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Living in the UK

As an international student there will be practical things that you’ll need to do, emotional things that you’ll need to deal with and cultural things that you will have to adjust to whilst you settle into life in the UK. 

All of it will be part of the experience. Lots of things will seem new and strange, but others will feel very similar to home.

The following information is given as a starting point but don’t forget that Student Immigration Advice and Compliance is here to help with any issues that you may want to discuss further.

Plus Icon Checklist: What to Do When You Arrive
Plus Icon Registering with the Police

See the following page for details.

Plus Icon Adjusting to Life in the UK

Many students settle into their new environment easily, although people can take different lengths of time to adjust to life in a new country. Sometimes being in a different country can affect you in unexpected ways.

You may feel a little excited and worried at the same time about living in a country far away from home. Things may be very different to all that was familiar. It is very important for you to know that these feelings are completely normal. You may have some disappointments, you may have some worries and doubts about coping and fitting in. Sometimes these feelings can make you tired and you wonder if you should go home!

Plus Icon It does get better!

You will begin to see things differently, you will adjust, understand and enjoy the new culture here in the UK as well as sharing your culture and experiences back home with new friends. You will find that you have made the necessary changes to allow you to cope with everyday situations and you will be able to start to enjoy this new phase of your life and study. Talk to the people in the University who are here to help – your course staff and the Student Immigration Advice & Compliance team.

You may feel confused at first but don't let a problem grow into a crisis and don't be frightened to make mistakes!

Plus Icon Skills for Learning Podcast 

International students talk about their experiences of studying at Leeds Beckett University. Listen to the Skills for Learning Podcast on how they adapted to university life and their advice on studying and living in the UK.

Plus Icon Personal Space and Privacy

British people may be very different to people in other parts of the world and many international students find some aspects of the British way of life unusual. This does not mean that British people are unfriendly, but they might take a little while to get to know you. In Britain, social relationships between men and women can be more relaxed than in other cultures. It must not be assumed though that this means a willingness to develop a more intimate relationship!

People in this country can feel uncomfortable when their "space" is invaded and other people seem to get too close. Personal space is part of a person's cultural expectation. If you stand or sit too close to a person in this country, they may move away from you until the distance between you feels comfortable to them. This is not a rejection of you, but it is simply an indication of different customs.

When men are together there is very limited body contact and usually plenty of body space. When women are with men and they are touching, this can be seen as encouragement but be careful that you don't send out the wrong messages. When men are with women - be gentle - a woman has the right to say NO.

Try to respect the privacy of those living with you in a University residence or a shared house. Don't enter rooms unless you're invited to. If you find that other people don't observe your privacy, tell them what your expectations are.

Plus Icon Appointments and being polite

To be "on time" for an appointment is not only regarded as polite in the UK but also very important, as many people have many appointments and classes in a day and cannot wait for a person who is late. If you know that you will be unable to keep an appointment, telephone or send a message and ask for another appointment.

It is customary in the UK for people to queue and wait their turn, e.g. at the bus stop, at a taxi rank, in a shop, at the check-out in the supermarket, in a restaurant or cafe if all tables are occupied, in the University Refectory, buying theatre, cinema or train tickets. If you 'queue-jump', this means that you do not wait your turn but proceed straight to the front of the queue, people will probably think you are very rude and may even be angry with you.

Try to remember to say "please" and "thank you" and "sorry" if you accidentally bump into someone - this makes situations much easier.

Plus Icon Shopping in Leeds

Leeds is a cosmopolitan city with a wide range of shopping facilities. As well as large stores and specialist shops, supermarkets sell a wide variety of goods including clothes and household items. Another place where you can often find inexpensive clothing and other items are Charity shops. All goods are donated and sold to raise money for a special purpose, e.g. to fight cancer, to support a hospice or children in need. Oxfam provides assistance to people in need the world over.

The population of Leeds comes from many different cultural backgrounds, so it is easy to find foodstuffs from all over the world. You will soon learn where you can buy food at a reasonable cost.

Many large shops and supermarkets are now open 7 days a week, usually closing around 5.30 or 6.00pm. On Sundays most small shops will be closed but some larger shops will be open until 4pm.

Plus Icon Pubs and Alcohol

In the UK many young people socialise in pubs and clubs. These are popular meeting places, but you may be worried about accompanying other students into a pub, particularly if your culture forbids the drinking of alcohol. Remember, you don't have to drink alcohol if you do not want to! You can order soft drinks (fruit juice or mineral water), often also tea or coffee.

