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10 Things You’ll Realise as a British Person in America – The Move from London to San Francisco

The best life decision I have ever made was deciding to pursue my dream of going to University in the USA! In 2016, after dealing with all the stress of taking the SATs and actually applying to college, I was admitted to USF! I knew that being exactly 5,351 miles from home was a massive jump but I was so excited. Coming from a town just south of London, England, I knew that there would be a lot of adjusting to do, but that Americans are super friendly and similar to us Brits in many ways! However, there are some things that make this adjustment difficult. Keep reading to find out what they are!

 

A Grade Point what??!

If starting university in another country isn’t already scary enough, you have to get used to learning what a GPA is: what all the numbers mean and what is considered high and low. The grades that you get are converted into a number which is so confusing if you’re not from the United States! However, once you get used to it it totally makes more sense!

LOTS of people will try and show you their “awesome” British accent

You get into class on the first day of a new semester and the professor asks everyone in the class to introduce themselves and say where they’re from. As soon as you say you’re from England it’s a guarantee you’ll have someone approach you after class asking if they can do an impression for you… *shudder*

 

You realize that the drinking age is more of a problem than you thought

This is a difficult one… I didn’t realize how much I would miss meeting up with my friends at a nearby Pub and catching up over a drink and of course, all the Pub gardens in the summer. The drinking culture is very different here and it’s hard to get used to. But trust me, everyone at college hates it too!

What on earth is Greek Life?

When my roommate in Freshman year proposed that we rushed a Sorority all I could think about was Legally Blonde, Animal House, and the House Bunny. I definitely did not think that I would like sorority life. There are SO many stereotypes around them and since they are an American university thing, I had only been fed ideas about them from the media and movies — I even thought Panhellenic was it’s own sorority, I was so confused! But as soon as a rushed, I got to know the sororities and learned that the women are strong, incredible and welcoming. All the stereotypes I had been told were SO wrong. It was definitely the best thing I have done so far in my university career.

 

British chocolate is not easy to find here…

Sometimes I feel myself longing for a square of Dairy Milk, Galaxy or even a Percy Pig! I eventually learned to stock up whenever I went home. I even once had a subscription to “JollyGoods,” a box of British goods that gets delivered to your door!

 

 

“What are wellies? Are they like sex toys!?”

For the record, Wellies or Wellington boots are what Americans call Rain boots. I constantly find myself being asked so many weird questions about the UK. Some of these include: “Do you guys know who Colin Firth is? He’s like big over here,” “Have you guys ever seen the sun?” and “I take it if you’re not from London, then you’re a farmer right?” There are so many times that I have to internally scream but then I remember it’s obvious to me because I grew up in England, they have never been there. I also probably ask weird or obvious questions to Americans too!

 

The tipping and tax systems are a nightmare!

Even if the service was not that great you still have to tip 10-20% which is particularly annoying if you’re a student. Taxes are the same when buying clothes and other merchandise. I struggled a lot the first semester because I would never be prepared in my budget for the tips or taxes, and sometimes had to put clothes back.

Do you wanna box that?”

This is definitely a term I was not used to hearing back in the UK. The portion sizes are so much bigger in the US and so often waitresses and waiters will ask you if you want to take home the leftovers. I gained more weight than I realized in my first semester!

Finding a decent cup of tea is hard work!

Seriously when someone offers me Lipton or creamer, I consider leaving. Americans usually prefer coffee, and so finding good tea is difficult! And if you do find PG Tips or Twinings, they are usually very expensive. Luckily, loads of my friends in San Francisco are tea people too, so I was able to find a discount store in SF that actually sells British tea at an acceptable price.

Americans are SO friendly.

When starting University in America, it was hard to get used to the over friendliness because people are always coming up to you or being super loud! At first it takes you aback a little because Brits usually tend to be more shy in introductions. But I actually prefer it the American way! it means it is easier to make friends and that you’ll often get a friendly hello and a smile from a stranger in Starbucks. The friendliness and welcoming nature of the people around me made settling into University life here fun and easy. Because of it, I find it easier to approach people as well!

 

Though there are some minor differences, and homesickness can sometimes be hard to get through, the friends I have made prove to me time after time that coming to University in America has been the best step I have ever taken!

19 years old. From London, United Kingdom. Student at University of San Francisco
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