From grey skies to Greggs: These are the biggest culture shocks for a Southerner at Lancs

Chips and curry sauce, I miss you

Ah, the illusive North of England. To many Southerners, Northern England appears to be a fairytale land. It’s a rural myth filled with stunning countryside alongside urban jungles. Lancaster, however, fulfils neither of these categories. I’m not saying it’s not a great city, but I swear I will combust if one more person tells me that I live in the most beautiful part of the country.

Before moving to Lancaster for uni, I’d only ventured to the North for the occasional trip to the Lake District, so it’s fair to say I wasn’t really sure what to expect. However, even if i was a frequent visitor to the Trafford Centre, nothing could have prepared me for the sheer number of differences between the South and the North; sometimes I genuinely feel like a PG Tips teabag that got lost in the Yorkshire Tea box.

Here are some of the biggest culture shocks I faced when I ventured from the comfortable warmth of my southern dwellings to the (literally freezing) cold grasps of the North:

Greggs is not just a bakery, it’s a cult

All hail the sausage roll. You can’t officially be inaugurated as a Lancs student until you’ve faced the 30-minute Greggs queue in the blistering cold just to find out they’re out of sausage rolls and settling for a steak bake or a sausage, cheese and bean melt instead. Greggs for me is truly a Lancaster experience since there are only two in my home city, and I’d never experienced the true delights of a Greggs sausage roll before December of first year (shocking I know). I can now officially say I’ve seen the light, and my oh my what a bright light it is.

Everyone is friendly

Okay, I’m not saying that as soon as you get past Birmingham everyone flips you off as a form of greeting, but Northerners are undeniably more… chatty. As strange as it was at first, I actually don’t hate it. It’s almost nice, having conversations sparked up with random strangers while you’re just trying to get between Bowerham and uni. Although, there are times when the Southerner deep within me is screaming at me to put my AirPods in and drown them out.

Northern jargon

As a Linguistics student, the differences in dialect simply couldn’t go unnoticed. Of course I was aware that there would be linguistic differences between Cambridge and Lancaster, but honestly, sometimes when I’m at the pub and listening to conversations around me, I feel like I’m in a foreign country. Not to mention, the words are BIZARRE. Can somebody, please, tell me what “mafting” actually means? And don’t even get me started on the dinner, tea, supper debate.

Hills. So many hills.

One thing I always hear from my Northern friends when they venture to the lower half of the country is how flat it is, and until I came to Lancaster I never realised just how truthful that statement is. If you’re a new student at Lancs, I strongly suggest adding walking boots and a rain mac to your shopping list alongside plates and cutlery. Every time you have to walk from the netball courts to the spine, you’ll feel like you’re scaling the side of Mount Everest.

The sky is always grey

And I mean ALWAYS. Seriously, I didn’t think it was possible for the sky to be so monotonous, but once again I stood corrected. It might as well be Lancaster’s USP, for guaranteed dullness and a consistent drizzle, you can always rely on Lancs. Although, it’s not all bad, in fact I might even go as far as to call it comforting – like your favourite fluffy blanket you’ve had since you were a child, Lancaster’s grey skies will never let you down.


Okay, kinda rogue – but when you’re as much of a potato fanatic as I am, topics like this can’t go undiscussed. Admittedly, I’m biased, but curry sauce on chips is far superior to gravy and even after two years in Lancs, I am yet to find a chippy that’ll sell me some good old (fake) curry sauce to go with my chips.


Another slightly out-the-box observation, but trains in the North are SO weird. More than just the fact that they have strangely cosy interiors, there are so many extra things to think about when planning a journey. Down South, it’s as simple as buy a ticket, scan it, and go. In Lancs however, you’ve got to evaluate varying costs, companies, and timings. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that if you have an Avanti West Coast ticket, you are severely limited regarding the trains you can actually get without incurring a fine.

Cost of housing

Obviously, as uni students, we don’t really experience the true cost of renting houses, but I don’t have to do a great deal of research to tell you you’ll struggle to find a room in Cambridge for £105 per week that’s actually inhabitable. It just doesn’t exist in the lower half of the country, and is undeniably one of the (very few) ways the North is superior.

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