Letters from the dorm: Small talk makes big impact

Letters from the dorm: Small talk makes big impact

Going abroad can cause culture shock - international students may feel strange in an unfamiliar environment. This may mean homesickness and barriers in communication and socialising. But I love getting to know another country's culture, and it's often fun to note the cultural differences between us Hongkongers and the British.

Iconic British stuff includes the "Keep Calm and (Carry On)" posters, the red telephone box, the Queen, and of course, Harry Potter and Harry Styles. Traditionally, Brits are famous for their politeness, sense of humour, and for liking tea and scones. These traditions aside, the first thing I found hard to get used to was the slower pace of life.

Most Hong Kong students take efficiency for granted - but here everyone understands train delays or a five-hour queue for a student visa check.

Classes are also more relaxed here - for example, there is no formal greeting to teachers or professors, and you can just walk out of a tutorial to go to the toilet without asking for permission.

Rather than joining every possible club, many students go to the pub after class- it's a British way of socialising.

Turning to language, Brits like to make small talk - about the weather, for example - and can be subtle and indirect. I think we Chinese are more straightforward in expressing ourselves.

I've also noticed and adopted many British mannerisms (perhaps you'll have noticed these in films like the Harry Potter series). I'll share some fun ones with you: "loo" (toilet), "I reckon" (I think), "cheers, mate" (thanks, bye, my friend), and "pudding" (dessert).

Some families use "dinner" to mean lunch, and "tea" to mean dinner!

And, of course affectionate terms are often used, including "dear", "love", and "son", and could be used by anyone from your secondary school teacher to the nice lady serving you at the corner shop.

There's much to learn from other cultures. After all, this is what studying abroad is all about!

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