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Three Cultural Shocks I Had in the UK as an Asian Student

I am Yang, from Xi An, China. My city is famous for the Terra-cotta Warriors, a UNESCO world heritage site. In 2018, I came to the UK to study International Business at the University of Birmingham.

The decision to move to the UK was not easy. I had never traveled outside my country before and I only knew about the West through the Chinese media. I left my family and friends for the first time to start a new life in a foreign country where there was another culture, language, climate, food, and way of thinking.

When I arrived in the UK, I was immediately hit with three major cultural shocks:


Pace of Life


The first was the pace of life. In China, everything moves a lot slower. People walk slower, talk slower and think slower. In the UK, everyone is always in a hurry. They walk fast, talk fast and think fast. I found it difficult to adjust to this at first as I was constantly feeling rushed and stressed.

My daily routine in China would start with a slow breakfast with my family, followed by a leisurely walk to school. In the UK, I had to grab a quick breakfast on the go and then race to catch my train to university. I would often end up arriving at lectures out of breath and feeling frazzled.

It took me a while to get used to this fast pace of life, but I eventually adjusted and realised that to succeed in the UK, you have to be able to think quickly and move fast. My mentor from TutorHelp.Club offered me a few tips, such as:

  • Prioritise tasks and set deadlines to stay on track
  • Stay organised with a calendar or planner
  • Practice mindfulness to reduce stress

These techniques helped me get used to the fast pace of life in the UK and I now feel much more confident and capable when it comes to studying and working.


Cold Weather

The second was the weather. In China, the weather is hot and humid all year round. I was not used to the cold, wet, and windy weather in the UK. I remember my first winter here, I was so cold that I couldn’t stop shaking. I had to buy a coat, scarf, hat, and gloves just to be able to go outside.

I was also surprised by how dark it gets in the winter. In China, the sun shines all year round, so I wasn’t used to the long, dark evenings in the UK. This made me feel a bit depressed and homesick at first, but I soon got used to it.

I now love the weather in the UK and I actually prefer the colder months. I enjoy being able to layer up my clothes and feeling cozy when it’s cold outside.


Asian Food vs UK Food


The third was the food. In China, the food is very spicy and flavorful. In the UK, I found most of the food to be bland. At first, I struggled to find dishes that I enjoyed or could even tolerate. I missed the spicy food from home and I often found myself feeling hungry after meals.

I did eventually find some UK dishes that I liked, such as fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and Sunday roast. And I also discovered a few Asian restaurants that served food that was closer to what I was used to.

But even now, after 2 years of living in the UK, I still miss the food from home. I often cook Chinese dishes for myself or order takeaways when I’m feeling homesick. Now, I also have a few Chinese friends. We meet occasionally to eat our favourite dishes from back home.

I also struggled with the way people eat food in the UK. In China, we always eat using chopsticks. In the UK, I had to learn how to use a knife and fork. It took me some time to get used to this new way of eating, but now I’m quite good at it!


Despite these cultural shocks, however, I am now thriving in the UK. The people here are friendly and welcoming, and there are plenty of opportunities to learn, explore and grow. My experiences have made me a more resilient and open-minded person. I am grateful for this amazing experience, and I know that it will continue to shape my future in many positive ways.

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August 1, 2022

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