International Studies Abroad ®est. 1987


Culture Corner

English Culture

The country of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the UK for short) is made up of four separate and distinct countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The UK is different from Great Britain, which is made up of England, Scotland, and Wales. Sometimes people say Britain when they mean Great Britain. Britain only refers to England and Wales. Both the island of Great Britain and the island of Ireland, which includes Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, make up the British Isles along with a few smaller surrounding islands. Confused yet?!

The English often refer to themselves as British, whereas someone from Scotland or Wales will generally refer to themselves as Scottish or Welsh respectively.

English is the main language spoken throughout the country though in Wales, Welsh is the official Celtic language spoken and in Scotland, there are two additional official languages- Gaelic & Scots. It is not uncommon to hear a variety of local accents. Distinct accents are a way of distinguishing a geographic location; For example, Geordies are in north England vs Cockneys who reside in London.

Social Etiquette
A considerable amount of value is placed on punctuality, thus it is important to arrive on time to meetings, class, etc. Standing in line, or queuing, is a common occurrence as it adhered to as people patiently wait for their turn. When riding escalators stand still on the right so others may pass on the left. Basic politeness, things such as using please, thank you, excuse me, and shaking hands upon greeting is expected. Avoid drawing attention to yourself by being loud and obnoxious in public, especially when using public transportation.

Food and Drink
The pub, or public house, is an important part of British life. The pub is where the community gathers to eat, drink, and gather. It is typical to order both food and drink directly at the bar, as most pubs do not offer table service. The combination of cultures throughout Britain has led to an increase in the culinary culture. The typical British dish no longer consists of meat and vegetables or the infamous fish and chips, but has come to include, the growing in popularity, curry.

The most popular sport in the U.K. is football (soccer). Other popular sports include rugby, rowing, horse racing, cricket, tennis and golf all of which originated or were largely developed in the U.K. In international competitions there is usually a team to represent each England, Scotland and Wales instead of them being cobined as one Great Britain team. Some major competitions held each year in the U.K. within their respective sports are the Premier League Championships, Six Nations Champtionship, Oxford vs Cambridge boat race, the Grand National and Royal Ascot, the Ashes, Wimbledon and The Open golf tournament.

Monuments & Must-Sees

London is full of endless monuments and places to visit that it is hard to narrow the list down to just a few. The following is just a brief list of a few must-sees during your time in London:

  • Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the Queen, is open to visitors when the Queen is on vacation. The Palace is also the home of the infamous Changing of the Guard. Arrive early to watch the new soldiers replace the old soldiers in the forecourt of the Palace in their bright red uniforms and bearskin hats.
  • You can't miss the London Eye as the world's largest sightseeing wheel towers over the city along the River Thames. The ride is 30 minutes and offers views of all of the famous London sights, including picture perfect scenes of Big Ben and Parliament.
  • The clock tower of Big Ben is probably the most famous landmark in London. Big Ben is attached to the Houses of Parliament. The Houses of Parliament are comprised of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and is where all the country's legislative decisions are discussed. Tours of Parliament are offered almost daily when they are not in session.
  • Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Tower of London is a must see during your time abroad. A former royal residence, the Tower became famous when Henry VIII moved his prison to the site in 1529. The Tudor-garbed Beefeaters still guard the Tower and offer tours throughout the year.
  • Built after the Great Fire of 1666 and surviving the Blitz of WWII, St. Paul's Cathedral has been dominating the city skyline for quite some time. After taking in the majesty and size of the building extend your view of London by climbing the 530 steps to the top of the dome.

Cultural Activities

London has endless activities for visitors to enjoy. Listed below are some different cultural activities to do while in London. You can do many of these activities on your own, with friends, or they may be sponsored by ISA. Upon arrival to London, different sponsored cultural activities will be announced throughout your program abroad.

Join your fellow classmates as you head out for a night on the town to enjoy a popular theatre production in the West End. London is world-renowned for its theatres and productions and maintains a very full and active schedule year round. During the summer be sure to catch a traditional Shakespearean play at the replicated Globe Theatre.

