UK culture

When you relocate to the UK you are likely to experience different cultural values which may cause a few surprises, for example, language use, social life, etiquette, teaching and learning styles.

Despite these new experiences and challenges you are unlikely to have problems adjusting to life in the UK; the country is incredibly diverse featuring a multitude of cultures.

This section features a brief overview of UK culture and advice on managing culture shock.



The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland refers to the political union between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  The UK is a sovereign state, but the nations that make it up are also countries in their own right.  England is the largest country in the UK with London as its capital.

Great Britain is the official collective name of England, Scotland and Wales and their associated islands.

The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are not part of the UK but are Crown Dependencies.

The British Isles is a geographical term that refers to Great Britain, Ireland, The Isle of Man, The Isles of Scilly, The Channel Islands, including Guernsey, Jersey, Sark, and Alderney, as well as over 6,000 other smaller islands.

The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of 53 states united by ties to former British rule, it is a group aligned to create ongoing prosperity in these countries.  The Queen is the head of the Commonwealth.

The UK is a major player in international affairs and fulfills an important role in the EU, UN Security Council, and Nato.


Social etiquette

The UK has a multi-cultural society that you are likely to fit straight into.  However, there are a few cultural quirks to note.  The English tend to be rather reserved and polite, with a preference for personal space and privacy.  You are likely to hear a great deal of small talk, repeated apologies and thanking; reciprocating kind gestures is expected.  Overall, it’s a very courteous society.



The English language is the main language spoken throughout the UK.  Each region has its own accent and dialect which might be quite different from the English you are used to.

Generally, citizens of Leeds have a Yorkshire dialect and accent which is particularly distinctive so don’t be afraid to ask people to repeat themselves or to speak more slowly.

Improving your English will help you settle into life in the UK and make your stay more comfortable. You can find classes in Leeds on the Leeds City Council website.  Classes elsewhere in the UK and internationally can be found on the British Council’s website.



There is complete religious freedom in the UK.

The UK does not have a single ‘state’ religion, however, there is a long tradition of Christianity.  The established church is the Church of England (Anglican) with the Monarch as its head.  UK public holidays are based on the Christian religion.

According to the UK census (2011), the most popular religions in the UK are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism.  The census also shows a large number of individuals without any religious affiliations.



The weather is a national obsession!  It is rarely out of the headlines and is famous for being unpredictable; you can often experience four seasons in a single afternoon.  However, the climate is generally moderate with few extremes and generally, the seasons run as follows:

  • Spring runs from March to May and tends to be sunny, but with lots of rain;
  • Summer runs from June to August and is the hottest and driest time of the year;
  • Autumn runs from September to November and is generally mild;
  • Winter runs from December to February and tends to be cold and wet with some snow.



From iconic landmarks, beautiful countryside to rich heritage the UK has an abundance of leisure activities to keep almost everyone entertained, for example:

  • Film and TV: Harry Potter, James Bond, the Theory of Everything;
  • Sport: Wimbledon, Wembley, Twickenham;
  • Shopping:  Designers, vintage, markets;
  • Royal attractions: Events, parks, residences;
  • Music: Festivals, Attractions, the Beatles;
  • Landmarks: Natural wonders, world heritage sites, iconic sites;
  • Food and drink: British food, afternoon tea, food festivals;
  • Culture: Museums, galleries, theatre;
  • Countryside: National parks, gardens, the coast.


Culture shock

Culture shock is the range of emotions we go through when we relocate and have to adjust to a culture or an environment that’s different from our own.

Expartica’s article, manage culture shock in three easy steps, may help you help prepare for, and understand a culture shock.  Additionally, the Citizens Advice Bureau, a charitable organisation, can provide you with a wide range of advice and reliable information on aspects of life in the UK.