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Once you're here

Moving to a new country can be an exciting and daunting experience. 

Here are 10 top tips to help you settle in and feel at home in Birmingham.

10 tips on living in the UK


Join the queue

Whether you're waiting at the bus stop, at the supermarket or registering at the University, you'll notice British people standing in line. Nobody likes waiting around so make the most of your time and strike up a conversation with a stranger. It's a great way to make friends and you'll soon find people in Birmingham are very friendly.

Do: Head to the back of the queue and wait for your turn to move to the front.

Don't: Upset those around you by pushing to the front or letting your friends queue jump.


Say please and thank you

British people can sometimes be made fun of for often saying 'please', 'thank you' and 'sorry'. You might also hear 'ta', 'cheers'; or 'thanks' for 'thank you'. Use these words and you'll avoid sounding rude.

Do: Say thank you when someone holds open a door for you and sorry if you bump into someone.

Don't: Forget to say please when asking for something in a shop or at university.


Be on time

Turning up late for a class is not only bad manners but it could mean you miss out on important information. If you know you'll be late for a meeting, let the person know as soon as possible. It's best to arrive five minutes early for classes so you can get a good seat.

Do: Plan your journey time and check the weather in case you need extra travelling time.

Don't: Skip class if you're running a little late. Your teacher will be understanding if you say sorry and arrive on time the next time.


Smoke outside

If you smoke, you'll need to go outside. Smoking is not permitted in any public areas in the UK which include restaurants, bars, shops and railway stations.


Leave toilets clean

Toilets can vary in different places so British toilets can take getting used to. Do sit on the toilet seat and keep toilets clean for you and other people.

Do: Do check the toilet has flushed properly and is clean for the next person to use.

Don't: Put toilet roll in the bin. Make sure it goes in the toilet and is flushed away.


Leave a tip 

If you order food in a pub, restaurant or cafe it is polite to leave a small amount of money for the waiting staff.

Do: Tip 10% of the cost if you liked the service (eg £3 on top of a £30 bill).

Don't: Leave a tip if the bill says 'service included' or you'll end up paying twice.


Order at the bar in pubs

Unlike in restaurants, you'll need to order drinks at the bar in pubs.

Do: Check if your friends want to 'buy rounds'. If you want to, you can take it in turns to buy drinks for everyone in the group. 

Don't: Be surprised to see groups of people in fancy dress costumes. It is not unusual for students to be seen in fairy wings or dressed as pirates, any day of the week.

If you drink alcohol, please drink in moderation and remember not to drink and drive.


Drink tea (if you like it)

British people love drinking tea and tea breaks are a great way to make friends.

Do: Offer to make tea when friends visit and check how they take it (with or without milk or sugar).

Don't: Feel embarrassed if you don't like tea. Your friends won't be offended if you'd like something else to drink.


Catch trains and buses

Birmingham has excellent transport links with many train stations and buses to take you where you need to go. If you're not sure where to go, do ask for directions, as people are very friendly and may be able to help. Check for student discounts, train and bus passes and book longer train journeys in advance to save money.

Do: Allow extra time when travelling at busy times in rush hour (7.30am - 9.30am and 4.30 am - 6.30pm) or when the weather is bad.

Don't: Arrive late for a train. Some trains close their doors two minutes before departure time, so make sure you arrive early to avoid missing your train.


Ask questions

Whether it's to a teacher or a friend, it's not rude to ask questions. Sometimes misunderstandings happen, especially if English isn't your first language. If you're not sure, just ask, people will be happy to help and explain.

Do: Ask people to repeat or rephrase if you're not sure what they mean.

Don't: Ask personal questions such as someone's age, if you don't know them well.