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Franka Zlatic

Croatian in the UK. Franka is full-time PhD student at University of Nottingham, pursuing her degree in Sociology.

5 Things British people say that confuse international students

Nowadays, most of the schools around the world teach English as a second language. It’s getting quite hard to find a person who cannot speak a word of English.  

So, after you’ve spent years and years learning it, you are quite right to think you can communicate with a native speaker without any major problems.  

However, it highly depends on what type of English you have been taught. If you’re like me, it was American English all the way.  

Add binge-watching your favourite Hollywood TV shows or movies, and you might feel a bit cheesed off or daft when talking to British people.  

It took me a while to adjust and learn the British slang, so I picked the top five phrases that international students might find confusing when living in the UK. 

1. You alright?

First step of the way is obviously meeting new people. There is a 99% chance they will say “Hi, you alright?” next time they see you and run off without hearing the answer.  

No, that does not mean they don’t really care how you actually feel, it’s just their way of saying “Hi”, or “Nice to see you”, or “Good afternoon”.  

After you respond to that question saying “Hi, I’m pretty good thanks, how are you?” and realise there’s no one to hear that because the person has already left, you’ll start responding to that by equally saying “Hi, you alright?” and walking on. 

2. Fish and chips

One of the main street food or fast food in Great Britain is definitely fish and chips. And as a student you’re likely to use all the benefits of takeaways and last-minute meals.  

It was quite hard for me to imagine why would anyone serve fish with a bag of Pringles, but I didn’t want to judge too soon.  

As it turned out – chips are fries. French fries. And what the rest of the world calls chips (i.e. fried and salty potato snack usually eaten all at once and in front of TV), the Brits call these crisps.  

3. Quid

Of course, to buy fish and chips you need money. To buy anything you need the British Pound (also known as Pound Sterling or GBP) while in the United Kingdom.  

As if all these names are not enough, don’t be surprised if someone says they’ve paid 8 quid, or that you’re expected to pay 3 quid for that Ben & Jerry’s.  

Quid is just a slang name for the pound, meaning 1 quid = £1. You’ll start using it too, you’ll see. 

4. Knackered

After you’ve studied for hours or spent the whole day at university, you will probably feel tired and exhausted. Well, in Britain, you’ll feel knackered. Same thing, but more British. 

5. Poorly

If you feel knackered for a while or you feel you might get sick or you look extremely pale and unwell, people might ask if you’re feeling poorly.  

First time I was asked that question, I thought people are assuming my financial situation. But no, it just means that you feel weak or ill.  

That word gets very popular in the beginning of the academic year when most of the students get fresher’s flu (another one to remember) after a Welcome Week full of social events. 

Of course, the list of things British people say gets much longer the more you live in the UK and communicate with British people.  

I hope these five will at least help you get started. You’ll see how easy it is to pick up British slang without even realising it, and in the meantime, Google the ones you don’t really understand, learn a few new ones and Bob’s your uncle! (There’s a little something to start your research with.) 

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