The UK- What do foreigners say?

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In my previous blog post I promised to write about some of the topics you send my way. Many Kenyans have been asking me to write about my culture shock experiences upon landing in the United Kingdom 😎. Since I write about my experiences and opinions all the time, I reached out to my friends from other countries and asked them to share their experiences. So today’s blog post is a compilation of voices from female students in the UK. In my next blog post, I will share a collection from male students.

Anna Celac from Moldova. A student at Cardiff University pursuing Masters’ Degree in International Public Relations and Global Communication Management.

Having lived in a number of different countries across the world, I did not experience any particular cultural shock when arriving to the UK. However, there’s one thing that is quite amusing to me and I am still getting used to it – the way British girls dress when going out on weekends 😅😅

Don’t get me wrong – their outfits are on point and eye brows “on fleek” but going out with bare legs, summer dresses, and open sandals when it’s almost 0 degrees outside is quite a brave move. Here, look at this photo. This is a random sample of how they dress.

When I ask them “don’t you feel cold?” Their response is hilarious. “We do not want to be bothered with leaving our jackets in cloakrooms. So we use taxi to get to our disco or hang out places.” The latter is definitely not true as I see hundreds of young women marching in their sandals and short dresses towards their entertainment destinations. Nothing else to be added here, rather than admiring their resistance to negative temperatures. Hopefully, one day, the foreigners too will get to this level.

Tsepho Maphanyane from Botswana. A student at Cardiff University pursuing a Masters’ Degree in International Journalism.

Heading to Cardiff was exhilarating, and my time here thus far has reinforced my decision for choosing to study in this cosmopolitan city bustling with welcoming residents always ready to lend a hand. Amongst its delectable features and offerings is that the city is neither too big nor too small to navigate. It is an absolute thrill to be able to get around mostly on foot since I am yet to figure out the bus routes!! It is a welcome adventure even while negotiating the unpredictable weather. However, even with much to marvel at, Cardiff like many other places, has its fair share of eyesores. Right alongside countless high-end shops with endless unimaginable shopping options is the undeniable problem of homelessness.

Initially, I had mistakenly assumed that an encounter with a street beggar was an isolated case. Then I was confronted by the realisation that sighting a duvet, flimsy blanket, and at times a pillow in the most unlikely of places was some unfortunate’s soul’s everything. This tore my heart out. Each day I struggle to reconcile who these souls are, where they are from and what life circumstances they have had to deal with to land in this precarious situation. Life has indeed dealt them a bad card. It has had me reflecting on words am sure every Motswana is given when they go into the world – when the going gets tough, and life turns on you, come home. How sad it is that perhaps they don’t have anyone hence no home. 

Amanda Louise from Kigali, Rwanda. A student at Cardiff University pursuing a Masters’ Degree in International Public Relations and Global Communication Management.

I didn’t realise how sheltered I was until I came to the UK to pursue higher education! I started with my undergraduate in London. Living in London is so expensive. Many times, I felt like I was being charged for oxygen. As naive as it sounds, I didn’t realise how expensive things would be even with the countless warnings from my brothers who came before me. Things really do add up here. When people call me asking if I could buy them “an iPhone because it is cheaper,” I laugh. You are mistaken!

The standards of living were quite shocking to me. Luckily as a student, you are exempt from some taxes and get reasonable discounts on clothing, food, transport etc. But even with the discounts, being a student is still expensive when it comes to payment of rent and utilities. So, taking up a part-time job is always advised. Here, a job is a job. People of all ages and backgrounds are willing to do jobs like being a waitress, cleaning in malls and hospitals up to two to three jobs. My point is to emphasize on how expensive life is in the UK.

I have to mention how important it is for you to keep time while working in the UK. You can lose money for being late or taking long work breaks during working hours. Then, the whole hustle of battling between work and school, sometimes, life abroad, can be really challenging.

Pauline Mutoro Kusimba from Kenya. A student at the University of Sussex pursuing Masters’ Degree in Science; Climate Change, Development and Policy.

I had this big dream to study in the UK. I hoped that one day it would come to pass. And indeed, it came to pass. Words cannot express the kind of place I imagined I was coming to. I wish I could vividly paint the picture. The daughter from the far Luhya land in Kenya, received the shock of her life on landing. I never knew that I would spot even one homeless person, but you can spot them all over town, yet I always believed that this was a problem in the third world countries.

