It is important that all of our staff and students understand and respect the differences between themselves and individuals from other backgrounds and their diverse attitudes and beliefs.
We are all different and interpret situations differently depending on time, space, verbal and non-verbal behaviour and the context. We’ve outlined a few factors that may differ across cultures, as well as some general examples of British culture and what to expect when studying in the UK.
Overview of Cultural Differences
It is important to realise that how we carry ourselves and act in certain situations may not be the norm for other people from different cultures. Therefore, individuals should be open and committed to understanding how things are perceived by other cultures and/or backgrounds.
- Group or individual working: In some cultures, it is normal to work as part of a group or to directly copy text that is provided by a teacher or senior person, whereas in the UK we often work independently and at university copying of work is considered plagiarism (a form of academic misconduct).
- Expectations: Ensure expectations are expressed clearly and important instructions are not given in a non-direct way. You should always try and be clear and concise with deadlines and ensure clear communication.
- Body language: Whilst eye contact is an expectation in some cultures in others this would be seen as rude and impolite.
- Socialising: In some cultures, drinking alcohol is forbidden, do not assume your colleagues will want to meet in the pub after work or at lunchtime as this could be an uncomfortable experience. If an international colleague is attending with you assure them it is OK to ask for a soft drink.
- Sexual Orientation, relationships and gender: The open existence of LGBT+ communities may be shocking to some cultures, this may challenge existing perception and views. The attitude of men to women and women to men will be influenced by their home culture.
- Culture and food: Be aware that many cultures have certain diets to follow and traditions that may be misunderstood by some. Be respectful towards other people’s beliefs and cultures when using a shared kitchen.
- Acting appropriately: If you find yourself in a situation and you don’t know how to act, watch what your colleagues are doing so you can see what is acceptable in their culture. Be aware of your own behaviour, have you offended somebody? If so make a mental note of this. Be flexible and understanding of other’s around you.
- Communication: Changing a few things about the way we communicate can make a big difference to those around us. Do not talk too fast, make an effort to pronounce words, have a clear meaning.
- Written communication: Use plain English wherever you can, be clear and do not use acronyms, pictures can help provide clear instruction.
- Preconceptions and stereotypes: Everybody has preconceptions and stereotypes do exist. Be aware of these and treat everybody as an individual not by group according to their culture.
Overview of British Culture
- The British are punctual. Being late can be considered to be rude. If you’re going to be late to something, it is always best to get in contact with those involved as soon as you can.
- Never jump lines, known as “queues” in the UK. In some countries, jumping the queue may be acceptable, but here in UK, people may not be happy with you and are likely to let you know how unhappy they are about the situation. It is always advised that you stand in line patiently and wait to be served until it is your turn.
- In the UK, it’s acceptable to keep one arm’s length between yourself and those you are speaking with. Being too close can be seen as aggressive and can be uncomfortable for the individual that you are talking to.
- Please, thank you, and sorry are normal parts of everyday conversations and interactions. Generally speaking, many people in the UK are polite and courteous towards other people and British people will often hold a door open for one another and often apologise for something that is not even their fault
- When greeting a good friend or family member in UK, you do not simply shake their hand. If the person knows a female quite well, it is normal to give and/or receive a small kiss on the cheek. If you are not a close friend or family member, then physical touch can be seen as odd or uncomfortable. In this instance it is better to shake hands with someone.
- British people often avoid extended eye contact. This is often considered uncomfortable and intimidating.
- The British have a high amount of respect for older adults and the disabled. If you are on public transportation, such as a bus or a train, it is considered polite to give up your seat if someone disabled or older has no other seats available to them. If you see an older adult or someone who is disabled and it looks like they are struggling with something, it is also kind to ask the person if they need any help.
- British people rarely use superlatives and are not very animated when they speak. They value privacy over everything else, so be careful what you ask because you could be prying without meaning to. If someone does not want to share information with you it is best to respect their wishes and not pressure them into giving you an answer.
- If you are invited to the home of a native British person, it is normal to bring along a gift. Good examples of this are chocolate, wine, or flowers to say thank you for you invite to their home.
- If you go to a pub with your friends, it is a good idea to buy a round of drinks for those who you came with. It is common for the other people that you are with to do the same to return the favour.
Developing Diversity Consciousness
CELT and BG Futures are running a Cultural Awareness Workshop for students on Wednesday 29th April 2020, 1pm – 2.30pm, Room CSH10.
Becoming culturally sensitive can be quite complex to master but in today’s graduate labour market having a global perspective and being culturally aware are required skills expected by employers. This session touches on different areas of this topic and is useful for those who want to work/live internationally, who are completing their Graduate Attributes Excellence Award, international students or those who want to become more mindful of unconscious bias.
The workshop will look at:
- Why is culture important?
- Cross-cultural checklist
- Culture at work
- Hofstede’s dimensions
- Cross-culturally effective individual
- British Culture
To book please use the form blow. Please note that places are limited.
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