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We asked Cardiff’s international students about their biggest culture shocks

And yes, they mentioned the weather

Bold pigeons, bland food, earlier dinner times and the triad of tropical weather are a few shocking surprises for some of our international students.

Year after year, international students from more than 130 countries arrive in Cardiff to pursue a higher education. Nevertheless, Cardiff never fails to astonish even the most seasoned of our international students, they told The Cardiff Tab their most striking culture shocks. 

An expensive but vibrant night-life

One fresher explained: “The nightlife here is an alive, vibrant, and significant part of the social scene since it’s where you meet new people, have some unforgettable experiences, and just enjoy the vibes.

However, they added that they believe Cardiff can be quite expensive, especially in comparison to their previous currency system.

The pitiable, persistent, perilous weather 

With many of our international students moving from hotter climates, the common cry was the dull and gloomy weather on a regular basis – sadly not every day in the UK is all sunshine and lush skies.

Sandra, who is in her second year of biomedical sciences is still perplexed by how cold it is, saying: “I knew it would be cold, come on it’s the UK, but this type of cold is unreal […] even layering up doesn’t help.”

Even to our surprise, the cold is even a shock to one Scandinavian student, who admitted they are “used to dealing with heavy snow.”


Free healthcare

Many of the Americans here were absolutely shell-shocked to find out they did not have to pay ridiculous amounts for medications and treatments at British hospitals.

One said: “It’s crazy how self-reliant the whole healthcare system is here and not having to book ahead to get something from the hospital is great.” 

Three cheers for the NHS, anyone?

Brave and bold pigeons  

To our surprise, many we interviewed commented on the vast presence of pigeons through Cardiff. Not that pigeons are unfamiliar from their own countries, but a few commented that you only see them early in the morning and that’s it!

However, one international student, Darshan who is doing his Master’s said: “Them pigeons are bold, like they don’t move even if you shout or run after them.” 

Or as put by Davish who’s studying law: “We have clearly made them feel a part of the community for them to not even flinch.”       


We basically run everywhere

So apparently from our interviews, a few expressed how people in Cardiff walk quite fast.

I asked Zijie Ge, a business student if could elaborate more. He expressed that in China the pace is a lot slower and more chill, as if done deliberately to be more zen. However, here even when he’s supposed to be walking, he feels like he’s running just to keep up with his mates!

Perhaps Cardiff needs to take a breather.

British cuisine  

With many of our international students coming from cultures with rich seasonings and dishes that have even become a staple in the British food culture, we clearly have not done these dishes justice.

When talking to Savri who is currently in her third year studying law, she expressed how shocked she was that restaurants from her home country cook with weaker spices and the dishes relatively blander to accommodate Western taste buds. It would appear that fish and chips and a pie with mash don’t do it for some.

She is also trying to adjust to the fact we eat relatively earlier than the later dinner times she is used to back home.

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