So, you’re going abroad to London and you’re like oh, I got this. The city is huge and full of life, the public transportation is great (Harrods is just a tube ride away) and of course, these people speak ENGLISH. While all these things are true, it is near impossible to anticipate the [quite amusing] challenges that you will come across when studying in the UK. From adjusting to seeing meat-flavored potato chips on the shelves (or as they call them in England, crisps), to crying about the exchange rate on a daily basis, you will undoubtedly learn a lot. In particular, there are nine things that I have realized (or realised*) during my time studying abroad in London.
1. Money does NOT (I repeat NOT) grow on trees: Whenever Mom and Dad used to say this we all laughed with an obvious “I know” rolling of the eyes, or possibly came up with a witty yet obnoxious response like “Yes it does! Paper is made of leaves!” Regardless, this statement is downright TRUE. If multiplying prices by 1.65 (on a good day) doesn’t give you a wake up call, I don’t know what will. Please be aware, you will also develop a passionate love for USD.
2. 30mph gusts are casual: Never once did anyone warn me about the wind here and I seriously cannot understand why. Walking across Waterloo Bridge to class is like being in a literal wind tunnel, and I can honestly say I’ve been physically moved by the gusts. You just have to work that windblown look like it’s nobody’s business because really, you just don’t have a choice.
3. Claustrophobia isn’t an option: You are just about as likely to get a seat on the tube during rush hour as you are to see the sun more than two days in a row. From around 5:00-6:30, and sometimes even later, the tube is utter chaos, and people couldn’t possibly stuff themselves in these trains any tighter. It’s a skill, really. Sometimes I feel like I need a running start.
4. Their words aren’t our words: Yes, British people do indeed speak English, but let me tell you, it’s not always as easy as it seems. Accents usually aren’t too challenging, but what gets me are the different words they use. For instance, when I returned from Italy and my flatmate asked me “how I found it,” I stared at her blankly until she clarified and then asked, “How did you like it?” Also, arugula is “rocket,” sneakers are “trainers” and get ready for this one- flapjacks aren’t pancakes. They’re more like a cookie-type granola bar, FYI.
5. Their chocolate destroys ours: One word: Cadbury. There are endless varieties, so many that I can’t even attempt to try them all. This makes me very sad. From bars with anything from honeycomb to Ritz crackers, they do it big over here. My number one will always be the Oreo bar. If you’ve ever had one, you will understand.
6. People run to and from work… in their work attire: My first week in London, I saw a woman running at 8am in a straight up pantsuit. She wasn’t even wearing tennis shoes. I turned to watch her pass and thought, wow, that was interesting. Then I saw about 10 other people doing the same thing and was like oh, okay. Seriously props to them for getting their exercise in before their workday even starts. I’m overheated from a 30-minute walk to class every morning so I will never understand how they get to work without being drenched. Kudos.
7. High tea never gets old: Let’s be real; who could ever get tired of baby sandwiches and above all, scones. Did I mention that clotted cream is roughly 20 times better than regular butter? Oh, and the jam- it’s unreal. I’m personally not as into the pastries but you get lots of those too, of course.
8. And neither does Borough Market: I am lucky enough to live just a short 10-minute walk from Borough Market, which has been absolutely amazing. You can make a meal out of samples, and with everything from cheese and infused olive oils, to baklava and organic granola, why wouldn’t you?
9. London is an incredible city. EXPLORE! Since it has gotten warm enough to run outside, I purposely get myself lost just so I can discover new areas of London. I am happy to say this strategy has worked wonders. After nearly three months of being in London, I still have so much more to see and do. You will never be bored here, I can promise you that.