UK Education Culture

India vs the UK: How can Indian students in the UK adjust to the cultural differences?

Thousands of students from many countries come to the UK every year for their higher studies. No wonder UK is considered one of the world's favourite student destinations. Thanks to its student-friendly cities and world-class universities.

For most Indian students in the UK, this will be their first long-term stay in a foreign country. Once you land in the UK, you will find it exciting to meet people from many countries and to find pubs and restaurants on every corner. But with this, there comes a range of cultural challenges.

Cultural shock:

Coming from another part of the world, Indian students in the UK cannot ignore the differences between their home country and the UK. Differences may include many things, including the new environment, how people in the UK speak, behave, dress, eat and many other aspects of life.

These differences and the separation from their family and friends affect Indian students in the UK. They find it challenging to adapt to a new culture from another one they have followed for over 20 years. This experience is called Cultural Shock.

Ready to explore? Here are some significant cultural adjustments you may need help accepting while in the UK.

India vs the UK: How can Indian students in the UK adjust to the cultural differences?

1. Family structure:

A heavy emphasis is placed on the family structure in India. Family is given more importance here, and people prioritize the family's needs. Even after getting a job / married, people live with their parents in a joint family. They share a strong bond.

When it comes to Western countries like the UK, people have weaker ties to families. They put their needs first rather than their parents or children's. They have a more individualistic nature and leave home once they start college and are financially independent.

Hence Indian students in the UK may find this strange initially. However, they will get used to it once they start socializing with people from Western countries.

2. Student–teacher relationship:

We can see a hierarchical system in Indian families and educational and workplace establishments. Children in the family are taught to respect and obey the words of the elders/parents. In the Indian education system, the teachers and professors instruct and organize the students and have authority over them. Students are expected to behave well before their teachers. Similarly, in workplaces, people should report to a leader assigned to them. It will be strange for Indian students in the UK to find a friendly relationship between the parents and children or the student and teacher. Students here are expected to call their teachers by their respective names, which is not encouraged in India. Even in the workplace, British people place a great value on equality.

3. Food:

Hailing from a country of spices, Indian students in the UK may find British food bland and taste differently. You may not be allowed to cook for yourself, as the smell can upset the other people living with you. So missing home food is difficult.

You can gradually adapt to it by trying various food as Britain has multicultural cuisine. You can find a grocery store with your home country supplies. Also, you can try ready-cooked food. There are many Indian restaurants where you can buy authentic Indian dishes.

4. Language:

Listening to and speaking a foreign language daily will be challenging. The primary thing you miss when coming to the UK is your mother tongue which has been part of your everyday life from birth. Even if you are fluent in English, you need help understanding the different accents.

In colleges and universities, the lecturers can speak faster, which makes it difficult for Indian students in the UK to understand. They may feel embarrassed to ask their professors to repeat it. You will adapt to the accent quickly. However, this will last for a couple of weeks maximum.

5. Public transport:

In India, taking a bus or train is considered time-consuming and crowded. Even though it is cheap, you might prefer taxis or driving your car. In the UK, most students prefer to use public transport. Unlike India, public transportations like buses and subways are efficient in the UK.

Bicycles are another popular choice of vehicle for Indian students in the UK. Also, universities provide parking lots for bicycles too!! Not only that you need a driver's license in the UK to drive a car, but also using a car for your daily activities will cost you more.

6. Water and electricity:

You may think of water and electricity as elementary things. But No!! You may find culture shock when using them in the UK. You may be accustomed to using purified water for cooking and drinking. But in the UK, tap water is very safe to drink. If not, you will be notified with a label mentioning it is unsafe. However, Indian students in the UK are advised not to use the hot water taps. Instead, they can boil the water using a kettle or microwave. Regarding electricity, the UK has an entirely different structure than India. You will never find a house which does not have a fan and air conditioner in India. But most households and universities do not have ceiling fans or AC in the UK. It is due to the pleasant weather in the UK that prevails even in the summer months. You will need electricity primarily for your electronic gadgets.

7. Social roles:

There is a vast difference in the social behaviours between India and Western countries. Indian society tends to be very traditional. It is warm and welcoming but, at the same time, very closed and old-fashioned. Indian culture is very conservative regarding clothing or men and women relationships.

It is common in the UK for couples to hold hands or kiss in public. Being a melting pot of diverse cultures, you can find women in more revealing clothes. Same-sex relationship or casual dating game is also common thing.

