Christmas in the UK



TGIUK would like to wish all our readers a very merry Christmas. Every country and indeed every family celebrates Christmas in a different way but please find below a list of some of the UK traditions, some of which we will share with other countries, some will be just UK. We would love to hear examples of how you celebrate Christmas.

  1. Christmas starts with Advent on the 1st December.  This is about getting everyone excited about Christmas.  Children are given Advent calendars – they open each page one day at a time to discover a new picture or nowadays to have a piece of chocolate.
  2. Many schools will put on a nativity play at the end of term.  This is telling the story of Jesus’s birth and most favoured children will be cast as Jesus or Mary. Most of us end up as sheep, donkeys, shepherds or wise men.
  3. Adults tend to have Christmas quizzes so make sure you know what year the Christmas tree was introduced etc..
  4. Christmas lights are a big deal, often very arty and are in most villages and towns. Some towns raise funds all year for their Christmas lights.
  5. Most offices will have Christmas parties and teams will go out for a meal or a drink. In the public sector staff have to pay for this, in the private sector, it depends on what kind of a year you have had.
  6. Adults take children to a pantomime.  This is the telling of a fairy story with lots of jokes and audience participation, the leading character is known as a Dame and is a man dressed as a woman. The best pantomimes have jokes for the children and for the adults.
  7. Father Christmas visits on Christmas eve so that children wake up to a stocking or pillow full of presents.  This is really exciting for children and is a way of telling a child that they are really special. Its  a bit unfair on the parents who have paid for all those presents and then have to pretend that Father Christmas bought them all.
  8. Different families have their meals at different times, the traditional meal is roast turkey, roast potatoes, Brussel sprouts, bread sauce plus more followed by a Christmas pudding.
  9. Many families all give each other presents or do Secret Santa – this is when you buy one present and everyone is given a present from the pile.
  10. And if you are very traditional, you watch the Queen’s Speech at 3 pm in the afternoon.










A Turkish/Turkish Cypriot perspective



A Turkish/Turkish Cypriot Perspective

A Meeting with Musa, Enver and Ela

When Musa arrived in November, 1980 in the UK, he was 21 and had just completed National Service.  He was looking for a fast food restaurant anywhere outside London and in a county 70 miles outside London he found the Happy Friar, which he took over.

Life was challenging, he knew only one Turkish family. He arrived in November and what surprised him?

Snow – the winters can be quite cold and his first sight of snow was exciting. The snow in the UK generally lasts one or two days but as we are never prepared for any extreme weather, its enough to bring the country to a halt.

Coming from a Muslim country, he had also never come across Christmas,  He was surprised when people kept saying ‘Merry Christmas’. Now he likes the festival and looks forward to it. His restaurant is full of Christmas decorations.

All three of them combine the best of both cultures, they celebrate Turkish and British festivals and  Enver and Ela’s wedding is living proof of this, they held it in a British manor house, using a traditional horse and carriage and served Turkish food.

Enver describes that coming from a small island where everyone knows everyone, your ability to express your opinion or your feelings are more limited than in the UK.  Here, we know we have rights and we know what they are and you are not afraid to say what you think or feel. He also points out that we have lots of choice: in what you buy and how you are entertained. In the UK, when you shop, you can check prices online and check that what you are getting is value for money.

They notice that in the UK, people follow the rules so if you are employed to work from 9-5, this is what you do, you don’t sneak off early.   They also observe that the government treats you the same,no matter who you are or who you know.  (This is backed up by the British Social Attitudes Survey which has found the British believe in their institutions and believe the rules are fair and should be followed).

What surprised them about the UK?

That the English drink alcohol at funerals. In Turkey, you would not drink for 40 days as a mark of respect

A lot of socialising is based on the pub and drinking alcohol (n.b. when you go to the pub you should offer to buy all your friends a drink, this is called  ‘a round’ and everyone should buy a round in an evening at the pub). Pubs were new to them when they arrived in the UK

What do we have in common?

Turks and the English both like drinking tea and horses

What is different?

In Turkey, you wouldn’t expect to leave home when you are 18 and even if you are 40, you could still go home and live with your mum and dad.

You have less living space than you do in Turkey, houses are smaller.

So many old people don’t live near their family in the UK and are lonely, this wouldn’t happen in Turkey, where the family would take care of you.

What advice would they give newcomers to the UK?

Adapt to the country – don’t isolate yourself in your own community.

Celebrate Christmas

Go to pubs and quickly get used to them

Work hard and as soon as you can, start saving for your future

1000 plus visitors


We have reached a milestone this month, we have  now had 1,000 visitors to the blog.  Our visitors are mainly from the UK but we have also had visitors from the United States, Brazil, Germany, China, Romania and many other countries. Our most popular blog ever was written by Tudor who wrote such a beautiful and positive piece about how living in Sheffield had given him insight and acceptance of difference. (Giving it your best shot – learning from others).

2016 has been a momentous year politically, the UK voted for Brexit, the US voted for Trump and it seems that the world is much more turbulent than when we started a year ago.  We think that these events make what we are doing more important, the need to understand what life is like for different people is even more important as a way of building trust between us all.  Our aim is to help newcomers to the UK:

  • Share stories
  • Widen networks
  • Find resources

We have learnt so much from people sharing their stories:  what is it is to live in another country, other than the one we were born in? We have seen how frustrating it can be if you don’t understand how feedback is given, that people enjoy how polite the British are and how annoying it can be. We have discovered surprise at how online the UK is. We have heard about different concepts of time(British Mean Time)  I have found this myself when I told an African friend, who had been cooking  lunch for me all day , that I would arrive between 12 and 12.30. She was furious, she thought I meant I would stay for half an hour! It was obvious to me that I was giving an arrival time but what is obvious to me is not always obvious to you and vice versa.

We have heard that it can be challenging going back to your home country when people can make assumptions about how well your new life is going.  We know that the struggles and tribulations of making a new life can be difficult to share.

People born in the UK have had a mirror held up to them and people who were once newcomers to the UK have generously shared their insights to help others.

So, what next?

We have a website: in development.  A wonderful group called Women Who Hack are helping us put together a really professional site.

We will continue to find and post more stories.

We will run more events during the coming year.

We have reached a stage  where we have confidence in the future and the value of what we are doing so are fundraising:  to get us further quicker.