Advice for living in Cardiff and the UK, Health and Wellbeing, More

Adjusting to life in the UK and culture shock

George, Student Intern shares his insights into culture shock and tips from our International Student Support advisers…

Having lived in either England or Wales for the entirety of my life, I’ve never really experienced ‘culture shock.’ Sure, I’ve been abroad and experienced different cultures and ways of life, but I have never lived in a foreign country for more than a month. I’ve only ever been a tourist. After speaking to some of my friends on my International Journalism course, however, they each gave me an insight into the causes of culture shock as well as some of the best ways to overcome it.

Dealing with the move

There is no doubt about it, moving to Cardiff from your home town or country is a daunting prospect and everyone deals with the shock of independence in different ways. I found it difficult moving from Birmingham, as I had never lived away from my family and childhood friends before, let alone half way across the world! Culture shock affects most people after the original ‘honeymoon’ stage. After the first few weeks of excitement and activities are over and the hard work kicks in, your emotions are bound to change; it’s normal to miss those things that you love about home.

If you want to learn more about culture shock or want to embrace the culture of Wales with fellow students, then why not come along to Global Week’s launch event? The event will be a great opportunity to chat with other students and staff about your experiences of adjusting to life in Cardiff. There will be a variety of Welsh and international themed food and drink to try at the launch event! This event is a great way to get involved with the student community and talk to like-minded individuals.

Join us on Monday 27 November in The Study, 3rd Floor Students’ Union between 16:30-19:30.

Find out more here

What can cause culture shock?

 There are many things that might be different about the UK which you were perhaps not expecting. Here are just a few examples that you may have already noticed.

Weather: If you had no need for a rain coat before coming to Wales, it’s a good idea to buy one as soon as possible. As you may have noticed, Welsh weather isn’t the best! The raincoat will become your trusty companion as you walk through the wind and rain of the UK. You may find yourself becoming fed up with the cold weather, but I promise that the sun does shine every now and again!

Food: Everyone who I have spoken to about their home countries say that they miss the food and variety of flavours most of all. This food, however, might just not be what you are accustomed to.

Language: You’ve gotten a place at Cardiff University, so your English must be pretty good! However, it can be tiring and overwhelming using a foreign language 24/7. You may sometimes long for the comfort of your home language.

Behaviour: British people are generally very polite. You may find yourself very confused by all the ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ of British culture. This is just a normal thing that people will say all the time, even when it’s not really needed! You may also be noticing that locals’ core values are not quite like your own; our approach to education or family might be very different to that you grew up with. This can be particularly challenging as our internal values seem so universal and ‘correct’ to us!


Overcoming the shock

Culture shock is not always a bad thing. If you feel this way it shows that you are opening yourself up to new experiences and ways of thinking. It’s all part of the experience of being an international student; it’s part of learning more about the world and helps you to become a more rounded individual.

Though you may feel like the food and weather are terrible, there are always ways to make you feel at home. Below are some top tips that my fellow course mates gave me to help students who need some support in overcoming culture shock. Before you know it, Cardiff will be your very own home away from home.


  • Surround yourself with pieces of home: whatever home means to you, whether this is decorations, ornaments or photographs, memories often help students to get through those most difficult times.
  • Keep in contact: keep in contact with your friends and family at home through skype or facetime. Though they aren’t right next to you, they are always at the other end of the line if you need them.
  • Remind yourself why you are here: it’s always helpful to remember the reason that you are at Cardiff. By trying you hardest and completing all assignments, you will find that your time here will fly by.
  • Home cooking: if you know how to make a delicious dish that a family member makes at home, then why not show your flat mates? By cooking for you house mates, you will be able to teach them a little about the foods that you would typically eat back at home. If you are struggling to find ingredients, then perhaps have a wander around City Road for some international food shops.


Dedicated support for international students

There are over 7,000 international students studying within our diverse and inspiring community, and the Student Support team at the Students’ Union offer dedicated support to ensure they make the most of their student life. The team can assist students with a wide range of enquiries, including: visas, immigration, funding and adjusting to life in the UK.

Take a look at the support available for international students


I hope to see you at the Global Week events, and don’t be afraid to chat with me, other students and staff about your culture/ what you think is different about the UK to your home!


Global Week

Celebrate being a part of our international university community by getting involved with Global Week! Join us for an engaging, inspiring, informative and entertaining series of daily events to honour our international diversity and global opportunities.

Find out more and book your place at events

Take a sneak peek at Global Week

 Your feedback and help please

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Best wishes,

George, Student Intern.

Your Student Life, Supported.

The Student Support Centre has a range of services dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at University, including: Advice and MoneyCareers and EmployabilityCounselling, Health and WellbeingDisability and Dyslexia and International Student Support.

The Student Support Centres are located at 50 Park Place, Cathays Campus and Cardigan House, Heath Park Campus.

For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.


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