Some of the Indian traditions that you hold tight to your heart can be of little value. Indian students in the UK may be surprised, confused or sometimes get offended by the above-mentioned social behaviours.

It is essential to understand that every culture has its own beliefs, traditions and rituals,

which may be taken for granted in other cultures. Whichever your home country is, you must learn and respect the culture of the other countries where you live. We can proudly say that the conservative approach is changing among our modern Indian youths.

8. Unspoken rules:

The UK has some unwritten rules that Indian students in the UK must follow. You are expected to apologize even for the simplest offences. From bumping into each other to walking past someone quickly, you must apologize for everything. It is considered as a gesture of politeness.

Another important thing we should adopt from the British people is punctuality. It would help if you kept up your time both in your academic and work life. Being late is considered rude in British culture. It is essential to inform the person beforehand if you will be late. Similarly, it would be best if you thanked the other party for the small gestures they made to you. Before landing in the royal land, prepare to say and hear many please, sorry and thank you.

9. Nature of the british people:

People in the UK are incredibly polite yet reserved. They may never talk about their feelings or emotions publicly. Usually, they don't over-engage with strangers. It doesn't mean that they will not help you. If you smile and try to communicate, they will be very friendly to you. Note that London is one of the friendliest cities in the world!!

Adjust yourself to the cultural differences:

It may be hard for Indian students in the UK to adapt themselves to the new environment. Sometimes they feel settled. But during any family functions or festivals, they may feel stressed and lonely. This process of culture shock is broken down into five stages.

1. The honeymoon phase:

It is the initial stage where you are more curious about your new life. You will be excited about travelling, meeting new people, etc. You hold the memory of your home country very closely. You will try to find similarities between your culture and the new one.

2. The frustration stage:

Things you found amusing may be irritating at this point. Every new thing you experience will be compared to your home country, and you will start hating your host country. A lack of support from your close friends and family mainly causes this frustration.

3. Adjustment stage:

You may still feel angry or frustrated about accepting the new culture. You will still be conscious about how you dislike the new culture compared to your home country. It is a healthy way of reconnecting about how you value your culture.

4. Acceptance stage:

At this point, you will start accepting the similarities and differences in both cultures. You will now be more confident and relaxed as you are familiar with all the situations. Your experience will grow, and you will handle the new situation confidently.

5. Independence:

You will give importance to both cultures. You will find yourself as a part of the new ecosystem. You will slowly learn to become bicultural by adapting and learning to balance the culture of both your home country and host country. You will enjoy yourself in all situations according to your preferences and choices.

Tips  to adjust to the cultural differences:

Cultural shock is considered normal and is a temporary phase. It can affect anybody, whether you are well-travelled or from a multicultural family. But Indian students in the UK should know that certain things need to be done to minimize this effect.

Below are some of the tips for Indian students in the UK to adjust to the cultural differences they face:

  •  Keep familiar things like photographs or memorabilia which are close to your heart around you.
  • Speak with your friends and family frequently so that you don't miss them so much. Video calls will bring them closer to you.
  •  Find a grocery store near you that can provide supplies from your home country. In this way, you will never miss home food.
  • Make friendships with the other students from your culture or other. It will help you to learn about each other's cultures.
  • Join social media groups with people from your home country and talk to them so that you can understand each other's feelings.
  • Join any clubs at your university. It can be sports or any other extracurricular activity. It will help you to meet many people and keep you occupied.
  • Attend the orientation programmes offered by your universities. It will help you to know about your new hometown. Also, it allows you to meet people in the same situation.
  • Universities offer counselling support for mental health and well-being for Indian students in the UK. Don't shy away from seeking medical help.

Always remember cultural differences are normal for every student who travels to another country to study. You may find it very difficult to adjust to these cultural differences. It provides a positive learning experience for you. But always remember that the study abroad experience will make you more knowledgeable about your own culture and the culture of your host country. It will provide valuable skills that will help you in the future. It is one of the benefits that you get from pursuing international education. This information will never be found in a travel guide. But we hope it is helpful for you. Being an educational consultancy, it is our top priority to find out earlier if you hesitate to avoid studying in the UK for these reasons. If you are still trying to decide, think about the quote – a comfort zone is always beautiful, but nothing will grow there. Do you have an interest in studying in the UK? Do you want to know more about UK culture? Feel free to contact our consultants at Dolphin Education Consultancy – Study Abroad.

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