Student Life

India culture vs UK culture: What students can expect and how to adapt

By Guru H• Last updated: Feb 21, 2024
India culture vs UK culture: What students can expect and how to adapt
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The UK felt like a place of real freedom, where you're free to live without being bothered.

- Mohammed Khaja Pasha, MBA graduate from the University of Ulster, UK.

Starting a journey to pursue higher education in the United Kingdom can be challenging for Indian students.

The cultural difference between India and the UK is a primary reason for this. Both countries have diverse and rich cultures.

Knowing their differences and what to expect in the UK culture can drastically improve your study-abroad experience.

Indian students have a lot of expectations when starting their study abroad journey, as it might be their first time experiencing a foreign country and its culture. They might have many questions and be overwhelmed by all the information from various sources.

If you are an Indian student wanting to pursue higher education in the UK and are confused by all the information, read more to know the differences between the UK culture and Indian culture.

In this article, we’ll explore:

  • The differences between Indian and UK cultures
  • What can Indian students expect from these differences
  • How to adapt to the UK culture

Ready to study in the UK and explore the cultural differences between India and the UK? Let's get started.

India culture vs UK culture: Key differences

Cultural differences

  1. Food
  2. Language
  3. Lifestyle
  4. Family and social life
  5. Professional life

Adapting to UK culture

  1. Making new friends
  2. Dealing with homesickness
  3. Exploring food options
  4. Learning the language accent
  5. Maintaining study-life balance
  6. Earning while learning

Aspiring to study in the UK? Here’s everything you need to know!

Cultural differences

1. Food

Indian cuisine has a mixture of flavours and spices. It includes a variety of traditional vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes with staples like rice, lentils, and bread.

British cuisine offers an array of hearty dishes. It includes the popular English breakfast, fish and chips, roast dinners, and pies. A common perception in the UK about Indian food is that it is comparatively spicy.

In India, meals are mostly shared with families and friends, having an array of dishes. Indian dining is a social event. While personal choices are also given preferences in dining, meals in Britain are also social events.

2. Language

India and the UK have many differences in linguistic styles. India has numerous regional languages with different dialects and has various gestures to greet people with respect.

In Britain, the common language spoken by everyone is English and tends to be more straightforward. Politeness is maintained, but the preference for being clear and concise prevails.

Formality in the language is a notable distinction between Indian and British communication. Formality is maintained in India, especially in academic and professional settings, with titles often used to show respect.

The UK, however, uses informality in various contexts. Even in academic settings, students and professors may interact more casually, addressing each other by first name.

3. Lifestyle

Indian and British lifestyles exhibit stark differences in clothing, hobbies, activities, and festivals.

Indian traditional attire varies widely across regions, with vibrant colours and designs. On the other hand, British fashion is known for its blend of classic and contemporary styles.

In India, communal activities with family gatherings and festivals are usual events. Hiking, music events, and sports contribute to a diverse range of recreational activities in the UK and are usually done with friends.

Indian festivals are accompanied by rituals and traditional performances. Festivals like Diwali, Holi, and Eid are celebrated for consecutive days. In the UK, festivals like Christmas and Easter are celebrated through social gatherings, feasts, and festive decorations.

Also read: What’s student life like in the UK?

4. Family and social life

In India, the practice of extended families and living together or nearby is common.

Respect for elders and family traditions is given importance. Indians often engage in collective activities, be it celebrating festivals, attending weddings, or religious ceremonies.

Social hierarchies and maintaining a good reputation within the community are some major aspects of Indian social life.

British family life tends to be more nuclear and individualistic. While family ties are important, personal space and privacy are highly valued.

Family gatherings are significant during holidays, but the frequency and scale may differ from the elaborate celebrations in India. Socialising may involve smaller groups.

5. Professional life

Indian professional life is often influenced by hierarchy and respect for authority.

Corporate structures are more formal, with employees addressing their colleagues and seniors using titles. Long working hours are common, and the work-life balance can sometimes be towards professional commitment.

