The bigger the city the bigger the chance that you will be dealing with lots of strangers whatever you do, wherever you go and each one of them may have a different definition of politeness from yours.

When you come to London for your internship, you will find that out of over 8 million inhabitants, a staggering 37% of the population were born outside the UK, including 24.5% born outside Europe even. This equates to a total of approximately 3 Million Non-Brits, adding various cultural, religious and linguistic differences to the mix. Similarly in Dublin, although considerably smaller in size and less multicultural you will be faced with challenging situations and a variety of people on a daily basis.

So how do you make sure you don’t confuse assertiveness with rudeness? The difference can be very subtle, yet so important. Particularly when you are trying to make a good impression on your host family or your boss and colleagues at your place of internship.

Let’s take a look at 5 simple steps that will help you master each day abroad with polite confidence:

1. Identify your needs and feelings

Think about how you would like to be treated by others. Presumably something along the lines of ‘with respect, kindness and honesty’. Now envisage yourself in various situations you can see yourself encountering during your stay abroad. For example, imagine the moment when you will meet your host family for the first time. How do you think they will want to be treated and how can you achieve that despite a potential language barrier? This is where step 2 comes in handy.

2. Practice assertive non-verbal communication

Communication happens both with words and with body language. The way you present your position will impact the way it’s received. To have assertive yet polite nonverbal communication, practice some of these skills:

  • Maintain eye contact.

  • Stand or sit with good posture.

  • Speak with an appropriate tone and volume of voice.

  • Keep your body relaxed and calm.

  • Smile (back) at someone who is treating you well.

3. Explain how you feel and what you need

When you are assertive, you explain how you feel and what you need, without being rude or aggressive. These skills can help you stand up for yourself and still treat other people with respect. Convey your opinions, thoughts and feelings in a respectful manner. If you feel unsure about explaining your feelings, try writing them down first or practicing what you might say. For example, perhaps you feel like you could contribute more to your place of internship than they expect you to. So instead of assuming that they do not trust you with more difficult tasks, consider that they may simply not want to overwhelm you. Approach your supervisor or colleague and politely inform them that you would be happy to help out more. Whether it be a higher workload or a different task entirely, there is more than one way to be useful to your peers. Make yourself heard and be open-minded towards their ideas too.

4. Show appreciation for the other person

When you communicate assertively, you also recognise the contributions of the other person. You can still ask for what you want, but you should acknowledge when the other person has made an effort to accommodate your needs even if the outcome isn’t exactly as you had hoped. Remember, you are here to experience differences and different doesn’t automatically mean better or worse.

5. Practice and be patient

Learning to be assertive takes time and practice. Start practicing your assertiveness techniques in small situations, such as telling your friend that you don’t want to watch a certain movie or that you’d prefer going to a different restaurant. Build upon each experience and gradually work your way towards being assertive in other situations, with less familiar people too.

Soon it will be second nature to you and you will showcase your newfound confidence with manners like a pro.

ADC College organises Internship Programmes in London and Dublin, eligible for funding from Erasmus+. Don't hesitate to contact us if you would like more information about what we do and how to get funding. Call a Country Manager today on +44 2084249424 or send a message to