Language and Culture

Back to Race, Ethnicity and Religion Toolkit Homepage

Food and drink

This section is to provide staff with information about cultural and religious customs around food and drink and to consider:

  • Consider catering options when planning events and trips ensuring that students have a range of choice, and options for specific dietary options in line with religious and cultural beliefs.
  • Consider events taking place in different venues and locations and not always in the bar area to ensure all students can feel included and involved regardless of cultural background.
  • Consider having a varied offer of cuisines from around the world for students and staff to sample.
  • When planning events, consider religious festivals and events that may be taking place at the time that may involve fasting, and ensure students who are fasting between certain hours are catered for during the time they are allowed to eat and drink for example; Ramadan (see religious events calendar).

Food and Drink

Oh gosh and on one trip we went on as a course, when we were getting given our food by the lecturers, one of them said to me, oh that’s not halal, I don’t think you’ll want to eat that. I can! They make assumptions because of how I look, they assume I’m Muslim.


In many western cultures, alcohol is a prominent feature of socialising and celebrating. It often accompanies meals and is served at places where people meet to socialise such as bars, restaurants and nightclubs. In many other cultures and religions, alcohol is less prominent and may even be prohibited by religious laws. Many faiths believe it ‘clouds the mind’ or ‘leads it astray’, and some believe it interferes with the ability to remember God.

For example, Christianity, Hinduism and Judaism do not prohibit the consumption of alcohol, whereas Islam, Buddhism, Rasfatarianism and Sikhism do prohibit alcohol.

It is important to consider different cultures and beliefs around alcohol when planning events. If events are taking place in a venue such as a bar, this can be a barrier for some students. Even if the bar isn’t serving alcohol at the event or there are non-alcoholic options available, the venue itself can prevent some students from attending.

It would be nice if there were different sorts of activities, for example, drinking culture is quite prevalent in White culture. It’s not such a big thing in other cultures, well I say that speaking for myslf…most events are based around or in the venue, which even the fact it’s a bar, even though you’re not doing anything alcoholic, the fact it’s in a bar means that I don’t have any interest in going. (EHU student)


Fasting is practiced in many different cultures and religions around the world. In Christianity for example; meat is not eaten during each Friday of Lent and particularly on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Whereas for Muslims, times of fasting such as during Ramadan involve not eating or drinking at all between sunrise and sunset for 30 days.

It is important to be mindful of when fasting may be happening for students and staff from different cultures and backgrounds as this may affect their work and studies temporarily.


Halal originates from rules set out in the Qur’an and the Hadith (the Prophet Muhammad’s example), which have been followed throughout generations of Islamic practice. Muslims eat halal food because it meets requirements that Muslims believe make it suitable for consumption.

For a meat to be certified “halal,” it cannot be a forbidden cut (such as meat from hindquarters) or animal (such as pork.). The way the animal is slaughtered is very specific, the animal is required to be healthy before slaughter, and is required to be hung and bled dry.

But I think food wise if they need to…if they could cater towards all kinds of people, they could get kosher meat or halal meat, everything on campus, it’s not kosher or halal, so I think it just like, excludes those students, so they have to go elsewhere, so I think that change could be brought in, that would make it more ideal. (EHU student)


Jhatka means ‘swift’ in Hindi and means that the animal has been slaughtered quickly and usually in one swift motion such as severing their head. It is considered a more humane way of slaughtering the animal as it involves less suffering to the animal. Sikhs and Hindus are forbidden from eating Kosher or Halal meat but can eat Jhatka.


The Jewish dietary laws explain the rules for choosing kosher animal products, including the prohibition of what is considered “unclean” animals and the mixing of meat and dairy. The laws also outline what are considered to be “neutral” foods (pareve).

To be considered kosher, animals must fall into one of the following categories, and meet certain requirements.

  • Certain animals may not be eaten at all, including pigs, shellfish, rabbits, and reptiles.
  • Mammals that have split hooves and chew their cud, (including cows, sheep, goats, bison, and deer) are kosher.
  • Fish must have fins and removable scales to be considered kosher.
  • Specific kosher bird species are listed in the Torah, but there is more ambiguity about the requirements a bird must meet to be considered kosher. Generally speaking, birds of prey are not kosher.
  • Milk and eggs from kosher animals are kosher. Eggs must generally be checked to ensure they do not contain blood, which is not kosher.

Of the animals that may be eaten, the birds and mammals must be slaughtered in accordance with Jewish law, a process known as shechita. Certain parts of permitted animals may not be eaten. Also, all blood must be drained from the meat or broiled out of it before it is eaten.


Some cultures and religious faiths require that people only eat a lacto-vegetarian diet. Buddhists will usually practice a lacto-vegetarian diet avoiding any food that has come from an animal. Many Sikhs and Hindus also prefer a vegetarian diet although they are not forbidden from eating meat as long as it has been slaughtered in the recommended way.


