experience as an overseas student living in the UK.
1. VISIT A TRADITIONAL ENGLISH PUB
A traditional English Pub is often at the centre of a local community, whether you drink alcohol or not. It’s a place where friends gather to share social times together. With their roaring log fires and friendly people, English pubs look less like the kind of bars you might be used to, and more like a community living room.
If you want to try a very typically English drink, try the guest bitter, but be warned this can be an acquired taste. In the summer you will see a very fruity looking drink which is called ‘Pimm’s’ – this is traditionally served with lemonade and pieces of fruit such a cucumber and strawberries. It is a very popular choice with the locals and one that any overseas student should try whilst in the UK.
2. FISH AND CHIPS ON THE BEACH
Fish and Chips are a very traditional British meal and are considered a real treat in the UK. British people often eat Fish and Chips when visiting coastal towns on holidays and day trips.
There are many beautiful beaches to be found in the UK, and with the country being so small, the coast is within 2 hours drive of anywhere in the UK. So I recommend visiting your closest seaside town to enjoy some Fish and Chips by the sea. You can use TripAdvisor to find a Fish and Chip shop near you with a good rating from the locals.
3. HAVE AFTERNOON TEA
This very British event is traditionally served at around 4.00pm. It involves eating scones with jam and clotted cream, sandwiches, sweet pastries, cakes and of course a pot of English Breakfast tea.
Historically, ‘afternoon tea’ was invented to fill the long gap between lunch and dinner, but afternoon tea is now considered a treat in the UK. The Ritz Hotel in London is the most famous place to go for afternoon tea.
4. EAT STRAWBERRIES AND WATCH TENNIS AT WIMBLEDON
For two weeks of the year, British people become obsessed with tennis. Wimbledon is a very British sporting occasion where the food is as famous as the event itself. Expect to see ice cool jugs of Pimms, strawberries and cream, umbrellas to keep the rain at bay and maybe even some royalty in attendance.
5. VISIT A CASTLE
Learn about British history and visit one of many castles that were built to protect Britain in 1066 from the Norman Invasion. Spend your day wandering through beautiful grounds, exploring fortresses and taking in the spectacular views.
English Heritage is an organisation that looks after and restore a lot of England’s historic buildings. If English history interests you, it may be worth looking on there website for some ideas of where to visit.
6. GO PUNTING IN CAMBRIDGE
Punting is a very popular activity amongst UK and foreign students in Oxford and Cambridge. A punt is a flat-bottomed narrow boat that seats around 4 people with a fifth person who stands at the back guiding and propelling the boat with a long pole. It is a very pretty and pleasant way of seeing Cambridge and it’s a beautiful University.
7. WALK HADRIAN’S WALL
Hadrian’s Wall was the greatest engineering project taken on by the Roman Empire. It was built by a force of 15,000 men in less than 6 years and stretches 73 miles from the east coast of the UK to the west coast.
It was built to stop the people of Scotland from invading England. Today, the wall is surrounded by beautiful British scenery. By walking along the path that runs beside the wall you can explore the moorland of north England.
Students from China should not have expectations of the Great Wall – Hadrian’s wall is much smaller and much of it is broken and decayed.
8. STEP INSIDE A STATELY HOME
Discover Britain’s heritage and explore the beautiful stately homes that were built to house the aristocratic families of the United Kingdom. Expect to be blown away by impressive architecture, grand rooms, priceless art, lavish ceilings and beautifully landscaped gardens. Discover stately homes near you by visiting The National Trust.
9. EXPERIENCE GUY FAWKES NIGHT
Guy Fawkes night (also known as bonfire night) is a strange English tradition that happens every year on the 5th November. It marks the anniversary of an attempt to blow up the UK houses of parliament in 1605.
This was known as the Gunpowder Plot. It is a tradition for locals to light fires and there will normally be a dummy of a man burning on the top of the fire. The dummy represents the man who was part of the plot, Guy Fawkes.
You will see lots of people celebrating with fireworks. The fireworks represent the explosives that Guy Fawkes had placed under the houses of parliament.
Most local communities and UK cities run Bonfire Night events. I would recommend looking for an event near your university and experiencing this strange British event.
10. ENJOY A SUNDAY ROAST
International student life in the UK would not be complete without trying a Sunday Roast. A Sunday Roast is a traditional English meal typically served on a Sunday which consists of roasted meat, roast potatoes, vegetables, and lots of gravy.
It is often a time friends and families get together. When the weather starts to get colder you will be able to find lots of local pubs and restaurants serving Sunday Roasts.
11. VISIT STONEHENGE
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument which is over 4500 years old. It might seem like a large group of stones, but there is a lot of mystery around how these stones weighing between four and fifty tons were transported there with just simple tools and no machines.
People have claimed to experience a strange feeling whilst walking around Stonehenge, a feeling which is unexplainable. Some people even believe that the stones have healing properties.
12. EAT A FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST
The Full English Breakfast (also known as a ‘fry up’) is a very British meal, eaten at the start of the day. You can order one in most cafe’s, hotels and restaurants, and some even serve it all day.
The English Breakfast consists of sausages, fried eggs, bacon, cooked tomatoes, mushrooms, and fried bread or toast. The Full English Breakfast may also include other items such as baked beans or hash browns. It is a perfect traditional English meal for overseas students to get a taste of UK food.
Learn how to make it in our article 10 western student recipes for Asian students.