- Unsplash/Calum Lewis
When moving to another country, there are dozens of things to consider, from visas to shipping your belongings.
Then there’s adapting to the local customs.
A number of members of the Business Insider team have made the move to the UK from all over the world.
Along with the opinions of people on Reddit who have done the same, we’ve collated a list of customs that caused the biggest culture shock – or took a bit of time to adapt to – when people made the big leap.
Including everything from high street banks to “Great British Bake Off” hysteria, scroll on to discover 19 things we wish we’d known before moving to the UK.
Social class means more in the UK than elsewhere.
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“Moving to the UK was a bit of a shock for me as an American,” said Reddit user meiyoumayo. “It was never big huge ‘oh wow everything is different’ changes, but little things that trip you up a lot.
“I think the biggest one was how much more class-conscious people were. At the very least, people don’t hear my accent and instantly make a snap judgment about my tax bracket.”
Social drinking is a huge British past-time.
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“You’ll get used to drinking a whole lot more,” said Business Insider’s Canadian Lifestyle Editor Ali Millington. “A drink after work on most days won’t become uncommon, and few social situations don’t involve booze.”
It’s common for children to walk to school without an adult.
- Getty Images/Christoper Furlong
“In Italy, kids are dropped to school by their parents, babysitters, or caretakers. It’s super rare to see a school bus picking kids up from home,” said Business Insider’s video producer Claudia Romeo.
“However, what strikes me the most is seeing children walk to school or taking public transports all by themselves, sometimes some of them no older than 10!”
Most shops, like corner shops and convenience stores, are open at all hours of the day.
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“In Italy, clothes shops and high streets are open latest at the weekend,” Romeo said. “Some stay open until 10pm, whereas here Sundays in the centre are a no-no due to the crowds.
“On the upside, though, mainland European grocery stores are often shut during the weekend, with only a few exceptions, whereas here, supermarkets are always open late.”
Nobody does anything on a Tuesday when ‘Bake Off’ is on.
- Channel 4/Love Productions
“There are a few TV shows that dictate the social calendar – you soon won’t be able to escape the names ‘Great British Bake Off’ and ‘Love Island,'” Millington said.
Everyone uses an electric kettle.
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Dina Spector, Business Insider’s managing director from the US, said: “Everyone uses an electric kettle. I should have bought one immediately instead of waiting for my water to boil on the stove.”
Work out your travel pass as soon as you arrive — buying individual tickets for journeys will bog you down.
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“Get your transport needs sorted early,” said Business Insider research analyst Maria Terekhova, originally from the Ukraine. “If you’re moving to London, register an Oyster card first thing and learn how to use the TfL journey planner.”
The UK is very proud of its history — and showcases it everywhere.
- Flickr/Peter Burgess
“I remember visiting a pub in England, and they had a little blurb about the history of the place,” said American Reddit user Chattone. “I remember the shock of realizing I was in a pub that was older than my whole damn country.”
Nightlife is largely retained to pubs and clubs, and doesn’t spill out into the streets like in mainland Europe.
“I wish I’d known that London has basically no open-air ‘movida’ during weekend nights,” said BI tech report Edoardo Maggio.
“In Italy, people will roam the streets to get from one place to another, drinking and laughing along the way. In the UK, there are no squares or streets where people just walk and talk with loads of bars and nightlife. That’s one of the things I miss the most and didn’t expect I would.”
Despite the pub culture in the UK, most pubs close by 11 or 12 p.m. in the evening.
- Flickr/Tnarik Innael
“Despite the fact that pub culture is important to Brits, most pubs close really early – like 11 p.m. or midnight – which can crush any dreams you have of skipping bars and clubs altogether,” Millington said.
Prepare to spend a lot of time travelling from one place to another.
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“It is normal that your friends live an hour away from you even though they live in the same city,” said German BI research associate Lea Nonninger.
It’s common courtesy to thank your bus driver for your journey.
- Unsplash/Craig Whitehead
“I moved from Romania to the UK and while I was familiar with British culture and had no problem integrating, I was really shocked when people were thanking the bus driver when getting off at their stop,” said reddit user BElf1990.
“Soon enough I started doing the same and once I moved back to Romania and kept doing that, people gave me the oddest looks.”
Only in the UK will you find sinks with separate taps for hot and cold.
“This is something I will never get my head around,” Romeo said. “I have lived in several places where I’ve had to quickly swing my hands from one tap to the other to prevent getting burnt or frozen.”
The property market moves quickly in the UK’s big cities — especially London.
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“Looking for a flat a week before wanting to move in is fine,” Nonninger said. “The housing market moves unbelievably quickly.”
The Brits take their beer seriously — but some types are different to what you’re used to.
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“If you’re coming from the US or continental Europe, be advised that ‘ale’ is not like the beers you’ll probably be used to – yes, it’s supposed to be flat,” Terekhova said.
Sometimes it’s quicker to get off the bus and walk instead.
“At rush hour, it might be quicker to walk for half an hour than to take a bus that would normally take 10 minutes,” Nonninger said.
Some regions of the UK are more welcoming than others.
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“In my experience, people from the south will generally be much less friendly – and less open to a new friend – than people from the north,” Millington said.
Anyone can walk into a bank without being checked or frisked.
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“My mother works for a bank in Italy and I’ve lost count of how many times I would go and visit her at work and get locked out because I had no card that would allow me in,” Romeo said.
“In the UK, banks look more like shops with people free to walk in without having to go through security.”
British people say “sorry” an awful lot.
- Unsplash/Anna Dziubinska
“People apologize for almost everything,” said Reddit user Aixenfeir, who is from the Czech Republic. “A lot of times I avoided other people on the street and they’d apologize. It almost drove me mad.”