It is commonplace in the Middle East, Africa and Asia for people to eat with their hands. Often bread is used as a utensil to scoop up food and eat. It is often considered unholy or unclean to eat with the left hand, so is more often the right hand that is used. Cleanliness and hand hygiene are important rituals prior to meals where hands are used for eating.

A bit of variation would be better, and it’s not even that because I’m Asian, that I want Asian food, I just want something different” (EHU student)

Chop sticks are commonly used in East Asia such as China, Cambodia, Hong Kong, and Japan. Forks and spoons are used together in Thailand rather than using chopsticks as in other parts of eastern Asia. The spoon is used to scoop food into the mouth rather than the fork, contrary to Western eating habits, and the fork is used to cut food, no knife is used for meals.

In western culture, it is more common to use knife, fork and spoons to eat meals.

Food such as Naan bread, flat bread, Tortilla and Oysters are used as utensils in some cultures for eating food.

You know the food stalls they have on a Wednesday, you could have different foods from around the world so people can try it” (EHU student)

It is important that students and staff are made to feel comfortable and included, and so offering a diverse range of cuisines and utensils to enable all staff and students to experience food from around the world is a really positive and inclusive approach.

Rituals and Celebrations

This section is to provide staff with information about cultural and religious festivals, what they are, and why they are celebrated. It is not a comprehensive list of all religious and cultural festivals but aims to provide information to raise staff awareness about them, to promote an inclusive and diverse culture on campus.

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year marks the end of the coldest days of winter and the start of spring and new beginnings so is sometimes referred to as Spring Festival. The date of this festival and celebration changes each year as it is calculated based on the Lunar calendar. The end of the festival is usually marked by the Lantern festival.

It is celebrated in China but also in other countries such as North and South Korea and Vietnam. It is a festival that is also celebrated around the world.

Chinese dumplings a traditional cuisine is usually eaten during this festival particularly on the eve of the New Year.


Christmas is a Christian celebration commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Four Sundays before Christmas day are called advent and are for many Christians are period of prayer and fasting in preparation for remembering the birth of Christ. Christmas is celebrated by exchanging gifts with family and friends and enjoying a large traditional meal on 25 December. Further celebrations usually take place on 26 December as well. Homes are decorated with Christmas decorations including Christmas trees decorated with lights and ornaments.


Diwali is a 5-day festival of lights celebrated by Sikhs, Hindus and Jains all over the world. It is a festival of celebrating new beginnings and the triumph of light over darkness. Many lights and oil lamps are lit on the streets and in houses and people visit their relatives and have feasts together as part of the celebrations. Fireworks and festivities are an essential part of the occasion. Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, is worshipped as the bringer of blessings for the new year.


Eid marks the end of a month of fasting during Ramadan. It is celebrated with prayers and a large meal celebrated with family. Many of the foods eaten during this celebration are sweet dessert-style food and this varies in different countries and cultures.


Hannukah is an eight-day Jewish celebration which commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, and is celebrated by families and friends with traditional foods, games and gifts.


Hogmanay is the celebration of the New Year in Scotland celebrated across 3 days from 31 December to 2 January. As part of the traditions there will usually be family and friends gathering to welcome the New Year together. Auld Lang Syne is a song that is usually sung at midnight on 31st December.

Another part of the tradition and celebration is the first footing. This means family and friends visit each other at midnight to be the first person to step foot in each other’s homes. Traditionally the first footing should be a tall dark-haired male, and they should bring a piece of coal, shortbread, a black bun, and whiskey to represent warmth, food, prosperity and good cheer.


Thanksgiving is a National holiday and tradition in USA and Canada. It is a tradition born out of being thankful for the harvest and is in remembrance of a feast that took place between European settlers and Native Americans in 1621. Thanksgiving tradition involves families coming together for a big feast on the third Thursday of November each year. Traditional food is Turkey, Pumpkin pie, mash potatoes, cranberry sauce, yams and stuffing. Americans and Canadians around the world will celebrate Thanksgiving.

Funerals and Mourning

Rituals for mourning and remembrance are often a way to help people process their grief, and support each other. They provide structure and focus at a time when people can feel confused, lost and chaotic as a result of their loss. Different cultures have different traditions, rituals and customs to mourn, and grieve. It is important to be aware when students or staff suffer a bereavement, that the way they grieve and mourn may be influenced by cultural customs and rituals.

Rituals and customs may focus on:

How people care for people as they approach death.
This includes who is present and what ceremonies are performed at the moments before and after death. For example, Christians may request The Last Rites to be read by a priest or vicar to the person who is dying.

How a person’s body is handled after death.
This includes how the person’s body is cleansed and dressed, who handles the body, and whether the body is buried or cremated. This may also determine how soon the body is buried or cremated, as some cultures require the body of the deceased to be buried within 24 hours of death, other cultures may have rituals that involve the body being displayed in an open casket for family to pay their respects before the funeral.

