21st century Britain has a very diverse population. The UK has always welcomed people from other countries, initially from former British Empire countries, and more recently from the European Union.
The UK is a very tolerant society and most people live happily side by side. It is illegal to discriminate against people in the UK because of their race, gender, sexuality or disability.
Students often ask about the different regional English accents in the UK. These do exist but the pronunciation differences are smaller than would be found between British, Australian and American English. Teachers and host families will always speak very clearly for students, and they are unlikely to encounter any problems with local accents.
Traditional celebrations and cultural events take place throughout the year in different parts of the UK. See the calendar of annual holidays and festivals.
The United Kingdom is formed of four separate countries: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. More than 61 million people live here. England is the largest of the four nations, and the most densely populated, especially in the South East, near London.
The weather varies according to region, although in general the UK has a mild and damp climate. Winters are wet rather than very cold, and snow is rare. Scotland and Northern Ireland have the coldest winters and most snow. The South is the warmest and driest part of the country. Students should remember that the British climate is changeable – a rainy day can be followed by one which is warm and sunny. See tips on preparing for the weather and what to wear.
Transport links are good and it is possible to get to most places by plane, coach, bus and train.
All major towns have a train service, which is often the quickest way to travel. Train travel can be very expensive, so students should book in advance to get the best deals (www.nationalrail.co.uk).
Coach services cover most of the UK and are very often the cheapest option for students.
Eating out in the UK is often very good as Britain now has some of the world's top restaurants and an excellent range of cheaper ones. It is possible to sample food from all over the world even in small towns. See the British Council's tips on eating well, and cheaply, in the UK.
The UK is home to some of the world's top museums and art galleries, music venues and theatre companies.
Outside the major cities there is beautiful countryside to walk in and many castles, historic houses, parks and gardens.
Language centres often organise student social programmes which will include visits to the UK's top destinations. Typical trips often include Stonehenge, Oxford, Cambridge, London, York and Leeds Castle. Many will also take students to Paris. Most schools will send a sample copy of their social programme on request.