Study Abroad in England – They Don’t Speak ‘American’ Here

British Telephone Booth

England by bachmont, on Flickr

Studying abroad in England sounds simple enough, but don’t be fooled–it’s still a completely different country!

Students often experience a greater degree of culture shock in countries where their expectations are inaccurate. Those who commit to a semester in the UK are often confronted with these expectations early on.

I was one of those study abroad students in the UK back in the day and my expectations and the realities of the local culture didn’t always match.

Here are a few suggestions to help set your expectations.  When you return from your study abroad experience, you’ll have a few of your own.

Three Perfect Reasons to Study in England…

  • The depth of academics. Undergraduates are often exposed to lectures and topics that they wouldn’t find at home.
  • There is a rich sense of culture, history and friendly people who have unique sense of humor.
  • An amazing diversity of cultures, languages and foods.

Three Bad Reasons for Selecting England as a Destination…

  • “I chose England because I can’t speak any foreign languages!”
  • “I chose England because it doesn’t seem as ‘foreign’ as some other destinations!”
  • “I chose to study in England because the classes should be easier given the common language and culture!”

Three Surprises in England…

  • The classes are more challenging, as you are expected to learn on your own and demonstrate a semester of knowledge in ONE paper/exam. This can be especially challenging for American students, who are used to being graded and turning in work throughout the academic year. By connecting with your UK peers and participating in group study sessions, you’ll be better adjusted to understanding how the academic system works.
  • The culture is completely different than what I expected. You just might be surprised at how different and will think twice about making inaccurate assumptions.
  • The food is like what my grandmother makes for Sunday dinner.

Three Things You Will Love After a Study Abroad in England Experience…

  • Football (soccer) – As the most popular of worldwide sports, football is played by over 250 million players in over 200 countries. There are over 40,000 clubs in England alone, so you’ll never be at a loss in finding a team to support or a match to attend.
  • Curry – The variety of curry dishes in England are immensely popular, and for good reason. Curry has been recognized as an integral part of British cuisine, and you’ll likely see dishes served in restaurants and homes all throughout England.  Expand your own palette by trying out a new dish and new spices whenever you can.
  • British Comedy – The Brits and their comedy are well-known for dry, biting and intelligent humor or ‘humour’.

Three Things You Still Won’t Understand After a Semester in England…

  • The Royals – The British Monarchy traces it’s origins back hundreds of years, so it’s no surprise how ingrained into British culture it is. Although the political powers of the Monarch are much more reduced than years past, there are still ties between the British people and The Royals. Look at how many people tuned into the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton (who, by the way, each did a gap year and went abroad). You can’t say people weren’t interested.
  • How Nice Brits are and How Mean Their Press Is – It’s hard to say why the British Press gets a reputation for being so ‘mean,’ but perhaps it could be attributed to the extremely dense market. With so many newspapers and tabloids competing for readers, there is a drive to outdo each other in any way they can. From hard news to celebrity gossip, the British press is notorious for operating in a vicious circle.
  • Bangers and Mash with Mushy Peas – This quintessentially English dish can be found in pubs up and down England. The combination of mashed potatoes, sausages and onion gravy may be hard to understand but it hasn’t deflected from its popularity.

Three Things to Keep in Mind While in England…

  • Control your drinking; It’s part of the culture for British students to drink, but there also those that drink and “chunder”.  The reality is that most have only a pint or two and do not set out to drink a hundred shots of tequila.
  • Be prepared to talk politics (you may find yourself responsible for Iraq and the World economy) and if you don’t have anything to say, just nod and smile.
  • Your accent sounds like an exaggerated cartoon voice to a Brit. Embrace it!

Discover all the ways you can study abroad in England! And check out for even more options!

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7 Responses to “Study Abroad in England – They Don’t Speak ‘American’ Here”

  1. Jason Greenham
    Monday, 5 September 2011 at 3:53 #


    Mostly adroit and correct. I’m an English English teacher staying in the house of my American sister for a while on return to Europe from Thailand.