Whether grief is expressed quietly and privately or loudly and publicly. This includes whether public crying or wailing is appropriate. For example, in many African cultures, grief is expressed loudly and publicly through rituals, music and vocal sounds.

Whether people of different genders or ages grieve differently. Different cultures have different beliefs and customs relating to how people of different ages should mourn and grieve. For example, some cultures may include children in mourning whereas others may not.

What rituals people perform after death and who is included in these rituals.
This may include how long family members are expected to grieve, and how they dress and behave during the mourning period. For example, in many Eastern cultures white is worn rather dark colours as is more traditional in Western cultures. In Judaism, the immediate family of the deceased observe a seven day mourning period called Shiva.

How the deceased are honoured over the lifetime of the family.
This includes ongoing rituals to celebrate or talk with the deceased.

Everyone experiences grief differently, and it is important to note that although staff and students may identify with a particular religion or culture, the customs and beliefs around mourning and grief may not necessarily be the way the individual wishes to grieve and mourn, and this can cause some internal conflict and additional stress.

If a student suffers a bereavement, it is important that if they are talking to you that you try to talk to them about how they are doing. There could be cultural rituals and practices around mourning that they wish to observe, or they may be conflicted about how they wish to grieve emotionally compared to cultural expectations. This can impact student wellbeing and so a conversation about this can be useful, and if you feel they need more support you can offer to refer them to the Wellbeing team.


This section is to provide staff with information and awareness of the challenges of multi-lingual students, particularly students whose first language is not English, and to consider appropriate and inclusive language for documents, reports, and emails.

Appropriate use of language

The BAME acronym

Over the past year there has been increased media and policy attention regarding the use of language related to ethnicity. In lieu of definitive guidance in this area, and to ensure a consistent approach to language across the University, the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Steering group have decided that the University will use the term Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic. This is in line with the regulator, the Office for Students, and Advance HE’s Race Equality Charter. It also reflects what our students have told us about the use of the BAME acronym, and students preferring the term to be spelt out.

I think the language that’s used is important… But I think an acronym in itself is problematic. I think that’s where the issue is, it sort of lends itself to the idea of colour blindness which is not helpful.

I thought [BAME] was a convenient way to lump minority ethnicities together… it sort of removes your culture in a way, to say that a Black person and an Asian person are the same.

I don’t think it is necessary to make an acronym for it, I’d rather you say the whole word.

Spelling of names

A key topic that arose in our focus group research with Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Students was name spelling – multiple students expressed how their names are constantly misspelt in emails from staff at EHU. Several students explained that they found this frustrating.

We have a fun game we play were we say, ‘look at how many times our names are going to be misspelt today’… please don’t just type my name however you like it and just send it over…how many times would I have to flag up ‘oh by the way, my name was misspelt’… For them it might be the first time they’re doing it, but for me, this is the sixteenth time this month.

You know sometimes, even when it’s you that sent that initial email, then when you get a response, even then they’ve spelt the name wrong.

More attention needs to be paid. You know, your name, it’s your identity, your first piece of wealth, so I don’t want to be misunderstood for a different person. There’s a lot in a name.

Multilingual Students

I think the University needs to develop a way of working that ensures staff don’t work in an assumptive way. Acknowledging that students can be from a different country, or speak a different language, or have a different culture…

I did feel really alone and quite isolated when I arrived.

It is important to consider that some students may speak more than one language, and English may not be their first language. Despite how fluently students may be able to speak English if it is not their first language, they may still experience challenges.

Students who speak more than one language, particularly where English is not their first language may experience challenges with some activities such as group discussions. They may appear reserved and not contributing as freely – this may be because they lack confidence despite their academic capability, they may feel it is more difficult to speak out in groups. Talking to students individually about this and what support can be offered can be helpful.

When students are speaking English when it is not their first language, they may find it difficult to be understood. It is important to be patient and supportive in trying to understand when they are talking with you, and to encourage other students to do the same.

Some students may feel a lack of confidence because of language barriers and may find it difficult to make friends and socialise with other students and peers. Encourage students to link in with various groups and activities such as That Thursday Thing, the Students’ Union and the Multi-Cultural Society to promote opportunities for socialising with their peers.

When considering using subtitles on videos, ensure where possible that the speed the captions appear on screen is not too fast, so that students whose first language is not English have time to read them.

Mental Health

Mental health and mental illness can mean different things in different cultures. There is often stigma and shame about mental health that can be influenced and compounded by cultural and or religious beliefs. In some cases, language used to describe some mental illnesses is not easily translated. Some cultures hold beliefs around mental illness being linked to witchcraft or the supernatural, and culturally ‘treatment’ for this would be sought through what would be considered ‘alternative practices’ in western culture such as homeopathy, Chinese medicine, or spiritual healers.

