Guide to living in the UK

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.

Alcohol

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

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.

Drugs

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.

Driving

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

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.

Cycling

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.

Walking

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.

Discrimination

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 Life Centre.

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

Safety

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.

Council Tax

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

Download a printable guide

You can download our guide to life as a Sussex student booklet [PDF 713KB].

Aimed at students who are new to the UK, it gives you practical advice to help you settle in at Sussex.

Tip: If you want insights into other aspects of UK culture – including attitudes around sexual consent, sexual orientation, disability and gender – you can attend a New To The UK talk at the beginning of each semester or email international.support@sussex.ac.uk.

See more from Life as an international student