Plus Icon Smoking

Smoking is not allowed inside any of the Leeds Beckett buildings, in shops, cinemas and public transport. From 1st July 2007 there was a total ban on smoking anywhere indoors, unless you are at home. If you smoke anywhere you shouldn’t, you could be fined from £50- £1000. Follow the rules and be aware of other people’s health and feelings, even when you are outside- they might not like you smoking near them!

Plus Icon Begging

You may see people begging and asking for money on the streets, particularly in the centre of the city outside the main shopping areas. You can give them money if you want to - but you should not feel threatened or vulnerable. If you do give them money it should be a small amount. Do not give money to anybody if they ask to borrow it from you – they probably won't give it back. If anyone at the University asks you for money, please inform the Student Immigration Advice & Compliance team or speak to Security.

Plus Icon Postal Services

Post Offices are usually open from 9.00 am - 5.00pm, Monday to Friday and 9.00 am - 12 noon on Saturdays. Smaller Post Offices are well signed and can also be easily identified by a tall red ‘post box’ in the street in front of the building, or nearby.

Major Post Offices often have machines outside so that you can buy stamps outside these hours. Stamps are also on sale at the shops on campus. Water, gas or electricity bills can be paid over the counter in a Post Office or online at If you need a UK driving licence application form or car tax disc you can also get them from the Post Office.

Plus Icon Opening A Bank Account

International students do not always find it easy to open a bank account in the UK as different banks operate different policies. Lloyds TSB and Santander will be present at City Campus during the Fresher’s Festival to help you set up an international student account if you wish.

It is wise to assume that it might take up to two weeks to open an account. Make sure that you have access to a small amount of cash for your immediate needs during this time. However, do not carry large amounts of cash or keep large amounts of money in your accommodation. Bring travellers cheques or possibly a credit or cash card instead.

Do remember that you will be required to provide several pieces of identification in order to open an account. Banks will ask to see your passport, a letter from Leeds Beckett University confirming that you are a student, a document confirming your UK address (for example a contract for your accommodation). The bank may also require information about your bank account in your home country and proof of your home country address. Please note - your passport will not be accepted as proof of your overseas home address by the bank.

Plus Icon Driving

Leeds has an excellent public transport network. Many students use buses as a cheap and easy way to get around. You are advised not to bring your car unless it is really necessary as owning and running a car in the UK can be expensive. If you do choose to use a car, legally it must be roadworthy, registered, insured and taxed. Parking for students is not available at City Campus except on expensive public car parks and parking is limited at University residences. Parking is also limited on Headingley Campus and you are advised not to bring your car.

Driving Licenses

If you wish to drive in the UK (either your own or a hired vehicle), you must have a valid driving licence. Licences which are issued outside the UK, and international driving permits, are valid in the UK for twelve months. After twelve months it is necessary to obtain a UK licence by taking a driving test.   If you do not take the test after 12 months you may be prosecuted for driving without a valid licence and this would invalidate your insurance. Nationals of the European Union who take up residence in another member state can continue to drive, using their own national licence, for as long as it remains valid, even after twelve months has elapsed.

Licences from the following countries can be exchanged for a full UK licence:

Australia, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malta, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, and Zimbabwe.

Application forms for UK driving licences and explanatory leaflet can be obtained from all main post offices. Application forms for a driving test can be obtained from the Driving Standards Agency.


Insurance Cover for your Car

You must be insured before you can drive a car in the UK. There are two types of insurance cover available in the UK, Comprehensive or Third Party, Fire & Theft. The compulsory Third Party insurance does not cover loss or damage to your own car caused by unknown or uninsured persons. Car insurance is very expensive for people under the age of 30.

The Highway Code

Rules and regulations, as well as information about road safety, can be found in 'The Highway Code', which is available from bookshops. You may bring your own vehicle to the UK and keep it here for six months. If you wish to keep it for longer, you will have to request permission from HM Customs and Excise: Dorset House, Stamford Street, London SE1 9PS. Strict laws cover drinking alcohol and driving in the UK. The best policy is DO NOT drink and drive! Further information regarding drivers’ licences, vehicle licensing and road tax can be found on the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency’s website

Further information

Information given here is intended as a guide for international students and is given in good faith. Care has been taken in compiling the information, however, the University accepts no legal responsibility for its accuracy.


Designated officer authorised to provide immigration advice and services by an order made under section 84 (4) (d) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 and regulated by the Immigration Services Commissioner.

Student Immigration Advice & Compliance                     

Our advice is available free of charge and follows the Rules and Code of Standards of the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) and UK Visas and Immigration.

This page was last modified: 28/07/2021

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