Life abroad: customs and habits

Each country is unique - that’s what is so fascinating about the world. It is great to read about the country and culture before you go so you are aware of different customs.

TV and radio

Moving abroad will mean you can't catch your favourite TV shows and this may cause some initial stress and anxiety when it comes to catching (or missing) your favourite programme. During your year abroad, you’re embracing a whole new culture and way of life and this applies to things you watch on TV or listen to on the radio. So why not flick through the TV and radio channels where you’ll be and see what little gems you can find. Not only will you get your TV fix, but it's great for improving your language too.

Communication 

Don’t always rely on the internet to talk to loved ones- it’s great to send and receive letters and packages. Try to vary your communication methods and so you won't be too frustrated if the internet doesn’t always work. Make sure your laptop is set up to connect to different internet providers and take an Ethernet cable too, in case there is no wi-fi available. ‘Skype-dates’ with friends and family back home are good to plan too!

Mobile phones

These devices are an essential item for any student - but abroad it will be costly to use your British mobile. It might be better to use Skype to call for free, or buy a global SIM card for cheaper mobile calls. Depending on where you spend your year abroad, you may be able to buy a cheap phone, with a good PAYG package to stay connected to all your new friends you make there.

Nights out

Students in the UK love to go out and have a good time - the same goes for students all over the world. After all, it's a great way to meet people and have a good night out!

In many European countries, and Latin America, the times for going out and coming home will be far later than many of us are used to. Of course, you don’t have to follow when they go out, but just bear in mind that if you are going out with some locals, that this is probably how their night will pan out. There is one good thing about not going out until midnight - you have time for a quick nap in the evening before you head out so you can survive partying all night long.

Shopping

On your YA, it may not be so easy to pop to the shops. Some countries take siestas and close for a few hours during the afternoon, some open later at 10am while others shut early at 8pm and some shops close early on Saturdays or even for the whole day on Sundays.

It’s not a major problem if you get to the shops at the wrong time, but it is annoying! Make sure you know what the general shop opening times are and what days they close on, also find out if shops are open on National Holidays.

The price of the goods in the supermarket may be different to the UK too. You may be used to budgeting a certain amount a week in the UK, but this could be cheaper or more expensive in other countries. For more information about budgeting, look at the weekly budget of what students tend to spend on their YA in the money section.

Food that you don’t even think about in the UK as being part of your staple diet - marmite, pickle, Cadbury’s chocolate, even your favourite brand of fruit squash - may not be sold or available in the country you’re going to. If you know there is a large British Expat area nearby you may be able to get some items but they will be rather expensive and smaller than what you’re used to. If you know you can’t live without something, then make sure to take some with you, but also remember that there will be some local delicacies that you’ll soon become hooked on too.

Smoking

Even though smoking in public places is banned in the UK, it's still legal in some countries. Smoking may be permitted in some restaurants and clubs so make sure you are aware of what the current law or situation is on smoking in public.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol in the UK is legal at the age of 18, but this may not be the case in other countries around the world. Before you move abroad, find out if alcohol is legal in the country you are going to. If it is, then make sure you know what the drinking age limit is.

To avoid getting into trouble, it is important to know what the drinking laws are - where can you drink? Is it illegal to drink on the street or on public transport? What are licensed premises? What are the public drinking times? Is it 24hours? What are the penalties for breaking the drinking laws? What are the fines for drink driving?

Travel

It’s force of habit that we look right before crossing a road at home, but most places around the world tend to drive in the opposite direction to us - before you cross any roads abroad make sure you know which side of the road they drive on.

On your year abroad, you’re most probably going to be relying on public transport to get you places - so that’s buses, trains, Metro. This could be a whole new world in itself - using machines to buy your tickets, getting a travel card, knowing the routes and which stops you need to get on and off at and knowing their operating times. Taxis are a quicker and more direct option but certainly a more expensive one - make sure you only use certified taxis. If you want to be more environmentally friendly, you could always use a bicycle but bear in mind some places won’t have defined cycle paths or routes like we have in the UK although other places have far more paths.