Get advice on aspects of British culture and everyday life which may be new to you.

Social attitudes while you’re here

Life in the UK may be quite different from what you are used to at home. The UK has a diverse population, representing a wide range of beliefs, outlooks and backgrounds.

Getting to know local people

People are generally approachable and friendly in the UK, although they may initially seem a little reserved.

It can take time to establish close friendships and get to know people.

On campus the atmosphere is generally relaxed and there are many opportunities to make friends and meet people. You may be living with students from many different backgrounds. Read about getting to know your flatmates (this information is intended for students who are living on-campus during the regular academic year).


In the UK, you can buy alcohol if you’re over 18. It’s perfectly acceptable for adults of all ages to drink alcohol in moderate amounts.

For many, drinking alcohol is an established part of their social life – ‘going out for a drink’ is how they relax or spend time with friends. You don’t have to drink alcohol; you can always ask for a non-alcoholic drink instead.

If you don’t feel comfortable going to places that serve alcohol, explain this to your friends – there are lots of other places where you can meet.

Pubs, clubs and bars are obliged to serve free tap water. If you are drinking alcohol, it helps to stay hydrated.

Never accept drinks from strangers or leave your drink unattended.

Forms of identification

Most places serving alcohol ask for photographic ID.

Do not carry important documents, such as your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or your passport when you are out. It is expensive and time-consuming if they are lost of stolen. It could also stop you travelling.

Alternative forms of ID include:

These alternative forms of ID are not guaranteed to be accepted by all businesses.


Smoking is illegal inside all public places in the UK, including University buildings, pubs, clubs and restaurants.

You can smoke outdoors, often in designated areas.

If you are smoking around others, it’s polite to ask if they mind before you light a cigarette.

If you are renting accommodation, check your agreement to see if you’re allowed to smoke.


The laws concerning illegal drugs in the UK are, as in most countries, strict and penalties can be severe. You could also be breaching your visa responsibilities if you get in trouble with the police.


To drive in the UK, you must hold a current driving licence. The rules regarding whether you can use a driving licence from your home country are complex. You can check the UKCISA website and the UK Government website for more information about driving in the UK, including road tax and insurance.


Parking can be expensive and limited. You will probably find it is quicker and easier to use public transport to get around Brighton and Hove.

For more information about our parking policy, see our transport webpage.


Many students cycle around Brighton and Hove. It’s cheap, environmentally friendly and a good way to get exercise. You can hire a bike to get around.

There are cycle lanes on many main roads, including from the campus to the city centre.

If you ride a bicycle, you must have a white front light, a red back light and a red back reflector for night riding. You should wear a cycle helmet for extra protection.

Read the rules of the Highway Code relating to cyclists and cycle safety information.


Our campus is not just for pedestrians – public roads run through the area. Use the pedestrian crossings when walking around.

Remember that in the UK, vehicles have the right of way and people drive on the left-hand side of the road.

Many streets in Brighton and Hove operate a one-way system. Double-check which direction traffic is approaching from.

Try not to cross the road between parked cars.

Tip: Pay attention to your surroundings, particularly if using your phone or wearing headphones. See more road safety information.


We’re proud of our reputation for welcoming people from a variety of backgrounds, promoting equality and diversity, and offering an inclusive and supportive environment for all.

We hope you never encounter discrimination.

If you think you have, you can get confidential advice from the Student Centre.

You can also discuss race or culture issues with a Student Advisor.

Mental health and wellbeing

See the help available if you need support with your mental health.

Seasonal Depression

Most international students coming to the UK will arrive in September or October. This means that you would be arriving as Autumn turns into Winter.

While there are many exciting festivals around this time to experience in the UK (Fireworks night, Christmas, New Year's Eve, Burning of the Clocks), for international students this can also be a very challenging time due to being in a new part of the world and away from friends and family. This is not helped by a significant change in the weather and shortening days.

It is important to think about your mental health and wellbeing during this time. If you are finding it hard to adjust to the change in seasons, it’s worth knowing that this can be a recognised mental health problem – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), more commonly known as seasonal depression. It is often linked with reduced sunlight and how this affects your body.

Some general recommendations for tackling SAD are:

  • get as much natural sunlight as possible.
  • eat foods with Vitamin D or B12
  • exercise well.

See more advice about how to cope with SAD or contact Therapeutic Services.


Our campus is a safe place to spend time. If needed, there are people you should contact if you need help on campus.

If you’re living off campus, or travelling around locally, see a Creating Confidence guide produced by the British Council [PDF 2.2MB].

Frauds and scams

Read about how to avoid frauds and scams.

Getting a TV licence

If you want to watch television you will need to pay for a TV licence.

Renting in the UK

If you are living in private sector housing you may need to prove your right to rent in the UK. An agent or landlord isn't allowed to discriminate against you based on your immigration status. If you feel you are being discriminated against, you can contact the Home Office helpline on (+44) 0300 790 6268 or seek help from Citizens Advice.

Find out more about how to prove your right to rent in the UK.

Council tax
As a student you may be exempt from paying council tax. See the University guidance on who needs to pay.

See more from Life as an international student