Living in the UK

What to expect when you visit and live in the UK

Living in the UK

When you’re travelling to another country to study, getting organised can be quite daunting. We’ve come up with this list of useful things to bring with you, travel information while you are in the UK along with additional advice on the costs of living and transport.

Before you come to England

What you will need before coming to England

  • Certificate of acceptance or letter of course confirmation.
  • Details of your accommodation/the family where you are staying.
  • Credit cards
  • Mobile phone – and charger!
  • Relevant documents if you have arranged your own insurance.
  • An adaptor for non-British plugs –  we use three-pin plugs and the power is 240 volts in the UK. You can buy such adaptors in London if you have difficulty finding them in your country.
  • A laptop/tablet computer.
  • An internationally recognised student card if you have one.
  • Your driving licence in case you wish to hire a car. Please note that you have to be aged over 23 and have held a (clean) licence for a minimum of 2 years. If your own licence is not in a West European language or if an authorized translation into English is not provided, you may need to get an International Driving Licence.
  • A memory stick.
  • Some passport-sized photographs, for student cards, travel passes etc.
  • An umbrella, sunglasses, t-shirts, raincoat and jumpers. The weather is changeable!
  • Socks, gloves and sensible shoes
  • Any medicine that you regularly take
  • Pens, pencils, rubbers and a notebook.
  • Pictures and local information from your home country on your phone to share with your homestay hosts
  • Snacks from your own country to remind you of home

Cost of Living in the UK

Cost of living in the UK depends on your location. We recommend the following external pages for checking up-to-date information on cost of living:

https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=United+Kingdom

Staying Safe

The UK is generally a very safe country, but it is always good to think about your personal safety.  The British Council has produced a useful guide to help you understand the laws in the UK and how to keep yourself safe at all times.

A few important things to know

Punctuality

The British people are usually great believers in punctuality, and it is considered improper to be late for an appointment, a tutorial or even a social gathering. If you are going to be unavoidably delayed it is good manners to contact the person you are meeting and explain this.

Queues/lines

Queuing in important in the UK! You will have to queue for service in most banks, post offices, shops, supermarkets and government offices.

‘Jumping a queue’ which means not joining the end of a queue (especially at a bus stop) is considered ill-mannered and can often attract complaints from other people queuing.

Personal space

The amount of space you leave between you and a person you are speaking to is very culturally specific. In Britain it is usual to leave an arm’s length between you and the person you are speaking to.

Smoking

Smoking is becoming increasingly unpopular. Smoking is prohibited in public buildings, on public transport (taxis, buses, coaches, trains and planes), in pubs and restaurants and in shops.

LanguageUK has a no smoking policy.

Religious practices

Britain is a multi-cultural and multi-faith society.  We have many churches and other places of worship in Broadstairs.

Please, thank you and sorry!

Often international students are perplexed by the amount of times the British say please, thank you and sorry!  You should say ‘please’ at the end of every request, ‘thank you’ each time someone does something for you (and that includes holding a door open) and ‘sorry’ for everything else!

Getting to know the British

We have a reputation for being reserved and this can be true to a certain extent. But don’t be put off! Try starting a conversation about your course with a classmate or make a comment about the weather to someone next to you in the bus queue and see where it leads you. Get involved.

ID Cards

In the UK, it is not a legal requirement for Identity (I.D) cards to be carried on your person. Therefore, you are advised to leave yours at your accommodation locked in your suitcase.

The occasions when you may need to show your I.D. card are:

  • when purchasing tobacco or alcohol from a shop or supermarket to prove you are over the age of 18
  • when purchasing tobacco or alcohol in a pub to prove you are over the age of 18
  • when gaining admission to a disco or nightclub to prove your age as above
  • when gaining admission to an 18-rated film at a cinema
  • when using the services of a bank or post office
  • when making a purchase (sometimes) in certain shops

Please note if you take a photo of your card and leave it on your phone most places will accept this as a proof of age.

Money

The unit of currency in the UK is the pound sterling (£). There are 100 pence in a pound. The coins that are in use are:

1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, £2

The notes in use are:

£5, £10, £20, £50

 

You can exchange foreign bank notes for pounds at a post office or foreign exchange shops in our local supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda.

It may take you a while to get used to the exchange rate from your country. The following website will help you calculate exchange rates https://www.xe.com/

If you are staying for a long period of time in the UK and you wish to open a bank account here, be aware that this can be a complicated process, especially if you come from outside the EU!

Anyone from over 130 countries can open an account with Loot providing you have a UK residential address for your card to be sent to.

When you click on Loot it opens up to their website https://loot.io/

loot.io
This is Loot: a current account and contactless Loot Mastercard® card, offering insights into your spending with personalised features to manage your money.

 

A “basic bank account” is the type of account most readily set up by international students.  The process of opening a UK bank account can take around two weeks.

The British Bankers Association produces an excellent guide to opening a UK bank account for international students, found here: https://www.bba.org.uk/pdf/40746.pdf

Money Transfers

You can transfer money via the Western Union service.

You can also withdraw money from ATMs using your credit or debit card.

Tax-free shopping

You can sometimes get VAT refunds on goods bought in the UK if you:

  • visit the UK but live outside the EU and are going back home
  • are an EU resident leaving the EU for 12 months or more
  • are a non-EU resident but work or study in the UK and are leaving the EU for 12 months or more

Not all retailers offer tax-free shopping and you can only get VAT refunds for goods bought within the last 3 months.

How to get a VAT refund

  1. Get a VAT 407 form from the retailer – they might ask for proof that you’re eligible, eg your passport.
  2. Show the goods, the completed form and your receipts to customs at the point when you leave the EU (this might not be in the UK).
  3. Customs will approve your form if everything is in order. You then take the approved form to get paid.

If you want to know more check out this website

https://www.gov.uk/tax-on-shopping/taxfree-shopping

Culture shock 

Leaving home and travelling to study in a new country can be a stressful experience. Even though it may be something you have planned and prepared for, the extent of the change and the effects may take you by surprise. If at any time you find it all too much our Student Services department and our teachers are all here to help and listen.

Do you have questions? Need more information?