Compared to India, British professional life is more egalitarian. Colleagues typically address each other by first names regardless of their position.

Work-life balance and personal commitments are strongly emphasised, with flexible working hours.

Adapting to UK culture

1. Making new friends

Making new friends with students from the UK is a great way to adapt to their culture! Studying in the UK allows you to meet people from around the globe and opens doors to new experiences. Studying abroad by yourself may be difficult, but with a group of friends, your experience can be much better.

Friends can make you feel better mentally and even help you with your studies. Moreover, studying with friends is a great way to get work done and socialise. You get to meet people from various parts of the country and learn more about the UK culture.

Also read: How to make new friends when studying abroad

2. Dealing with homesickness

Adapting to UK culture not only eases homesickness for Indian students but also enhances personal growth. 

Engaging in local customs like having tea with a group of people, participating in cultural events like Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and learning about the local lifestyle bring comfort and familiarity to their new surroundings.

Connecting with fellow students, engaging in extracurricular activities, and participating in community events can help Indian students feel like the UK is a second home. This becomes a crucial support system during moments of homesickness.

3. Exploring food options

Food is an integral part of socialising in the UK, and adapting to local cuisine helps to get into British social circles. Whether it's joining students or colleagues for lunch, or participating in dining events, Indian students can get to know the UK culture better.

Shared meals create a relaxed environment for conversation, helping students to initiate conversations and build connections. Exploring markets, trying regional dishes, and engaging in conversations about food become opportunities for cultural exchange.

4. Learning the language accent

The English accents vary across the UK depending on location and are quite different from one another. Acquiring proficiency in the UK English accents serves as a bridge to understanding the UK culture, and helps in academics. Understanding lectures, participating in discussions, and engaging with peers become easier.

Whether engaging in casual conversations with students and native people, participating in social events, or networking for future opportunities, learning the British language accent makes adapting to UK culture smoother for Indian students.

5. Maintaining study-life balance

A healthy study-life balance is crucial for Indian students to adapt to the UK culture. Spending time with people and engaging in social activities helps Indian students to get along well with British culture.

Engaging in extracurricular activities or joining university student clubs and sports teams is a great way to adapt to the UK culture and have a healthy balance between study and personal life.

Many universities have international student societies and clubs to welcome all students. This balance contributes to a better academic journey for Indian students.

6. Earning while learning

Engaging in internships or part-time jobs while studying in the UK can be an eye-opening experience for Indian students. By actively participating in internships, Indian students not only gain practical skills and work experience but also become familiar with the British work culture.

Internships and part-time jobs also help in earning money and saving the costs of living, thus reducing financial stress. Part-time jobs and internships also serve as networking platforms, enabling Indian students to interact with professionals and peers. By adapting to the UK work culture, Indian students will have a better overall experience in their study abroad journey.

Also read: Your step-by-step guide to finding an internship abroad

Tips for Indian students in the UK to adapt to cultural differences

  • Be open-minded to adapt to the UK culture. Learn more about the people, language, and traditions to enhance your study experience in the UK. 
  • Trying local dishes in the UK is a great way to blend into the culture. 
  • Learn the UK English accent to make your studies and daily life in the UK easier. Engage in conversations and participate in class discussions. Reach out to peers and professors for support. 
  • Similarly, you can seek support from your university. UK universities offer multiple support services for Indian students. Don't hesitate to ask for help.
  • Familiarise yourself with the UK education system.
  • Joining student societies and clubs is an excellent way to meet new people and engage in activities aligned with your interests. 
  • Actively participate in cultural events, festivals, and gatherings. The UK hosts multiple events throughout the year.
  • Work part-time or find an internship to understand the UK work culture, gain work experience, and reduce your financial stress.

Also read: Working while studying in the UK

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  • Overcoming challenges like visa requirements and language barriers
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Related tags:
Indian culture
UK culture
Cultural differences between UK and India
Difference between India and UK culture
Indian student life in UK
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