1) Everything is more expensive:
It may not seem like it at first, but once you realize the severe difference in currency, you start watching your budget like never before.
2) Everything has history:
Just ask Steve, our professor and group coordinator. Practically every single building or landmark can be tracked back ages ago. It is actually pretty impressive–even the historical districts in the U.S. seem very modern and new in comparison.
3) Generally, people are more polite and understanding:
Our second day here, some friends and I set out to buy our oyster cards (trans-passes for the public transportation here) and not only were the tube (London’s subway) attendants very attentive and helpful, but they even allowed us to take a free ride to a station that accepts swipe cards (that’s another thing—they use chip credit cards here, so many swipe cards won’t read). Also, everyone on the street is usually willing to help out if you need directions or any help getting somewhere.
4) Everyone is in a hurry:
This one is honestly so shocking at first. I have never seen so many people in such a huge rush. They are actually a little frightening (especially in the tube/underground), but extremely efficient. Everyone seems to have somewhere to be and knows exactly where he or she is going. There is no shame in running to catch a bus. That may be why so many people are in such great shape too.
5) Public transportation is extremely efficient and everyone uses it:
Waiting is a rarity here. There is almost always a train/bus/sub/what-have-you ready for your arrival. Rather than waiting 10+ minutes for any type of transportation (like in Philly) there is a train maybe every two minutes. This is an impressive and exciting experience. The only downside to the tube is that it is usually crowded. I mean, you’re practically hugging the people near you at times. Transitioning back to Septa after this trip may be difficult.
6) The food is healthier:
This was so exciting for me! Practically every street has some cute, organic place to eat out and the grocery stores—here they are little corner stores (God bless Sainsbury)—are filled with all kinds of healthy, fresh, GMO-free options. Needless to say, I am not afraid of the food here like I tend to be at home. Like I said, the stores are usually smaller, but here, it is quality over quantity. *Disclaimer: I think many of my fellow students would not agree with my sentiments about the food. For one—fast food restaurants (at least the ones that sell fried, greasy American food) are few and far between. Also, I am a vegetarian, so I have not been eating many of the same things that others have been.
7) Flip-flops are a NO-GO:
Keep your slippers at home! This is so important! As an avid flip-flop wearer, I was pretty devastated to learn that my favorite summer shoe was a no-go, but it does make sense. Since it is not as hot here, they are not really appropriate. They get pretty serious about unspoken dress codes, and I have been turned away from some places simply because of my shoes.
8) Everyone’s got their swag on 24/7:
I actually really liked my wardrobe before I came to London—now, not so much. When I say it really is quality of quantity here, I mean it. The stagnant, predictable weather definitely plays a role in this. It seems that here, rather than buy a bunch of cheap, trending clothes (like I tend to do), people invest in a few, fabulous, quality staple pieces. The must haves: a pair of black boots, a leather jacket, a scarf and a fabulous strut. I’m, of course, speaking mainly of the female fashion here, but men are also dressed to the nines all of the time.
9) British people believe that Americans eat nothing but burgers:
It is apparently a running joke here. I just like to laugh it off and prove them wrong by ordering the most British sounding item on the menu. I don’t eat burgers anyway.
10) You should always check the weather:
The weather fluctuates a lot around here in the summer. It is all pretty subtle, but it can really save you the trouble of being very cold or very warm all day if you just check ahead of time. If I were to pack all over again, I would definitely bring a wider variety of clothes for different temperatures. My biggest regret is not bringing jeans. I actually had to buy some in my first week here.