No more culture shock: Adjusting to life in the UK as an international student

My name is Gao Tingting and I’m currently studying MSc in Finance (formerly known as the MSc in International Securities, Investment and Banking) at the ICMA Centre, Henley Business School.


I chose to study in the UK because I wanted to have an enriching study experience. Since starting I have seen so many new and different things here as an international student, such as the lifestyle and environment, but when I first arrived at Heathrow Airport there were a few things that I was worried about. Here’s how I got over the culture shock:

Picking up the language

Before coming to the UK I studied English for several years, however I still felt nervous when it came to communicating with people from all over the world. Sometimes people were confused by my Chinese accent and at first I didn’t always understand what they meant. That was until I met my British friends. They shared some cultural experiences with me such as British food (and even how to speak in a British accent!) It was the first time that I understood the beauty of speaking English and began to communicate with others actively.

After several weeks, I found communicating in English much easier and British people were encouraging. Something as simple as smiling and greeting people you meet in the corridor or kitchen makes communicating much easier!

A change of culture

This was a big challenge for me, since I knew little about British culture before I came here. I still remember the first time I was invited to attend a party with my roommates. At the beginning, I was worried about my dress code and what I needed to bring with me. I searched for information about parties, then wore a complex dress and brought a light drink. I found out that this wasn’t quite right, but I later got the hang of things!

In China, having dinner together is a normal social activity, while in Britain people prefer to stand and drink together instead. If you want to integrate into British culture, it is worth considering taking part in these parties and talking with others actively. Although we emphasize intermediate and passive social activities in Chinese culture, I tried to break the traditional thinking pattern and talk to others actively in parties. From doing this I found that British people like humor, and it is relaxing to socialise with them!

These are just a few of my first week’s experiences as I began to taste a new lifestyle and make friends from other countries. We all have many colourful experiences waiting for us in our lifetime, and I know that one of them will be the year I spend here at the ICMA Centre!

Find out more about the Master’s in Finance programme here.

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