People and culture
You’re moving to the UK. Here’s what to expect.
It’s likely you’ve already got a pretty good picture of the UK in your head. It’s one of the world’s most recognisable countries and its influence is seen across the globe.
The UK is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. So you could travel from the Shetland Islands off the north coast of Scotland, to the Isles of Scilly in south west England, and then across the sea to Northern Ireland – all without leaving the UK.
Approximately 65 million people call the UK home, with most based in England. The capital city of the UK and England – London – is by far the biggest city in the country. Like the rest of the UK, the London is proudly multicultural and multi-faith. You will be expected to respect other people’s religious beliefs, as they are expected to respect yours.
English is the official language of the UK, but isn’t the only native language. You may also hear Welsh in Wales; Gaelic and Scots in Scotland, Irish Gaelic in Northern Ireland and Cornish in Cornwall. Your English skills will be more than enough to see you through your daily travels however, as it’s spoken fluently across the country.
When you think of the UK you might think of rain, but this isn’t always the case.
The weather in the UK can be unpredictable, but is rarely extreme. It can change multiple times in one day however, so even if the weather forecast says it’s going to be dry and warm, you might still need to put a warm jacket and an umbrella in your study bag!
Generally you’ll experience the following weather conditions in each season:
- Summer (June to August): generally the best (and warmest) weather, with long sunny days and occasional thunderstorms
- Autumn (September to November): temperatures start to drop, and days can be mild and dry or wet and windy
- Winter (December to February): the coldest season, with freezing temperatures and chances of snow
- Spring (March to May): usually good weather with a mix of sunny spells and sudden showers
You’ll need to remember to wind your clock forward by one hour on the last Sunday in March, as that’s the start of Daylight Saving Time in the UK. Daylight saving lets you make the most of the warmer weather in spring and summer, as you get more daylight in the evening.
Politics and government
People sometimes think the UK is ruled by the Queen, but the royal family has a mainly ceremonial role. The UK is a parliamentary democracy, which means the UK Government is elected by the people through a general election (usually held every five years).
The UK Government is led by the Prime Minister, who is supported by the Cabinet (made up of the senior members of government) and Ministers. Individual government departments and their agencies are then responsible for putting government policy into practice.
Parliament is separate from the Government, and is made up of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Parliament’s job is to look at what the Government is doing, debate issues and pass new laws, and set taxes.
Decisions about local services are made by local government councils.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own ‘devolved’ administrations which are responsible for many domestic policy issues such as health, education and transport.
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