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VisitBritain / Britain on View

Food is near the top of the list of things that people miss when they are away from home. In recent years there has been a true food revolution in the UK and it is easy to find food from all around the world. There are a full range of options for eating out in the UK, from affordable takeaways to Michelin starred restaurants and plenty of specialist shops where you can buy specific ingredients.

Tips about eating and drinking in the UK

Eating out doesn't have to be expensive. Many cafes and restaurants offer discounts for students.

In the UK it is safe to drink water from kitchen taps in houses (unless there is a sign saying otherwise). You can buy bottled mineral water if you prefer, but most people drink tap water.

It is estimated that there are three to four million vegetarians in the UK. Vegetarian and vegan food is popular and widely available at UK supermarkets and shops. Even small restaurants usually offer at least one vegetarian dish.

For halal and kosher diets, in large towns and cities you can find international shops and restaurants specialising in this food. In smaller towns, specialist stores are rare, but you can usually find a wide range of meat, fish and vegetarian food wherever you go.

If you have a food allergy (to nuts, for example), many shops and restaurants will be able to provide you with specialist alternatives if you ask for this. Most UK food packaging is clearly labelled, so it's easy to see ingredients and nutritional information. If your school, college or university provides you with meals, tell them about your allergies.

In many large towns and cities you will also find specialist international food shops dedicated to food from a particular region. If your school, college or university has a canteen or cafe, they should serve foods to cater for halal, kosher, vegetarian, food allergies and other diets.

For healthy eating, most food packaging lists the calorie, fat, salt and sugar content, and if there are any artificial additives, so you can make informed choices.

If you are interested in organic food, you will find this in major supermarkets and in specialist food shops.

Eating a traditional cooked breakfast in a university cafe ©

James Glossop / Guzelian

Cream tea in Devon ©

VisitBritain / Britain on View

Eating etiquette

  • If someone in the UK offers to cook for you, it’s seen as polite and friendly to bring a little something with you – for example a cake or some chocolates for the host. You don’t have to spend a lot of money – it’s the gesture that counts.
  • If someone has invited you to a restaurant, they might be planning to pay for the meal – but it’s always polite to offer anyway, just in case!
  • If you’re at a restaurant with friends, people often decide to ‘split the bill’ equally to avoid complicated calculations. Some restaurants will allow you to pay separately, but not all.
  • Unless a restaurant includes a ‘service charge’ on the bill, you’re usually expected to leave a tip – between 10 and 15 per cent of the total. There’s no strict rule about this, but if you are happy with the service and you can afford to tip, then it is a custom.
  • If you go to the pub with friends in the UK, you might have ‘a round’ of drinks. This means each person in your group takes it in turn to buy drinks for everyone. People might say ‘It’s your round’ when it is your turn to buy.
  • If you don’t want to be part of the round or you can’t afford to, just say so. You can buy drinks for yourself – no one will be annoyed.

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