If you are coming to the UK for an internship, while it is almost certain you will have a great time, it is important to be clued-up on British culture to avoid the development of culture shock. First of all, we have to address the question – what is culture shock? It is the feeling of confusion and anxiety which a person might feel if they come to a country which is not familiar to them. It can be hard to adjust to different cultural norms and values, and the stark contrast from their own country may be an initial shock for some people.
There are a few main things that confuse people when they arrive in the UK for the first time from different countries. For example, when British people meet someone for the first time, they will often greet them with a handshake, not a kiss on the cheek. Generally, the British people are more reserved with issues of contact and personal space than people from other European countries. Another thing to be aware of is that people in the UK drive on the different side of the road, which can feel quite weird if you are in a car or bus as you feel like everyone is coming towards you. Furthermore, the food is different – the traditional British fry-up for example with sausages, eggs, bacon, toast etc. which is eaten in the morning may not be like anything you are used to.
Here are some pieces of advice to avoid feelings of anxiety and unfamiliarity arising when you come to the UK:
Keep an open mind
It is important to be objective rather than judgemental when you are learning about the culture in the UK. Everyone has grown up with their own cultural norms and values just as you have in your own country and just because they are different, doesn’t mean they are wrong. If you keep an open mind it will be easier to learn and understand why things are the way they are. Having a closed mind and resisting acceptance will only make you more anxious in the long-term. Try not to compare it to your own country, just treat everything you learn as a valuable insight into the culture of the UK.
Learn the local language
People will really admire you for making the effort to speak in English as it shows your interest and willingness to learn. Do not hold back on trying because you are afraid of the mistakes you might make. Of course, no one will expect you to have perfect English, it is a learning process and your colleagues/friends will respect that. Nothing is more admirable than trying and eventually it will get easier until you do not even have to try any more. It may even become a second nature to you!
Get to know new people
There is no better way to learn about a culture than to ask a native, and if you make a friend out of it that is a great bonus! Having friends in the UK will help with your English skills and also help you settle in to your new environment better. It is always great to find people to share your experience with and improve the social aspect of your internship.
Have a sense of humour
It is likely that during your internship you will say the wrong word or do the wrong thing in a social situation and when this happens it is important not to be too hard on yourself. Just laugh at your mistake and others will laugh with you. It is a learning process and it can be fun, you will pick things up easier if you have a relaxed attitude to making mistakes and other’s will respect you for having a positive attitude.
If you follow this advice and take everything in your stride as you progress through your internship, you cannot go wrong. Most importantly – just have fun!