Your Welsh culture guide: an insight for international students

There are numerous benefits to studying abroad, but that’s not to say the transition is easy. It's natural to miss home while studying abroad, especially if you're immersed in a culture that isn't your own.  

Dealing with culture shock is one of the most prevalent problems that overseas students experience. Culture shock is a state of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly exposed to a different culture or way of life. Unfamiliar greetings and hand gestures, unusual food, language difficulties, getting lost in a new city or committing a cultural faux pas because you didn't know the local custom can all contribute to it. It can even cause physical symptoms like insomnia caused by time zone changes, as well as colds and stomach illnesses caused by the introduction of foreign foods and bacteria. 

For international students, culture shock can be devastating. One way to deal with those feelings is to prepare yourself for what you might face. Continue reading this blog to learn the basics of Welsh culture, so you are aware of what to expect upon your arrival.  

The Welsh Language 

For the most part many people in Wales will speak English, a relief to many international students as English is the most spoken language in the world, with over one billion speakers. If you’re not familiar with the Welsh language, seeing it for the first time can be difficult, especially with pronunciation. 

Fortunately, the majority of the signs are in both English and Welsh. You may also take a while to get the hang of the accent. It isn’t unusual to spend the first couple of weeks nodding politely. 

The Weather  

Wales is, without a doubt, wet. However, being near the ocean in Swansea has its benefits as when the sun is out it feels like you could be anywhere in the world - your very own Costa del Swan! When you first arrive in Swansea, you will notice that the weather can change often, one minute you’re out basking in the brightness of the day, the next minute you are soaking wet.  

Be prepared for all weather, bring a rain jacket, an umbrella, and sunglasses!  

Driving in Wales 

Unlike the 64% of countries that drive on the right, the UK and Wales drive on the left. Worth a mention if you intend on driving in Wales, shockingly, they accommodate traffic in both directions. If you meet an oncoming car on these narrow lanes, you’ll have to look for a pull-out where there’s room to pass. Distances can be deceiving, and it can take twice as long as you might expect to get from point A to point B, because of the winding, hilly roads. The parking issue is another hassle that is strange to foreigners, I will suggest you read to get the necessary information. 


Coming from a different country with different types of dishes and taste palettes, one of the first cultural shocks in Wales is undoubtedly the food. 

Where some cuisines or dishes will not suit your palate, others will expose you to new delights, check out our list of Welsh classics you just have to try: 

  1. Welsh cakes 

Welsh cakes are one of the most popular foods to accompany tea in Welsh cuisine. They look like small pancakes, but are more akin to a round, flat scone. Welsh cakes are substantial and usually have something inside, such as raisins or chocolates. They're a terrific snack to have when sightseeing in Wales, or they're the perfect addition to afternoon tea. 

Top Tip: The warm Welsh cakes available in Swansea Market are some of the best around!  

  1. Bara Brith 

The Bara Brith is another traditional Welsh dish. It resembles a fruitcake, though the texture is not as dense. Bara Brith is served sliced and can be found at almost any grocery shop in Swansea. 

  1. Welsh rarebit 

Welsh rarebit, is a kind of cheese on toast. If you order this at a restaurant, you might get a multitude of toppings. Definitely one to tick off the list.  

  1. Laverbread 

Pronounced lava-bread, it is a traditional Welsh delicacy made from laver seaweed. It usually comes with slices of bread to spread it on. Similar to marmite, people tend to have a bit of a "love it or hate it" relationship with Laverbread. 

It may be difficult for you to find things you want to eat. You can find familiar food from your home country in large supermarkets as well as a variety of shops on St Helen's Road that stock exotic foods from around the world.  

Rules, values and behaviour 

Every culture has unspoken rules that influence how people treat one another. These tiny distinctions might be difficult to understand and contribute to culture shock. Examine what people say or do concerning the norms of their own culture. The Welsh people are friendly.  Strangers may say hello to you, try not to be afraid. 

The Welsh, have a reputation for being on time. Time management is essential in business and academia. Always arrive on time for lectures, classes, and meetings with academic and administrative personnel. If you are going to be late for a meeting, try to notify the person you are meeting.  

It can be surprising and often upsetting to discover that others do not share your most strongly held conviction because most of us take our basic values and beliefs for granted and assume they are universally held.  

Try to suspend judgement as much as possible until you grasp how different pieces of culture come together to form a coherent whole. Examine what people say or do in relation to the norms of their own culture. This will assist you to understand how other people perceive your behaviour as well as how they perceive yours. When you comprehend both cultures, you will likely discover some characteristics of each that appeal to you.  

Hopefully, this has given some insight into what it will be like to study in Wales. If you have chosen to study in Swansea, we’re here every step of the way to ensure you find the best property for your needs.  

Get in touch with us by calling 01792 600 227 or contact us via email at 

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