Culture Shock: Life as an International Student

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Having lived in Vietnam for the majority of my life with frequent visits back to Taiwan, it’s safe to say that moving to England has given me a few culture shocks. Below, I’ll list the most amusing and staggering shocks I’ve suffered so far.


1. Calling for the Bill

One bizarre thing for me is that it is rude to put up your hand or call for a waiter’s attention to ask for the bill. I have been told that, instead, you wait until you make eye contact with a waiter and they come over to your table. To me, this was a very different experience and waiting for the bill took longer than I was used to.

2. Early Closing Times

I found it very inconvenient that shops and restaurants tend to close so early, especially on Sundays. It was very different to Vietnam where shops mostly open to half-past ten at night, even on weekends and even later in Taiwan, famous for its night markets. It feels strange when I walk down the streets at around nine o’clock to see many shops already closed and only the bars and pubs still alive.

3. Alcohol and drinking

Despite having read about the drinking culture in England, I was still shocked that there really is not much to do at night besides consuming lots of alcohol at pubs and bars. I am not a big drinker and personally not a huge fan of alcohol so seeing most people drink did take me a little by surprise.


4. Traffic Lights

It was honestly fascinating to me that you can simply press a button to change the traffic light to red if you want to cross the road. No such thing existed in Vietnam, although to be honest the rules for crossing the road there seemed non-existent, so this was a shock that I found very interesting.

5. Measurements

Seeing food measured in grams but hearing friends refer to their weight in stones and small objects measured in centimetres but long distance in miles was incredibly bizarre, though mostly confusing. The inconsistent units of measurement will definitely take a while for my metric system-orientated brain to get used to.

6. Currency

I have learned over the past few weeks to not convert British pounds to Vietnamese dong or Taiwanese dollar when shopping to save myself from passing out at how expensive everything seems. Although I haver learned how the currency works, using it in everyday life still felt awkward and I have a hard time differentiating the different coins. Thus, I would like to apologise whoever stands behind me in a checkout queue.


It’s only been 2 weeks since I moved to England, so I am certain more culture shocks will manifest as time pass, but I will just have to learn to adapt and embrace them all.


Mary Yeh

Images: Wikipedia, Daily Mirror, GovTenders, Daily Mail, Google Play, Global Exchnage