London is packed with great museums, from art to history. The best part about exploring this plethora of information is that most museums in London are free of charge. A few favorites include: Victoria and Albert Museum, National Gallery, Tate Modern, Natural History and British Museum.

Afternoon Tea
Experience what this long standing tradition is all about. Afternoon Tea was taken up by the British during the reign of Queen Victoria to bring you up between breakfast and dinner. A typical afternoon tea consists of sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, sweet pastries, cakes and of course a pot of tea!

Wander the many markets to buy fresh produce, find your favorite local goods or simply window shop the boutiques. Popular areas include: Covent Garden, Portabello Roadand Camden Market. Or you can pick up the latest fashions at all the stores on Oxford Street such as H&M, Dorothy Perkins or Top Shop.

Spend an afternoon studying, exploring, people watching or playing sports in one of the many parks or squares London has to offer. Parks include: Hyde Park, St. James's Park, Regents Park. Or take river cruise down the Thames and spend your day at Greenwich park where the Royal Observatory and Prime Meridian reside.

Whether it's cricket, football, horse racing, rugby or tennis, London hosts a wide array of sporting events year round. Check the local papers for the current sporting events and local teams. Some popular stadiums to attend a match or take a tour of are Wimbley Stadium, Wimbledon Park, the Lords Cricket Ground, or Ascot.

Cultural Immersion

The University of Westminster, King's College London and Roehampton University offers students the opportunity to participate in an internship program during their semester/academic year in London. The goal of the internship is to gain international experience and to develop your interncultural competenices. The internship is taken in place of one of the academic courses and complement the student's academic background with participation in a professional environment. To learn more about the London Internships, please click here.

In order to participate in an internship, special visa requirements apply. Please see the Student Visa and Embassy page for more information.

ISA Student Blog
tay connected while you're abroad and share your experience with your peers back home on the ISA Student Blog, one of WordPress' top 23 recommended travel blogs! Each summer and semester the ISA Student Blog features current ISA students as bloggers, photo bloggers, and video bloggers who document their time abroad to share with their friends, family, prospective students, advisers, and more. If sharing your study abroad experience through writing, photos, videos and other media while receiving professional guidance and feedback appeals to you, consider applying to be an ISA Featured Blogger, Photo Blogger, or Video Blogger. The Site Specialist for your program will email all accepted students to notify you when ISA is accepting applications for all ISA Featured Blogger programs. Please contact the ISA Blog Team at if you have any questions.

Cultural Blogs:
We also suggest you check out the plethora of other cultural blogs available on the web to learn more about others' experiences in London, cultural happenings, and expat lives.

Language Resources

Helpful Phrases
Bloody: a swear word, similar to the American 'damn' but a bit stronger. *
Bugger: similar to the American 'damn!' Can also be used as 'bugger all' meaning 'nothing'.
Chat Up: flirt with, come on to.
Chips: french fries.
Coach: bus.
Crisps: potato chips.
Fag: cigarette.
Fanny: in the UK 'fanny' refers to female genitalia. *
Football: soccer. Football is called 'American football.'
Hoover: the action of vacuuming.
Jumper: sweater.
Knackered: tired, worn out.
Knickers: women's underwear.
Lorry: truck/18 wheeler.
Nutter: crazy person. Ex. "He's acting like a nutter!"
Off License: shop that sells alcohol to go.
Pants: in the UK, 'pants' refer to underwear. So be wary of using 'pants' to describe your 'trousers'.
Petrol: gasoline.
Pissed: drunk.
Quid: a pound (£) in currency.
Smart: fashionable/chic.
Snog: to kiss.
Sod Off: get lost.
Uni: university.
Wanker: jerk.*
*You shouldn't use those marked "*" with people you don't know!

On-line Dictionary Resource

"Beware of translation websites...much can be LOST in translation!"