Cultural Differences

Preparing for Life in Scotland

Leaving your home and all things familiar to you can be a stressful experience. This is quite normal and affects students from all cultural backgrounds. Bring mementoes from home of your friends and family - photographs, an address book with addresses and emails, postcards of your home city; any small items from home such as chop sticks or cushion covers will all help you make your room feel more homely.

General Information | Life in the UK | Scotland | Weather | Money | Clocks | Clothes | Food | Cutlery | Queuing | Safety and Security

General Information

We realise that for many of you this is the first time you may have left home. You are coming to live in a country with a different culture and everything is new to you. Scotland is a very friendly place to be and its people are friendly and welcoming. You will often find that people are kinder and more helpful to you if you treat them with respect and are polite. If you find that people seem shy, it may be that they do not know how to approach you and are afraid of offending you. You will find that British people like their own space, particularly when standing in conversation. When two people are introduced for the first time they will sometimes shake hands. Sometimes, people will shake hands as a farewell gesture, for example after a formal gathering. However, not all people do so. You are not expected to greet a staff member by shaking their hand.

Life in the UK

British people like getting out and about on weekends and enjoy participating in outdoor activities, such as shopping, enjoying the outdoors, playing sports, going to the cinema or theatre, enjoying weekends away or spending time with friends and family.


Scotland is a country with stunning scenery and places of historical interest. There are many places to visit and sites of historical interest in the Stirling area. Visit the Scottish Tourist Board, located at 41 Dumbarton Road, Stirling, for free information on places of interest and events. The following websites can also tell you much about Scotland and the local area:

Scottish traditions include Scottish dancing and traditional Scottish music. Hogmanay is the New Year Celebration. Bagpipes are the famous Scottish musical instrument and you will, on occasion, see a man wearing a kilt — a type of tartan skirt. Look out for one during your first week on campus! A night of Scottish dance and music is called a Ceilidh — (pronounced Cay-lee).


The weather is unpredictable and varied, though the climate is temperate. In one day we may experience bright sunshine and heavy rain. To enable you to adjust to temperature differences during the day, layers of clothing are a good way to dress. You can put on warm clothes or take them off, with a t-shirt or blouse underneath. Many people are pleasantly surprised, as the Scottish climate is quite mild, with very few days where the temperature remains below freezing in the winter; this is as a result of the "gulf stream" which brings us warm water from the Gulf of Mexico. In winter it gets dark around 4.30pm, in summer the sun sets close to 10pm and the evening remains light until around 11.00pm. In summer, the temperature rarely rises above 30 degrees. Many buildings are not air conditioned. You may like to consider carrying water with you on public transport.


UK currency is issued by the Bank of England. Scotland prints its own money by the Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland or the Clydesdale bank. In the UK, Scottish notes have the same value as English notes. In Scotland you can use Scottish notes or English notes. Some shops will accept Euros. Britain's decimal currency is based on pound sterling (£) which is divided into 100 pence. Coins are issued up to the value of £2.00 — 1p (pence) 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 (pound) and £2. Bank notes are £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100. You would not usually pay for items in a shop or restaurant with a £100 pound note.


We change the time on our clocks twice a year, in March and October. British Summer Time ends in October.

Clocks are put back one hour on the last Saturday night of October. Before you go to bed, change your clock back one hour. For example, if you go to bed at 11.00pm change your clock to 10.00pm.

British Summer Time begins in March. Clocks are put forward one hour on the last Saturday night in March. Before you go to bed, change your clock forward one hour. For example, if you go to bed at 11.00pm change your clock to 12 midnight.


People dress in many different styles and fashions. As a guideline, for summer, light trousers or jeans and a t-shirt, skirt or dress and light sweater are adequate. From around October, you will need warm sweaters and a heavy jacket or coat. In winter you will probably want to have a woollen scarf, gloves and sturdy waterproof shoes or boots. It is a good idea to carry an umbrella with you.


The UK is a vibrant and multicultural place and you should be able to buy most of the foods you usually eat, either in Stirling, or in nearby Edinburgh or Glasgow. There is a shop in Baker Street, Stirling which sells Halal meat and can order any vegetable or fruit you need, if they do not have it in stock.

Though the UK does have a reputation for bland food, there is much more variety than people realise. Most people have three meals a day. Breakfast is usually cereal and toast, porridge oats or eggs, often accompanied by tea or coffee. Lunch is normally around midday and would be a sandwich, while dinner is in the evening and is a more substantial meal of meat/fish and vegetables, or rice / potatoes, pasta, pizza or curry; a very varied experience!


If you go to a restaurant the table will usually be set with knives, forks and spoons. Use the cutlery from the outside first. The spoon for soup will be the first piece of cutlery on the outside, on the right. If there are small side plates use the one on your left. This is for bread or rolls. Tea cups are placed on your right.


Queuing is quite important in the UK. If someone is there before you, for example, at a bus stop or paying in a shop, let him/her be served first. This still applies if you have less to buy than the person waiting before you.

Safety and Security

The University of Stirling offers a very safe and friendly environment in which to live. However do please be careful with your possessions and always lock your room or flat door, even if you are only going out for a short time. Please ensure you have an adequate level of insurance cover for your belongings. Endsleigh Insurance offer special insurance packages for International Students – see their web information at:

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