International Studies Abroad ®est. 1987


Culture Corner

England 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 not the same thing as 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 Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland make up the British Isles along with a few smaller surrounding islands. Confused yet?!

When referring to locals, do not assume that when one says they are British, they mean they are from England. 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 Celtic language spoken and in Scotland, the language spoken is Gaelic. It is not uncommon to hear a variety of local accents. Local accents are a way of distinguishing a geographic location; Geordies in the north, Cockneys in London and the surrounding areas.

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.

Monuments & Must-Sees

Reading Abbey
Built by Henry I in early 12th century, the Reading Abbey is a large, ruined abbey in the center of Reading and is full of historical significance. It is surrounded by the beautiful Forbury Gardens, which visitors are free to wander. Every year an open air festival is held here, with a play held on the grounds of the Abbey.

Oracle Shopping Centre
From high end fashion to quirky local shops, the Oracle Shopping Centre is the perfect one stop shop. Located along the river, the centre also holds a wide array of restaurants and cafes.

Madejski Stadium
Reading is home to two major sports teams: the Reading Football Club (The Royals) and the London Irish RFC. Both teams play at the Madejski Stadium located near Green Park on the South side of the city.

Cultural Activities

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

Reading, an important commercial and information technology center, is also home to many music, art and cultural festivals, including the Reading Festival, Reading Fringe Festival, Remix Reading and Reading Carnival; it has two specific Arts centers, three theatres and a thriving arts and drama scene.

Shopping and Dining in Reading Reading is home to the famous Oracle shopping center with over 90 stores and restaurants. This shopping center constantly has sales with many stores offering student discounts. The Oracle complex has become a meeting place for university students and locals alike because of the easy and inexpensive options for shopping and dining, and a prime location to simply sit and watch people-watch. Broad Street Mall, another shopping district, is located in the city center and has many stores also offering discounts to students.

Many of the museums and galleries speckled throughout Reading charge no admission. Each collection tells a story of the people and places from art and artifacts, to the history of the popular Reading Music Festival, and everything in between. For example, the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, located on the University of Reading Whiteknights campus, houses one of Britain's largest Greek archaeological collections. Additionally, in 1951, the University of Reading also founded The Museum of English Rural Life. This museum focuses on the historical significance of the English countryside and the changes that have occurred. Both of these are free to explore as well. Other free points of interest are the Cole Museum of Zoology and the St. Lawrence Church.

Cultural Immersion

ISA Student Blog
Stay 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 Reading, 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!"