Cultural Differences

  • The University has students and staff from many different cultures
  • Don’t assume ill intent, ignorance or poor manners if people behave or speak differently
  • If you are annoyed by someone’s behaviour, find a friendly way to make them aware so a compromise can be found

During your time at university, you will encounter students (and lecturers) from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds.

Languages

Hieroglyphs - photo by Charles Tilford You will hear various languages spoken on campus.

This is not (usually) intended to exclude anyone. People speak the language they feel most comfortable with. This can reduce homesickness. If you find yourself in a group and you feel excluded from a conversation because the language has changed, mention it. In most cases, people will make an effort to include you.

Food and manners

If you share a home with international students, you may encounter different cuisines and habits.

Sushi This could be great if you exchange recipes and discover some new favourite ingredients. However, sometimes there are problems. If you are annoyed by anything, you should politely raise the issue so they are aware of your discomfort – just as you would with British flatmates and any problems you might have with them. Maybe that cheese could be put in an air-tight container, and maybe those curries could be cooked with better ventilation. Of course, this works both ways: if you’ve been taking up a lot of freezer space, you may also be asked to adjust, just as, for example, a vegetarian flatmate might ask you to be considerate in your preparation of meat.

There may even be different table manners. In some cultures, using your left hand for eating is considered rude. In others, slurping food is considered the polite thing to do. Some cultures use forks and knives, others chopsticks, and some prefer using hands. Don’t assume someone’s manners are poor because they are different; the difference could simply be cultural.

Religion and politics

People can be sensitive about their beliefs. It is no surprise that the multicultural environment of a university campus is home to a variety of faiths and viewpoints, some of which may be ideologically opposed to each other.

Expect to find people you disagree with – British people, international people, people from all races and all faiths. Just as importantly: expect people who will agree with you, from all cultures, nations and faiths. Don’t assume that people’s opinions are purely determined by their background.

Cultural exchange is all about understanding and discussing different points of view, but use your common sense: get to know a person first, discuss anything controversial once you are both comfortable with each other. If things get tense, try not to let a discussion turn into an argument.

Multiculturalism

Studying in a foreign country is not easy. It can be expensive, and it imposes restraints on contact with family and friends at home. Most international students return home within one year of completing their courses, so they have only a short time to enjoy the friendly atmosphere that Wales offers.

The University of South Wales is proud to be a part of that. The intercultural exchange that occurs on campus is a valuable part of the student experience both for internationals and for home students. We’d like to encourage all students to make the most of that opportunity.