I have now been in London for roughly two weeks and have learned quite a lot. Here are a few things that I think newbies should know in the first several days in London:
Stand on the right- The tube is your best friend and you will learn how it works almost immediately. For those of you who aren’t in a rush and would like to stand on escalators, stand on the right side! This will allow the other people who are walking/running up and down the escalators some space for them to do so. If you’re standing on the left side, someone will sometimes kindly ask you to move over.
British people drive on the wrong side- You’ve grown up to look both ways before crossing the street, but in London, triple check both ways before crossing the street especially if you are impatient and don’t want to wait for the little green man to signal you to cross. Vehicles have the right of way and it will basically be the pedestrian’s fault most of the time. In case you forget which way to look for incoming traffic, look down.
Be aware- Londoners are constantly on the move. Everyone walks so fast and always seem to be in a rush. If you’re not in a rush, continue to be aware of your surroundings and watch where you’re going. As far as accidentally bumping into people, they are mostly nice about it. Just apologize and everything will be fine. Other than that, try to keep up with the crowd and be confident in what you decide to do. It will definitely be scary at first, but once you get the hang of the tube and walking on major streets, it’ll be easy! Tip: since you will be walking a lot, remember to stay hydrated! Keep a bottle of water with you so you can sip on it throughout the day. Walking around all day is tiring and sometimes the tube gets warm.
Layer up!- One thing that made me feel like I was still back in Seattle is the weather. London is practically the Seattle of England, and if you’ve lived in Seattle long enough, you will know that the weather is unpredictable. So far, it hasn’t been that bad, but there were a couple of days where I wished I had another jacket. It could be cold and windy in the morning, then by mid-afternoon, you could be sweating because the clouds have gone away and the sun is beaming down on you. Even if you check the weather the night before, check it again in the morning because it would have most likely changed.
Since we’re on the topic of clothes…- London is a fashionable city, therefore, you will see most of the people walking down the streets a bit “dressed up” than what you’re used to. As a college student back home, I am all about comfort. I live in my leggings and hoodies, but you will never see any Londoner wear that in public. With this being said, use this opportunity to dress yourself up and strut down the streets of London! A lot of their clothes are simple, yet well put together. I brought a lot of basic, solid color tops, along with a few pairs of jeans and leggings with me on this trip. Even if you have a cute trench coat, blazer or parka, it will definitely dress up your outfit.
No snacking!- On the second day of orientation, one of my British professors told us that we will never hear the refrigerator door open and close throughout the day because British people don’t snack, unlike us Americans. We had to get used to eating only three meals a day, which I’m still struggling with. Back home, I normally pack snacks to class and eat throughout the day. Over here, you won’t see anyone pull out a granola bar in the middle of the day. I couldn’t help but buy snacks at a nearby grocery store so I can stick to my “bad habit,” but we’ll see if I can only eat three meals a day, haha.
HAVE FUN- Yes, cliche, I know. YOU ARE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY. Also, yes, if you are reading this post then you will most likely be interested in a study abroad program which means dun dun dun, you’ll still be a UW student taking classes in another country. Even if you’re in a place for school, that’s only a fraction of the experience. Use this opportunity to explore your environment and try new things. It will be scary, but you will never know until you try, and you definitely don’t want to regret anything. It might be a long time before you’re in Europe, or wherever else besides America, again, so travel around to nearby countries for the weekend with a couple of friends and have fun!
I might do similar posts in the future since I am sure I will learn a lot more things these next several weeks and I am glad to share tips and tricks. Keep an eye out for that!
Until next time,