Every year Robert Gordon University welcomes a huge variety of nationalities. British traditions, culture and history are what usually draws students from around the globe to the UK.
Despite it being a thrilling adventure, travelling and moving isn’t all peaches and dandelions. International students have to spend the first few weeks in the new country observing the people around them. Understanding what is socially acceptable and what is taboo is always a challenge but “culture shocks” make great stories to tell friends and family.
In Italy, for example, one of the common stereotypes of English people is that they detest making contact with or talking to people but this is not true. In fact, as soon as you enter a shop, whoever is working there will look at you, smile and say “hi, how’s your day been so far?”. Depending on where you come from, this can be very confusing to you. If you are from Bulgaria, Hungary or Italy, reading that question may have already triggered some sort of panicky feeling in you. What should you do? Should you awkwardly smile and say “Good, thanks”? Or should you ask them how their day has been so far? The scene, unfortunately, usually ends up with you blankly staring at the shop assistant for about 40 seconds. Next time you know you’ll do better.
For some students, even a simple thing like taking the bus has, in one way or the other, caused a small “culture shock”. Stoyan Stoyanov, a first-year student from Bulgaria, said that in his country it is not common to see people queuing to get on the bus. Whereas here, it does not matter if it’s raining, or if the temperature is -4°C, everybody will always respect their turn to get on the bus. Moreover, buses are usually “on time and warm,” adds Vanya Chapkanova.
The biggest shock for Gioia Brogioni, a first-year student from Italy, was the food; bread is definitely “too sweet.” Vanya noticed how low the prices of common goods are compared to Bulgaria but this does not change the fact that “vegetables seem to be made of plastic”.
“Alcohol is way cheaper than in Sweden,” says Matilda Ringqvist, and “you can get drunk on beer without even realising it”, remarks Gioia. She says: “beer is completely different from the one we drink”, it’s “as smooth as water”, whereas in Italy it can be very fizzy and, by consequence, more difficult to drink.
Moving to Aberdeen also brought to Gioia’s attention on how expensive clubs in Italy can be. Back in her hometown, she’d have to pay “a minimum of €20 (£18) to get into a club”.
In spite of the cold weather and the absence of sunlight, living in Scotland has its perks. At the end of the day, who said culture shocks must always be negative?