It's been a month since I've landed in Leeds (doing an undergraduate course here) and I originally hail from India. So you can imagine my preconceived notion that I would have to shed off all my Indianness (which includes being loud at times, not observing etiquette all the time - we do not dish out 'thank you' and sorry' that frequently). However, all my apprehensions were put to rest when I discovered the following:
1) The British are just not outgoing. This doesn't mean that they're not friendly. They take their time to analyse you and once you're in their close circles, they're just as warm as anyone else.
2) It is said that if you want to strike a conversation with an Englishman, talk to him about the weather. However, I would like to divert your attention to an equally interesting topic (note that this might only be applicable to the younger generation): Alcohol. The British LOVE their alcohol. Monday morning conversations begin with tales of weekend hangovers: how many pints/shots/glasses of beer/jaegerbombs/vodka they had. Interestingly, these conversations also set the stage for the rest of the week: which clubs have offers or free entry: Monday nights at Halo, Tuesdays at Tiger Tiger, Wednesdays at Warehouse, Thursdays at O2 Academy, Saturdays at Control and the list goes on... I find it rather amazing that on some nights vodka is cheaper than bottled water! (Maybe due to the high rate of consumption, the clubs manage to break even hmm..)
3) The stereotype that has been portrayed to other countries is that of the typical London businessman/businesswoman. They are people who do not have time to respond to a tourist asking directions and may at times even seem cold or rude (perhaps due to the cutthroat environment they work in?) However, England is a diverse country. The Scottish are different from the Northerners, who are in turn quite different from the Southerners. The other day, I heard some Southerners cribbing about how thick an accent the Northerners have and I was like, "Come to India, where we have a different language spoken in each state and a change of dialect every 200 miles!"
Well, that's what I've observed until now and while I'm at it, I think I'll add a little bit about student life abroad:
If you're ever considering studying in an another country, please do NOT hesitate. Parents might say you're too immature to live by yourself but I think moving out at the age of 18 (sometimes 17 or 19) makes you so much more independent and resilient. It sounds cliched, but only experience can teach you what life really is. As a Homo sapien, we all possess the unique power of adaptability. Throwing yourself in an unfamiliar setting will not put you in the line of fire, it will strengthen you. For example, I had never ventured beyond cooking Maggi for myself back home, but here I find myself preparing 3 meals a day (sometimes more) the responsibilities of which not only include ensuring that the food is not burnt, but also restocking groceries and lugging them all the way from Morrison's (1 km away from my residence almost!).
I have definitely come a long way - from someone who really did not even consider the UK as an education option because I thought it would be an unfriendly place to a person who is absolutely sure that this is the best decision of my life. So if you are thinking about studying here, remember one thing: 'The British are human!'