Moving to the UK: things you’ll need to get used to

It’s been nearly 3 years now since I’ve moved from Belgium to the United Kingdom. I wasn’t expecting any great difficulties: I knew the language, was familiar with British culture and absolutely loved the British sense of humour. Moving to the UK was going to be an easy ride, I thought.

And while there were no big culture shocks, there were some things I wasn’t really prepared for. Come to think of it, I think I’m still not used to them.

1/ “Sorry, I’m British”

It must be in the British genes, it must be innate, but British people apologize for anything and everything! It doesn’t matter if something is not your fault, when you’re British, you will apologize anyway! The word “sorry” must be the most used word in the English language! And the thing is: they also seem to mean it!

One of the best examples was me driving my bicycle on the pavement. I obviously obstructed some pedestrians, so where in most countries you would get a dirty look for doing this, nope, in the UK the pedestrians move out of the way and actually apologize to YOU for hindering them! Haha!

moving to the uk

2/ Food combinations

British food isn’t exactly a synonym for “top notch and refined cuisine”, but there are some great dishes about. (especially desserts!)  The thing I struggle the most with however are the “weird” combinations of food.
“No, I don’t want chips with my pizza, thanks”, “What are these Doritos doing next to my sandwich and why on earth would I want gravy on my noodles?”
Sorry, but my integration stops here…

moving to the UK

3/ The weekend metamorphosis

Brits are one of the nicest and friendliest people in the world. Extremely polite, casual and maybe a bit uptight… But comes the weekend and everyone seems to go through a complete metamorphosis!
Let’s start with the women.  Conservative, business-like or casual: during the week there’s no real difference with women in other parts of the western world. But comes Friday night and a complete make-over starts: hairdos that would have made Amy Winehouse jealous, heels that will have you end up in emergency services after attempting a few steps and dresses that reveal more than they actually cover. It’s a phenomena I still struggle with…

Guys don’t seem to make a real effort  when it comes to clothing, the metamorphosis here is that this charming, ideal son-in-law could actually turn into a punch-loving, swearing ogre after indulging in a few too many pints!
I absolutely love the British, just not on a weekend out…

moving to the UK

4/ The obsession with Christmas

I’m not really a Christmassy person. I don’t dislike it, it just leaves me kind of indifferent. Little did I know that the hype starts as early as August in the UK!
I can still remember the first time I came upon an ad for booking Christmas dinner late August. I thought they had forgotten to remove it from last year’s Christmas, but oh no, it was a reminder that Christmas was upon us in …4 months!! Madness really breaks loose after Halloween:  companies start planning Christmas do’s , the shopping stress for the perfect gift starts and “What are you doing for Christmas?” seems to be the most asked question during that period. And let’s not even get started on the Christmas jumpers and Christmas cards!
But you know what? The atmosphere is kind of contagious and I find myself actually considering putting up a Christmas tree this year!

moving to the UK

Would you like to become an expat? Moving to the UK or elsewhere?
What “weird” habits have you come across in your new country?

4 Replies to “Moving to the UK: things you’ll need to get used to”

  1. Ashley

    My man is a Brit (i’m Canadian) and i find it amazing how culturally different we can be ( though canadians are also known for constantly apoligizing ). I’m still trying to understand the sense of humour. It’s not ok to be frank/direct with people but it’s ok to insult them? I don’t know…

  2. Michael Huxley

    Great post! Although you did forget our obsession with queues!

    Also, a very slight correction if I may, we Brits LOVE Christmas yes, but we aren’t THAT obsessed with it! We hate the fact the supermarkets and shops force it on us as a marketing gimmick as early as September. That’s all the shop’s fault though. When the first of December comes round, bring on the festive cheer! Until then, I don’t want to know! Haha!

    Sorry to mention it by the way! ;D

    • Els Post author

      Haha, thanks for your comment, Michael! True, let’s blame it on the shops 🙂
      Oh and I totally get the obsession with queues! How difficult can it be to just form an orderly line, right? 🙂


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