I am a typical Kenyan who complains about the bad things in Kenya all the time. But here I am, feeling so patriotic with a renewed love for my country. When the cold season checked in, all I wanted to do was go back home. Fortunately, my good friend Patience wrote about winter survival tips that I found very helpful. I have adopted the candlelit tip, and I love my room.

I am a happy go lucky girl, and I love going out, but you should see the nightlife here. Back at home, you know about the music that plays at around three in the morning when revellers are about to retire for the night, that is the kind of music that plays here the entire night. (unless you go to an African joint). I have no words! All my answers are in Lucky Dube’s song” Grass is greener on the other side until you get there and see for yourself.”

Being from the land where food is paramount, sometimes I feel starved, SMH.


Pauline, guess what? I used to be a reggae fan, during my days as a radio host, so Mo fire. I know that song too well, I found myself laughing and singing the chorus, hahahaha!

Sabeehah Mahomed from South Africa. A student at University College London (UCL) pursuing Masters in Digital Humanities.

In South Africa, one will often see beggars on the street corners. So the culture of begging was not new for me. However, once arriving in the UK, I was shocked to observe the extent of indifference exhibited towards beggars and homeless people. One particular incident was a homeless woman going through the train saying, “I’m really sorry to disturb you, may you please take a minute to listen to me. I’m in need of any spare change to take a shower, or some food, water or hand sanitizer. Anything would be appreciated.” She went from carriage to carriage, and each time people pretended she was not there. Totally ignoring her. I was told, “In the UK, beggars are all scammers. So, don’t give them anything, don’t talk to them and don’t even make eye contact.”

In SA, its either you give them money or you talk to them and say no. But we rarely ignore them. Every time I want to help, everyone is telling me not to. This is one of the things that truly bothered me at first, because intrinsically I want to help people. So it feels like I am always fighting my natural reaction. The reality is that, this topic is more complex and one’s inherent sense of humanity gets tested too.

Well, I agree with Sabeehah’s sentiments. It is more complex than we can tell. Our church has been taking Christmas gifts to the homeless, I plan to join in this Wednesday. Hopefully, I will share with you how our acts of service goes. Isn’t Christmas all about the spirit of togetherness and sharing with the less fortunate in our societies?

Next week, I have Part 2 of this blog post. Male students share their culture shock experiences with me. See you again, Inshallah.

#MyCheveningJourney # IAmChevening

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Patience Nyange

I believe in a just society and I am a strong believer in Ralph Waldo Emerson words: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

9 thoughts on “The UK- What do foreigners say?

  • 9th December 2019 at 9:56 am

    Nice to read the different experiences from all the ladies featured in here. One that I truly relate to is how those girls dress when going out in winter. When I visited London a few years back that shocked me too… it was freezing cold and I could see girls on the streets dressed as though its summer time… I couldnt help but stare.

    • 9th December 2019 at 10:13 am

      Hahhahahhaha! Yes, many of us stare and admire their resistance to negative temperatures! Freeze and shine it is!

      Once again, thank you for passing by. Enjoy the rest of your week ahead.

  • 9th December 2019 at 11:45 am

    I never thought such countries have road/street beggars like Kenya. I am shocked.

    • 9th December 2019 at 4:22 pm

      Homelessness is a global problem, unfortunately.

  • 9th December 2019 at 12:45 pm

    This brings to light the reality of homelessness – a clear sign of inequality – as not only a challenge in Africa but a global problem.

    • 9th December 2019 at 4:05 pm

      Stella, I feel you. Homelessness is an issue that is bigger than we can see. It is indeed a global problem that requires global solutions.

  • 9th December 2019 at 4:02 pm

    It is interesting that you highlighted this because while there are fair shares of leaving abroad ,more often than mentioned ,navigating a foreign land is horrible . Homelessness is just a whole topic altogether !Ahsante !

    • 9th December 2019 at 4:09 pm

      Thank you. I keep looking at them and wondering, how will they make it during this winter season. Isn’t it too cold? I am convinced, when it is not working abroad, then going back home should be an option. Your family cares. It will never leave you alone.


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