Holidays, Seasons and Time
The UK has a variety of public holidays when workplaces and offices close for the day. These are often called ‘bank’ holidays. Many shops and facilities close during the public holidays, especially at Christmas. You should try to find out about other activities if you do not intend to spend the time studying, as these holidays can be quite lonely when everything is closed and there seems to be nothing to do!
1st January: New Years Day
2nd January: Bank Holiday (Scotland only)
17th March: St Patrick’s Day (Northern Ireland only)
March/April (date varies): Good Friday and Easter Monday (not Scotland)
First Monday in May: May Day
Last Monday in May: Spring Bank Holiday
12th July: Battle of the Boyne (Northern Ireland only)
First Monday in August: Bank Holiday (Scotland only)
Last Monday in August: Bank Holiday (not Scotland)
25th December: Christmas Day
26th December: Boxing Day
Joining in Celebrations
Many of the celebrations can be very good fun, and it is worth finding out what is happening in your locality. Hogmanay (Scotland’s new year celebrations) can be particularly lively. At Easter there are often parades and fairs. Christmas is a part of the year when there are lots of celebrations throughout the UK. However, many facilities in town and at college close down for the week in between Christmas and New Year. On Christmas Day and Boxing Day, most shops are closed and most public transport doesn’t operate. During the weeks before Christmas, churches have special services called ‘Carol Services’, where traditional Christmas songs are sung. There are always special Christmas services on Christmas Day itself. It is well worth participating in a hospitality scheme as otherwise you can feel quite lonely during the Christmas period.
The seasons and weather
The weather is a favourite topic of conversation in the UK because it changes so much! The winter (November – March) is cold (average 2-5°c) with a combination of rain, snow, wind and fog. In the autumn (September – November), it is generally mild, but sometimes cold. The summer (June-August) is warm (average 15-20°c but often hotter) and reasonably dry. In the spring (March-May), you can expect pleasant and mild weather – sometimes sunny, sometimes rainy. The north of the UK is generally cooler than the south.
You will need a variety of clothing for different times of the year. It is helpful to have several layers of clothing that can be added or removed as required: wool for warmth, cotton for keeping cool and waterproofs for the rain. An umbrella is always useful! A thick pair of gloves, a scarf and some heavy boots (in case of snow) are also very useful, especially if you live in the north of England, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Changing the time
In the UK, we change the time / our clocks and watches twice a year. In the winter months, we have GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) and in the summer it is BST (British Summer Time). GMT starts at the end of October and we put the time back by 1 hour. BST starts at the end of March and we put the time forward by 1 hour. The change is always made on an early Sunday morning (to minimise disruption) and the exact date is therefore different every year. The date is usually noted in UK diaries and newspapers.