British Culture

We hope you will find the following information useful. It is intended to help you familiarise yourself with aspects of the UK culture that may be unfamiliar and to help you to settle in as quickly as possible.

Greetings & Politeness

"Hello, nice to meet you"

In Britain, it is most common to greet someone with a firm handshake when being introduced or meeting them for the first time. Verbal greetings are often sufficient between friends and acquaintances whilst close friends and family, particularly women, sometimes greet each other with a kiss on the cheek. When unsure about how to proceed watch what others do in the same situation.

You may also hear some variations of greetings and common phrases such as "you all right?" instead of 'hello" or "how are you?".

"Please" & "Thank you"

"Please" and "thank you" are a big part of the English vocabulary, and are used often.

The expression "cheers" has two meanings; it is used as a toast over drinks and and also instead of "thank you". "Ta" is also a very informal way of saying "thank you".

Time Keeping

It is very important to be on time to meetings, lectures and interviews. Being late or keeping someone waiting can be seen as bad manners. Of course there are situations where being late is unavoidable, in which case letting the person you are meeting know by a phone call will help.

Gender, Sex & Relationships

Men and women are considered equal in all aspects and are recognised as such under British law. Public shows of affection are generally socially acceptable. This is the case both for same-sex couples and heterosexual couples.

The age of sexual consent in the UK is 16 years old for both men and women. The age of consent is the same regardless of gender or sexual orientation.


In Britain it is illegal to discriminate, i.e. treat people differently, on the basis of age, ability, gender, sexual orientation, race or religion. RUSU is a highly multi-cultural community that respects a wide-range of viewpoints and accepts all cultures.

Opening Hours

Shops in the UK are usually open Monday to Saturday from 9.00am until 5.00pm, with some opening on Sunday from about 10.00am to 4.00pm. Most supermarkets have longer opening hours.

Banks are generally open from 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. Whilst some open on Saturday mornings, none open on Sundays.

Opening times also vary during national or bank holidays. If you are unsure, search online as many shops list their opening hours online.


British Currency

You can only use UK currency to pay for goods and services in the UK. The currency in England is the British Pound, sometimes called Pound Sterling and there are 100 pennies (p) to every pound (£). You will find 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2 coins and banknotes of £5, £10, £20 and £50. Check the Bank of England website for current bank notes and how to avoid fraud.

Exchanging Money

Currency and cash travellers’ cheques can be changed at ‘Bureau de Change’ offices. These are often located in banks, train stations and airports. Be aware that there is often a minimum commission charge on currency exchange and exchange rates can vary from office to office, so avoid changing very small amounts and shop around for the best rates available locally.

Debit & Credit Cards

Most credit and debit cards are accepted but it may be worth checking signage on doorways of shops and restaurants before committing to a purchase. Ask a sales person or waiter if in doubt. It may be possible for you to withdraw money at an ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) or cashpoint if your bankcards use PINs (Personal Identification Number). Check with your bank for any extra charges that may be applicable for this service.


Waiting in line or "queuing" is very important to the British people. It ensures that whoever has been waiting the longest should be served first, hence the phrase "first come first served". From bus stops to supermarkets, the British will queue for everything. Even when there is more than one till or sales counter there will often be just one queue. Jumping the queue is considered to be very rude. Some public places such as shops, banks and restaurants will indicate where to queue with a sign. It is often more difficult in pubs as queues are not always easy to see but the bar staff are generally aware of who has been waiting longest to be served.

Drinking & Smoking

Pub Culture

Socialising in pubs is very much a part of British culture and a very common social activity for students. A "pub", short for "public house", is a venue licensed for the buying and drinking of alcohol. Pubs and bar are very similar but generally speaking can be distinguished by what they sell: A pub is unlikely to sell cocktails or liquors whereas a bar is more likely to do so.

Don't Drink?

As well as offering alcoholic drinks, pubs also stock non-alcoholic drinks such as soft drinks and fruit juice. So even if you don't drink alcohol you can still join in.

Some pubs also serve food, screen sporting events and host quizzes and karaoke. It's all about socialising.

Legal Ages

The legal age for purchasing alcohol and tobacco products is 18 years, which means that it is illegal for someone to sell tobacco products to anyone who is younger than 18 years and it is also illegal to buy tobacco products on behalf of anyone under 18 years of age.

Be aware that you may be asked for proof of age (e.g. passport) when buying alcohol or tobacco products, especially if you look younger than 21 years old, and you may be refused sale if you cannot provide appropriate proof.

Since 2007, it is illegal to smoke in any enclosed work or public place and public transport. This means all buildings on campus, including Halls of Residence.


People drive on the left-hand side of the road in the UK, so it is important to look right first when crossing. Before driving, check that your license is valid in the UK and inform yourself of any legal requirements you may need to fulfill before you start. For more information about driving with a foreign license visit the website.

Emergency Numbers

If you need to get in contact with emergency services such as police, ambulance or the fire services, the phone number to dial is 999.

This should only be used in emergencies. If there is an emergency on campus call Security on 0118 378 6300. For non-urgent assistance from campus Security call 0118 378 7799. For more information visit the University Security services webpage.

Keep in Touch

0118 378 4100

We'll be posting and tweeting plenty of useful information in the lead up to Welcome Week.