Ukrainian migrant support hub

A gateway for Ukrainian migrants and those who support them to access information, events and services.
Шлюз для доступу до інформації, подій та послуг для українських мігрантів та тих, хто їх підтримує.

Life in the UK

Freedom of expression & discrimination

You have a legal right not to be discriminated against on the basis of your race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, disability or if you’re pregnant. This right applies to accessing any government service, your work, education or when buying goods and services.

You have a right to hold any belief and communicate those beliefs without fear of punishment from the government. This includes practicing your religion, expressing your sexuality, talking about your political views and criticising the government or royal family. There are however limits to this.

If you, or anyone else uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviours that target another group on the basis of race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, then that is a hate crime.

What should I do if I have been discriminated against?

If you believe you have been discriminated against, you can get help in making a complaint.

Where to get help
Search for support options
What should I do if someone threatens me or is verbally abusive because of my race, religion, sexuality or disability?

If you believe you are in danger you should call 999 immediately and ask for the police. If the event has already passed, or you’re not in immediate danger, you should report them to the police by calling 101 or reporting it to a hate crime service. 

Where to get help
Search for support options
Politeness & social customs
Greeting people

If you’re meeting someone for the first time, it’s common to offer a hand shake and ask each other for their name. The more familiar you are with a person, the less likely you would be to shake their hands again. Many friends or family members will choose to hug each other, but not everyone likes this level of contact. Fewer people would greet anyone with a kiss, unless they are their partner or close family member.

The UK does not have a strong hierarchy and there is much less emphasis on having respect for people because of their age or social status than in many cultures. If someone has introduced themselves has told you their first name, you should use this. If you add titles like ‘sir’ in front of someone’s name they may feel uncomfortable.


When starting a conversation with people they don’t know well, British people usually start with what’s called ‘small talk’. This may be about the weather, how your journey was, where you have come from, or current events in the news. It is best to understand this as an attempt to find some point of connection which can lead to a more personal conversation.

British people use ‘please’ and ‘sorry’ as much as possible, even when there is no obvious reason why someone would need to apologise.

Unless you know somebody well, it is usually considered rude to ask them about their income, wealth, age or weight.

Boasting about personal achievements or status is not usually appreciated – people will often find this obnoxious. This does not apply however in a job interview, where you are expected to be very comfortable in promoting your skills and achievements.

British people use a lot of double meanings and dry humour when they are talking. This can be very nuanced and will take most foreign people a long time to get used to. It is best to remember that if you're having a friendly conversation with a British person and they say something that seems very confusing or offensive, they may have been making a joke or using irony. British people frequently make self-deprecating jokes, or for men particularly, insult their close friends.

Eating together

If eating with others around a table, it is usual to wait until everyone has their food before starting.

For most dishes, people will only eat with their knife, fork or spoon, and it will be considered impolite to eat with your hands. This is not always the case, and you can watch what others do to work out if using your hands is OK.


You should always arrive on time or slightly before for any business or work appointment. You will likely be viewed badly if you arrive late. For social engagements, you should also arrive on time – though most people will not mind if you arrive within 10 minutes of the agreed time.

If you are going to be late, it is respectful to call or send a message to let them know what has happened and when you expect to arrive.

In public

People form queues in many situations such as at bus stops, in shops or pubs. Anyone who walks to the front will be considered very rude.

People are generally quite reserved in public, and whilst some people will make conversation with a stranger in situations such as waiting in a queue or on public transport, in most places this is not common. If you need help or directions, most people will be happy to help you.

British people like more personal space than some other cultures. If you notice people taking a step backwards when you start talking to them, that’s a sign that you may be standing closer than British people are used to.

Most people are relatively indirect and will avoid saying what they think if they are not happy with something in public – such as bad service in a shop. Loud, public displays of anger are relatively rare.

Spitting is considered very rude, as is burping, farting or coughing without putting a hand over your mouth first. It is not unacceptable to urinate or defecate on the streets, and there may be fines for this in some cities.

Going to people’s houses

When someone invites you to their home, they will usually say whether they will be cooking food for you. You can ask if you are unsure. Don’t bring other family or friends along without asking first.

If you are invited to someone’s house for dinner, it is common to ask if there is anything you can bring, such as a desert, beer or bottle of wine to share. People may also bring a small gift, such a box of chocolates. Not everyone will do this, so it is OK if you aren’t able to do this.

Many people will not wear shoes in their homes, but everybody has their own preference for their home. You can ask them if they would like you to take your shoes off when you enter, or just look to see if they are wearing shoes.

Many British people won’t directly say when they feel it is time for you to go home. They will usually do so by commenting on the time, or mentioning they feel tired.

If it is a child’s birthday party, it is normal to bring a small gift and birthday card for the child. You would not be expected to bring food. Adults will usually stay for the length of the party.

Gender and treatment of women

Men and women are considered to be equal, and it is generally expected that women will be treated in the same way as men in most situations. Whilst some men still practice customs such as opening doors for women, or insisting on paying for a woman’s food, a growing number of women will not appreciate these actions.


You should never feel obliged to tip someone in the UK. The most common situation when a tip is offered is in a restaurant where your order is taken by a waiter whilst sitting at your table. In this situation, many people choose to pay a 10% tip if they are pleased with the food or waiter. Some people will also give taxi drivers a small tip - often rounding up a fare to a convenient amount. For example you might choose to give the driver £10 for a £9.40 fare.


Always place any litter you have a in a public bin, or take it home with you. If you have a dog, you should use a bag to pick their poo up and place it in a public bin. There are dog bins in many public parks. If you are caught leaving litter or poo in public, you will be fined.

Identification cards

The UK does not have a national identity card system, and you are not legally required to carry any type of identification with you. When asked to prove your identity, any type of government-issued card with your photo on it is usually accepted. This will usually be a passport, driver’s licence or BRC or BRP card if you have one.


You have the right to marry who you choose, including someone of the same sex as you. There are several important rules:

  • You must be 18 or over to get married.
  • You may not get married to a close family member.
  • You cannot be married to more than one person.
How to get married
What should I do if my family are pressuring me to marry someone who I don’t want to marry?

This is illegal. There are organisations who can give you advice on what to do.

Where to get help
Search for support options
Alcohol, smoking & drugs

Drinking alcohol is very common and is socially acceptable in most situations.

You must be 18 or over to buy alcohol. It is illegal to buy alcohol on behalf of someone under 18. You may choose to give your teenage children small amounts of alcohol in your home. It is illegal to drive any vehicle under the influence of alcohol, and the penalties for being caught are very serious.

It is generally allowed to drink alcohol in a public place, such as a park, but in some areas the local government have banned alcohol. This will be marked with signs.


You must be 18 or over to buy tobacco products or e-cigarettes. It is illegal to smoke in an indoor public place, or at work. If you have children in your car, smoking is also forbidden and you will be fined if caught.

Smoking e-cigarettes (vaping) is allowed in most public places, though generally it is banned on public transport services.

You should always ask before smoking in someone else’s house.

Recreational drugs

Drug taking, particularly the use of cannabis, is common, but it is illegal. If the police catch you using, owning, making or selling drugs, there can be very serious consequences. 


There are usually 8 official public holidays in the UK, called Bank Holidays. These mark the 3 main festivals celebrated in the UK: Christmas, New Year’s Day and Easter, along with 3 days in spring and summer which have little cultural significance. Most shops and non-essential services will be closed on these days.

There are other days celebrated nationally including Valentine’s Day, pancake day, Halloween and Bonfire Night which will not affect the opening of shops and services.

Most working people are given around 30 days of holiday allowance across the year.