I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock of being an international student

I thought student life in the UK would be much the same as in the Netherlands. But small things began to catch me off balance…

bus racing past
‘A lack of information about public transport can turn a simple thing, like catching a bus, into a daunting task.’ Photograph: Simmi Simons/Getty Images/Vetta

For any student, moving away from home can be daunting. But I didn’t expect student life in Scotland to be all that different from my home of the Netherlands. After all, we get the same news and TV shows online.

However, when I moved from Amsterdam to study at the University of Stirling, I began to realise that a few small things were catching me off balance. I was suffering a minor cultural shock.

In my first year, I quickly found out my English was not as good as I’d assumed. Most of my flatmates were born and raised in Scotland, and I constantly found myself having to ask people to repeat themselves. Their Scottish accents didn’t help and I was mispronouncing names and places all the time.

I also got confused about small cultural things. Much to my flatmates’ amusement, it took me two Christmases to figure out that mince pies are not actually filled with minced beef.

The language barrier meant that public transport was tricky at first. I found the lack of information about bus prices and how and where to get tickets really surprising. It turned a simple 15-minute journey into a daunting task.

Ayumi Cristoph, from Munich, is studying psychology at the University of Stirling. She says she also struggled with public transport when she first arrived: “There was so little information about public transport. I didn’t even know how to buy a bus ticket.”

Then I had to adjust to a new social life. I was surprised by the campus culture in the UK – in the Netherlands, most universities don’t have one main campus where you can attend university, as well as live and exercise all in the same place. But here, you never have to leave campus if you don’t want to. I had to get used to everyone being so close to each other all the time.

Nights out are different here too. In the Netherlands, the less effort you put into getting ready, the better. I’d normally slip on my trusty Converse shoes, along with some clothes I could get away with wearing to class tomorrow, and wear minimal make-up. But, in my experience, clubbing is more formal in the UK. Your make-up needs to be flawless and your hair needs to be immaculate. You’ll preferably be wearing a dress and heels, too. I was constantly having to borrow clothes off my friends just to fit in.

Eva Kriechbaum, also a psychology student at the University of Stirling, and from Tübingen in Germany, was surprised that in the UK a night out ends so early. “Clubs close at three and everyone just wanders off, whereas in Germany that would be the time I’d leave the house,” she says. “I’m used to places closing at six or seven.”

But it’s not all early closing times and strange pastries. I’ve found lots of pleasant surprises in the UK too – and so have many other international students I know. Agnes Dybeck, studying psychology in Stirling, and from Sweden, was taken aback by how sociable people are. “I was shocked when complete strangers started talking to me at the bus stop,” she says.

Eimear McCarthy, studying sport psychology in Stirling, and originally from Ireland, says she has been surprised by how smartly male students dress in Stirling. “The way guys dress is very smart compared to my friends at home,” she says.

However, on the downside, she was dissappointed to find that Scottish shops don’t sell her favourite Irish corn snack. “The UK doesn’t have Meanies, which is just horrible,” she told me. “Meanies are my life.”

Culture shock can knock your confidence in the beginning. But you’re not alone in taking time to adapt, and soon you start to get used to all the differences. Looking back, most of the shocks I experienced made good stories to tell my friends.

[Source:- Gurdian]