Western practices for supporting mental health are more often based on psychological theories and focus on talking therapies, and medical intervention such as medication.

It is important to be aware of cultural beliefs about mental health when offering support to students. Talk to them about how they are feeling, and what support they may have been offered (if any) already. Find out how they would feel about being offered support and if there are any concerns they may have about being referred to the Wellbeing team, for example. This will allow the student to talk openly and provide you with some insight into potential barriers to their accessing support.

The student would need to consent to being referred to the Wellbeing team, unless you felt the student was an imminent risk to themselves or someone else. For more information on how to support and refer a student for mental health support please see our Mental Health Toolkits.

Supporting the Journey

This section provides some guidance for staff to consider ways to embed and promote cultural diversity, as well as support students from all cultures on their academic journey at Edge Hill.


Based in Catalyst, the Careers team are here to help students and graduates find and achieve their success – through careers information/support/advice, and with opportunities to make them stand out from the crowd.

Careers have a dedicated member of staff in post to support students from Widening Participation groups; including students who identify as Black and Minority Ethnic. They will regularly be in touch with these students to promote positive action events and opportunities relevant to them, as well as offering in-depth one-to-one support. This support can be careers guidance, assistance with finding opportunities, intensive application support and interview preparation. When students from WP groups contact Careers, they can ‘Ask Alex’.

Curriculum Diversification

Diversifying the curriculum is a critical part of our ongoing commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. The academic portfolio should reflect the richest possible range of sources and debates in each subject area. We are committed to drawing on the contribution of a truly diverse range of scholars, and ensuring that we keep our resources and materials current and engaging to all. We must work tirelessly to make sure that our students find our programmes accessible, relevant, representative, inclusive and inspiring; they should actively challenge stale and divisive ideas and misconceptions, be brave and open in their scope, and promote adventurous and positive thinking.

Loneliness or Isolation

Students coming to university may experience loneliness and isolation when they arrive. Students may feel isolated for many reasons but in particular if they do not know other students, if they have moved away from home to attend university here, and if they do not feel they have anything in common with other students they have met in halls or on their course. There are a range of organised groups and societies available for students to join and access to promote opportunities for developing new friendships and social opportunities. Students can be signposted to Students’ Union, That Thursday Thing, Multicultural Society and Chaplaincy where they can find out about faith specific groups that some students may prefer to join.

If you are concerned about a student’s wellbeing if they are feeling particularly isolated and lonely, you can discuss referring them to the Wellbeing team for further support. You can also access the Mental Health Toolkit for advice and guidance on how to support students who may be struggling with their wellbeing.

I guess, it’s more than just diversity training… It’s the responsiveness part of it. It’s knowing how to respond and interact with somebody who you are in a power dynamic with, with there being that instructor and student relationship. But knowing how to support that person based on their different cultural identity.

Marketing and Imagery

We would always want to celebrate the diverse nature of what we do and the people who study and work here. It is important that imagery used for communications, social media and other materials depicts the depth and breadth of university life from our online gallery. We’d advise against using stock images to depict our student and staff body.

Money Advice

The Money Advice team (MAT) can provide students with advice, guidance and support in applying for student finance where they meet the eligibility criteria. Student finance that may be available can include student loans, grants, bursaries and scholarships. There is different eligibility for finance depending on how old the student is, whether they are studying full-time or part-time and whether they have had student finance for other courses. There are potential funding opportunities for students with disabilities and medical conditions who meet the eligibility criteria and for students who may have dependants such as children.

It is important to signpost all students to Money Advice team, particularly if they are experiencing financial difficulty or hardship. It is important to be aware that different cultures approach finance and credit differently, and in some cases loans and borrowing are not permitted. This may be a barrier for some students accessing financial support even if they are eligible. It is important to be sensitive to this, but to make students aware that this support is available and signpost them to the team who can advise and support.


There is a growing body of evidence that a student’s sense of belonging has a direct impact on student attainment and success. Academic life and university processes can be challenging for all of us, but if you come from a background where attending university is something that ‘others’ do, then making the transition can be particularly daunting. The UniSkills Team provide a wide range of face-to-face and virtual support designed to help students develop their academic skills and confidence at university. They offer group workshops and webinars, and one-to-one support.

What you should do

  • Check the spelling and pronunciation of a student’s name if you are not sure.
  • Consider catering options when planning events and trips ensuring that students have a range of choice, and options for specific dietary options in line with religious and cultural beliefs.
  • Be conscious of the venue you’re hosting student events in and whether alcohol is available, so all students can feel included and involved regardless of cultural background.
  • If you are creating marketing imagery for your faculty/department and/or using images in your lecture content, try to use diverse images where appropriate.



[contact-form-7 id=”10608″ title=”Toolkit Feedback”]