    I like the humour/humor quip at the end. I always would tell my students that the spelling and the pronunciation I used were British (more Scottish than English due to residence time) and that the “or/our” noun and adjective spelling change was common.

    “Use your wits and drink ’till your out of your tits !” would be an ironical summary of advice to Americans. Oh…Yeah !…And laugh a bit too. You’re on vacation (“holiday” (from medieval-speak “Holy Day”) – a time of rest and inner recollection and outer exploration of the senses through meditation) – have fun and show these stuffed up Brits like me what American (and Canadian – get ready for the Brits mistaking your accent for yankie if you’re from the ex-colony) are all about.

    Cheers ! Enjoy yourselves and learn.

    PS If you know of anyone who needs a TEFL post filled leave a comment on my blog or e-mail me at

  2. Study abroad
    Wednesday, 15 February 2012 at 12:51 #

    This is awesome post and very helpful post. Keep up the good work.

  3. Cwatkinr
    Monday, 7 May 2012 at 12:20 #

    One of the most important things to consider is the exchange rate. To some degree the product that you get is similar to what you would get for the same amount of money in the US. However, overall the UK is much much more expensive than the USA. A most general example would be Subway. In the US they have the $5.00 foot long. In the UK it is the 5 pound foot long. At this years average exchange rate of $1.65 on the dollar, you can do the math… If you want a quick cheap lunch, learn to like Gregs. It is a national bakery chain that sells meat pies for around a quid. (quid means pound- and nobody uses “Sterling”)

    If you are planning on studying in London, expect at least New York prices. Any city larger than Manchester will be somewhat the same. Also, if you are able to open a bank account over here (if your tier 4 visa is long enough) then do so immediately. Very few banks do not charge a foreign transaction fee. Also, do not run out of money. It takes up to ten days to fully wire money into the UK from a US bank account. Special papers will most likely be needed by your bank to secure an international money wire by phone.

    Sallie Mae does offer student loans to citizens studying abroad, but prepare for a few headaches working with the school on this one as they are most likely not going to be familiar with how all that works. (even if they act like they do) It is not like getting student loans in the USA where you fill out the form and the school takes it from there.

    Definitely expect to work harder in shorter periods of time per semester. They British love their vacation time, so they take a lot of it at Uni. Spring Break is usually a month long, which is pretty awesome. When you get back from break though, expect the workload to sting a bit. But you will usually only have 5-6 more weeks to go until Summer.

    If heavy drinking is something that bothers you, then study somewhere else. The pub is part of the British lifestyle. Fancy dress nights are common in British Uni, especially during freshers week. This does not mean dress up, rather dress in a costume.

    I could go on and on… One last note, don’t let British people you meet dominate the conversation with asking about the USA… It gets really tiresome to talk about it all of the time. I usually change the subject with something along the lines of “I got bored with the USA, that’s why I came here…” It works every time.

    Have fun, don’t get arrested. Police don’t carry guns, but they will deck someone for getting out of hand. I have seen it time and time again.

  4. Cwatkinr
    Monday, 7 May 2012 at 12:32 #

    Oh, and one last thing… The British grading system is very different than the 10 point/ 7 point scale in the US. For my school anything above a 75 is considered excellent. I almost wet myself the first time I got a paper back with a 69.5 in red ink across the front. a 69.5 is marginal 2:1 which is below Marginal First class and First Class. Basically a B.

  5. Alfie Jones
    Wednesday, 28 January 2015 at 2:21 #

    One of the most important things to consider is the exchange rate. To some degree the product that you get is similar to what you would get for the same amount of money in the US.

  6. Gina Gomez
    Tuesday, 17 May 2016 at 12:37 #

    I love the idea of studying abroad, preferably in the UK. It seems my new adventure is going to be exciting. Wohh!!


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