8 Things You’ll Discover When First Moving to the UK | Top Universities

8 Things You’ll Discover When First Moving to the UK

By Sabrina Collier

Updated May 14, 2019 Updated May 14, 2019

You’ve sorted your student visa, packed your things and booked your ticket, but what happens when you actually arrive and get settled? If you’re moving to the UK for the first time for your studies, you might not know what to expect (apart from rain).

To help make the transition easier, here’s a look at the eight things you’ll soon discover about student life when first moving to the UK...

1. Fresher’s week may leave you feeling a bit peaky*

*Peaky – British English adjective: pale from illness or fatigue; sickly.


If you’re moving to the UK as an undergraduate student, you’ll be considered a fresher, which means before you do anything else you’ll have to survive Freshers’ Week (which, weirdly, is a fortnight long at some unis). This week is crammed with comedy nights, gigs, fairs and more, all designed to help you settle in.

Unfortunately, all the late nights, alcohol and takeaways will play havoc with your immune system and you could find yourself struck down with the dreaded fresher’s flu. Don’t worry, it happens to us all. 

2. You might hear some unusual words/phrases

Ey up duck!”


Depending on where you study, the local dialect may take some getting used to. For example, if you’re studying in the North or the Midlands and someone says “ey up” to you, they’re normally saying hello or how are you.

Also, if you’re in the West Country and someone says “alright my lover” they’re not flirting with you, it’s just another informal greeting. Don’t worry if you find the dialect in your new home a bit confusing at first – there’s no need to be embarrassed if you need to ask what someone means.

Other British words and phrases you may not have heard before include:

  • Chuffed:  really pleased about something
  • Blimey: Used to express surprise
  • Barmy: Crazy/foolish
  • Knees up: a dance or party
  • Spend a penny: to go to the loo (toilet)
  • Cheeky Nando’s: exactly what it says, a cheeky meal at the restaurant Nando’s
  • Naff: uncool
  • Jammy: lucky
  • Winging it: improvising with little preparation (you might wing it when finishing off an essay at 2am the night before it’s due)
  • Mardy: a Northern word for moody or grumpy
  • Full of beans: full of energy, which leads us to our next point...

3. You'll need to get used to living off beans on toast

Beans on toast

Beans on toast is one of many British culinary delights you’ll probably find a little bit odd compared to food back home. It’s not all bad though, you’ll enjoy heading to the local greasy spoon (cheap cafe or diner) for a traditional full English breakfast to soothe your hangover.

Another classic is the old-fashioned Sunday roast, which isn’t complete without Yorkshire Puddings and a lot of gravy.

Another dish likely to cause confusion is the chip butty, a sandwich made with chips on buttered white bread or a bread roll, usually eaten with ketchup or brown sauce. You’ll also discover marmite – and find out whether you love it or you hate it.

4. You’ll never be quite sure how to dress for the weather


Looking out of the window one morning, you’ll think to yourself: “Hmm, looks like it’s pretty cold and rainy out there. I better wrap up warm with plenty of layers and take my umbrella.”

Two hours later, the sun will be blazing. “I’m melting.”

5. Your first year will involve a ridiculous number of fire drills


Another thing to get used to in your first weeks after moving to the UK is that someone in your student halls will definitely set off the fire alarm almost every week. It might even be you if you burn your toast to a crisp. If it’s you, you’ll probably want to keep it to yourself – no one likes standing outside in their pajamas at 6am.

6. You'll have to embrace tea, rugby and other British obsessions


From having a nice cup of brew (tea) to talking about the weather, British people have some strange obsessions. There’s also a lot of national pride in sport, especially football (soccer) and rugby, so be prepared for loud cheering at the television every time a big match is on.

(This particular writer remembers the awkwardness of being an English student studying in Wales during England vs Wales in the rugby. If England are playing your country at any point, probably best to keep a low profile).

7. You'll learn to put a lot of effort into fancy dress


Most students start their courses in late September, meaning Halloween isn’t far away. Be warned: it’s very popular. A lot of people put a lot of effort into their costume, from painting their entire body to perfecting their zombie look. You might even want to go in group costumes with your friends.

If you get involved with a society, its socials provide other opportunities to get creative with your outfit, so maybe start working on some ideas now.

8. You'll find yourself saying sorry a lot


Another thing you’ll notice after moving to the UK is that British people say sorry a lot. In fact, British people are quite polite and have good manners in general. You’ll probably find yourself saying sorry even when someone bumped into you rather than the other way round.

It’s a strange habit, but it’s what we do. Also, prepare to be given death stares if you jump the line in a queue (though we know you wouldn’t do that).

Ah, sorry to have to ask you this but… if you enjoyed this, would you please share this with your friends? So sorry to inconvenience you, but remember you can also comment below. Sorry again! Thanks. 

This article was originally published in March 2017 . It was last updated in May 2019

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Written by

The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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