England is a great place to visit if you want a balance of history and modern bustle. From the home of Shakespeare to the famous Harrods department store – this country, home of the Queen of England, has a distinctly different air about it. Serena from the University of Leeds takes us through a detailed walkthrough of the best things to do when you’re in England.
Disclaimer: These are personal opinions and perspectives of the interviewees and are not a perfect representation of the whole country/experience.
Edited by Megan Chen
Do you remember that time in 2010 when a group of five boys took the world by storm? If you’re familiar with One Direction, you’ll know that four of the five boys (Niall is Irish) came from this country called England. The Graham Norton Show, Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes (series) are some of the great TV shows that came from this country too!
Imagine you’ve met someone who has never heard of your country before. How would you introduce your country in a few sentences?
The UK (a combination of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is a vastly populated country, consisting of a huge quantity of cultures and nationalities. This provides experiences like no other. There are no two places that are the same and it offers a lot more than the typical ‘London’ tourist holiday. There is a great combination of cities and nature and activities for everyone to enjoy, regardless of your interests.
Despite being similar in many aspects, how is culture different to Australia in England?
England is a very liberal society, and almost anything goes! There are no dressing conventions, except maybe not wearing shorts in winter. We are however, known for being quite formal, e.g. most people will shake hands instead of hug when they meet, which is quite different to a lot of other European cultures. I would be prepared for this to be the greatest culture shock, and don’t take it personally if some people seem a bit blunt when speaking. We love queueing, so never try and skip the line! Our norms of society are quite similar to Australia except we may be more reserved when meeting new people. We speak the same language, however accents are often quite different across the country e.g. Northern and Southern.
What are some places or experiences you’d recommend to visit?
In spring, lots of national parks are recommended during this time due to the flowering of lots of nature. Famous national parks in the England include the Peak District, the Lake District and the New Forest. Centerparcs are a great company that offer nature filled weekends away in areas such as these. It is also lambing season, so if you want to see some baby lambs go to areas of big fields across England e.g. Devon (this is a traditional farming area).
During summer, definitely go to lots of Pub gardens. These are packed during Summer and you can experience the collective English culture, whilst enjoying a refreshing drink. Summer is also a great time to visit some classic English beaches e.g. Brighton which is surrounded by unique things to do. Blackpool, Cornwell and Norfolk are also famous English seaside towns.
Autumn is great to visit some national parks and see the nature, e.g. Hyde Park in London, however there are options all over the country and often the lesser known forests provide the greatest scenery. If you are looking for a less busy time to visit places such as London and all of the big cities then this will likely be it. Typing into Google “UK big cities” will bring up a vast list that are all uniquely different and well worth visiting. The company ‘National Express’ offers very cheap coach travel to and from these big cities to airports/London. Some of these can be done as day trips.
Winter Wonderland is a common London attraction as well as lots of Christmas markets dotted around the country. York and Manchester Christmas markets are famous in the UK so if you are up North, I would recommend these.
What are some must-try foods?
Of course the obvious is fish and chips! Pies are also a British staple. But many tourists are also unaware of the ‘Sunday Roast’. This is pinnacle to British culture, enjoyed by many families on Sunday afternoons. It is sold at most pubs on Sunday and experiencing the Yorkshire Pudding is a must!
What are some local travel destinations that tourists might not typically go?
I would say many tourists often go to London, however there is so much culture in the little cities. We have lots of large culture hubs across the UK, so I would definitely recommend visiting up North rather then just staying around the southern London area e.g. York is popular as well as Stratford upon Avon, for providing some traditional English town culture. (P.S This is also where Shakespeare lived…)
What’s the best way to get around the place?
In London the best way to travel is the Tube. Its quicker then sitting in traffic on buses and cars. It is also quite easy to walk from place to place. Other cities in the UK have different transport links e.g. Manchester has a good tram route. It depends on the town as to how good buses/taxis and local trains are, so do some research on the best to use depending on where you are visiting.
What is the weather usually like and how do you suggest dressing for it?
Mostly it rains during the winter! If you come between September and February definitely bring an umbrella! It’s sometimes cold but not as cold as some nations such as Canada. It doesn’t really snow anymore in the UK, and Summer is usually around 20ºC.
What are the most well-known universities in your country and what are they usually known for?
Oxford and Cambridge are the most famous universities and courses that are popular there are traditional subjects such as English or Medicine etc… We then have a group of top universities called “Russel Group Universities”. Outside of this group lower, ranked universities are all over the country and are popular in subjects such as Business etc. Certain universities have reputations for subjects e.g. Loughborough for sport, but many are known for all subjects, and this is not usually a factor in UK student decision making.
UNSW Exchange Partner Universities: University of Nottingham, University of Sheffield, University of Sussex, King’s College London, Lancaster University, Manchester Business School, Newcastle University, University College (London), University of Birmingham, University of Edinburgh, University of Exeter, University of Leeds, University of Liverpool
What is the study-style and teaching-style like at your university?
A lot of universities in the UK are ‘research-based’, meaning that it is up to the students to complete readings for the majority of their learning. We have seminars and lectures, but weekly contact time is minimal. Students usually study by reading and completing big exams at the end of the year instead of frequent in term assignments, but this will depend on the degree choice.
What’s your favourite part about England?
The diversity of culture and experiences.
We have a good range of interviews from previous exchange students who went to study in the UK. Fall in love with the British experience here.