Arriving in a new country to spend a period of your life can be both exciting and daunting at the same time. When people think of the United Kingdom they often think of the country as portrayed on TV and film. The United Kingdom is small, but extremely diverse.
This is a brief overview of culture in the UK and more specifically in Newcastle, as the ‘Geordies’ (people from Newcastle) have their own customs which you might encounter when here.
The British Council Website contains much more detailed information if you’d like to look into these aspects further.
Meeting & Greeting People
The Geordies are super friendly. Please do not be surprised if a stranger starts talking to you in a shop, at a bus stop, or if you are next to them in a queue. A general greeting to a stranger, or shop worker is to use ‘hello’ or ‘hi’. People serving you in a shop will often ask you questions about your day; they’re just being friendly, it’s nothing to worry about!
The Geordie accent can take a while to get used to – don’t be embarrassed to ask someone to repeat themselves, they understand and will be happy to do so. You’re not alone, even people from the UK find the Geordie accent hard! Korean Billy has tried to help explain Geordie words on his YouTube Channel which is good fun to watch.
If you are introduced to someone, people normally say ‘hello, how are you?’ The standard reply to this is usually ‘fine thanks, how are you?’ You may also hear phrases such as ‘how’s it going?’ or ‘alright?’ these are both forms of saying hello and asking how you are.
Older generations or in formal settings a hand shake may be expected, but it is not compulsory.
Eating & Drinking
Pubs and bars are popular meeting places for people in the UK, so please do not be surprised if they are suggested as a meeting location. They sell non-alcoholic drinks as well as alcohol, and many also serve food. Both men, women and children visit pubs in the UK.
Normally customers find their own seats in pubs and bars and go to order food and drinks at the bar. Anything ordered is paid for at this point. Drinks are given to you immediately & they will bring any food to your table. If the pub or bar offers table servce (where someone comes to take your order at your table) there will be signs stating this - if you do not see any signs presume that you must go up to the bar to order.
If you do drink alcohol, please be aware that you must be over the age of 18 to do so. If you are lucky enough to look under the age of 25 you may be asked for ID to prove that you are over the age of 18 before you will be served alcohol.
If you eat in a restaurant you may wish to tip the waiter if you have received good service, but it is not compulsory and there is no minimum amount expected.
Weather, Climate & Clothing
The climate in Newcastle can be quite variable. Our summers are mild with temperatures rarely exceeding 21˚C while in winter daily temperatures may not rise above 2˚C. It is advisable to bring warm clothes such as jumpers and a coat for winter or you can buy them when you arrive.
Many people also choose to wear hats, scarves and gloves, although do not be surprised if you see Geordies wearing only a t-shirt or similar without a coat in cold temperatures; they seem to be immune to it!
The thing that most students notice as different in Newcastle is the wind, being close to the North Sea we get a lot of it! It’s lovely & cooling in the summer but can make the winters feel colder.
It is illegal to smoke in enclosed public places in England, such as lecture theatres, trains, pubs, restaurants and University accommodation.
Newcastle University is a smoke free campus. If you do smoke, you will need to use the smoke free shelters provided.
Newcastle is a large and diverse international city. All of the major world faiths worship in the city.
Newcastle University Chaplaincy is the main contact for all religious faiths within the University.
In the UK there are national holidays for Christmas, New Year, Easter, the first & last Monday in May and the last Monday in August.
The University, as well as many businesses, will be closed on national holidays. These national holidays are also known as ‘Bank Holidays’ because traditionally all banks and businesses closed for these days.
The University also closes for several additional days between Christmas & New Year.
The UK puts its clocks forward and back to make best use of daylight hours. There are two time changes each year.
In October the clocks will be put back by one hour and in March the clocks will be put forward by one hour.