Though I can’t say I’m even close to being 1/100th of a local, and I can’t claim I’ve been here as long as a study-abroad student; I can report on my findings about what has been the strangest things to get used to as an American citizen living in the UK the past 3 weeks. And when I say strange I mean, the things you should know now so you don’t look like so much of a tourist later. Allow me to make the mistakes, and help you stay ahead of the game with the 10 Ways to Live Like a Brit.
Super busy? Scroll down to see the ten things to know in order to live like a Brit cheat sheet!
This app rules London (and Europe) and probably everywhere else in the world other than the US? Maybe? Regardless, there’s no surer way to live like a Brit than by communicating on WhatsApp.
This app runs off of data and/or Wifi and Wifi is absolutely huge over here. SMS is not a thing, and even though people over here can use iMessage, they tend to gravitate toward WhatsApp anyway.
WhatsApp is great to communicate with people in other countries because you ensure that you’re not accruing additional text charges. If you don’t know what WhatsApp is before you cross the pond, you’ll definitely stick out like a sore thumb.
You’ll notice there are switches NEXT to outlets. In the UK you have more control over what you’re putting energy into, which is really great when you’re trying to conserve energy. The only con is when you forget to turn the outlet on and you thought your phone or laptop was charging overnight. #FirstWorldProblems
This was weird to get used to at first, but it helped me to realize how much power I must burn in the states. There were so many times I just left my straightener plugged in, or computer cord and even though they weren’t plugged in they were using some energy. Remember that the UK uses a different plug so don’t forget to get an adapter!
We have a Sainsbury’s (for all intents and purposes, a Publix) down the street, and literally forget the bags we’ve saved under the sink every. single. time. We don’t even deserve bags anymore because we have about 20 of them in the house!
Okay, so the bags are only 5p a piece and they’re really durable so you can get a ton of stuff in them, so don’t be surprised when you’re charged a little extra for needing a bag. Get ahead of the game by bringing a big purse with you, or bringing your own reuseable bags. If you do end up needing a bag, pay for it and keep it for future use.
Pro to this clever scheme: if your bag is basically broken because you’ve been using it so much you can bring it back and they’ll replace it free of charge! Those Brits bettering the world.
Why? I honestly have no clue. But you may encounter it in the tube station, on any UK electronic, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you stumbled upon it in another average situation. The pro to military time is that you’ll never be confused about AM and PM, the con to military time is that there is no one in the world who hasn’t grown up on military time that wants to sit there and do the math to figure out what time it is.
It’s not much math, but thank goodness for phones and being able to choose how you see your time.
Okay, so not cry but it’s insanely disheartening when someone says it’s going to be a high of 19 and low of 12. Snap yourself back into reality, and make sure you convert that. Rather than try to run into the nearest coffee shop to get some Wifi, use this little trick to make yourself feel more “European” on the spot. Whatever scarily low number you hear when you ask what the high will be that day, multiply said number by 2, add 30, and then subtract 2. Alas, you have found your lovely fahrenheit temperature! Ex/ The temperature today is 17 (internally: nooo) -> 17×2=34 34+30=64 64-2=62 Translation: The temperature today is 62 (internally: *relief*)
Layers are a must here, especially if you’re trying to take public transport. You may be outside in 40 degree weather, but you get down into the Tube station and suddenly it’s 85 degrees – you’re sweating from every inch of your body. The tube pulls up, the doors open, everyone is smushed in and the temperature goes up 95. Did you remember deodorant? Will this shirt dry or will the sweat stains remain for the better portion of the day?
If you can, wear something airy that breathes on the closest layer to you, and then over that put on a heavier sweater or jacket (if you really need to). Accessories rule this situation so scarves, hats, or my personal favorite – a cute rainjacket! Do what you gotta do. Also, it’s crazy windy in London. I never use to check the wind forecast and now that’s one of the first things I do when I wake up. Cute skater dress? Adorable flowy skirt? Don’t do it unless you’re certain that the wind can’t kick it up. There’s nothing worse than trying to walk to sightsee, or to work, or anywhere while holding your dress in a fistful of fabric to your side, scared that you’ll be exposed to be better half of London.
Having driven for the past 8 years of my life every day, I thought this would be a huge transition. There are definitely some pros and cons of the tube, but mostly I would go with pros. The public transportation is heavily reliable, most of the time the only danger to your travel is you. This means if you’re trying to jump on an overcrowded tube you may not make it and you may be late, or you may get hurt and hurt others around you.
You may trip down a stair or two trying to connect back to the wifi to listen to your favorite song and almost twist your ankle, not only injuring yourself, but others around you. You may leave for where you need to be with an hour to spare even though your tube ride is only 35 minutes and arrive late because for whatever reason that day the tube decided to move at 3MPH. Or you could leave 10 minutes late for the same situation and arrive early to where you need to be because that day, the tube felt like going a bit quicker. Yes, these situations have all happened to me and ultimately it’s a lot easier to rely on someone else to get you where you need to go. Especially because everyone is aware that the public transport is reliably unreliable, so as important as it is to be on time it’s usually 100% okay if you’re a few minutes late.
However, just PAY ATTENTION to where you’re going (tubewise and walking) and ask for help. People are usually more than willing to direct you to where you need to go. But if you want to be a bit more self-reliant and a bit more Brit-like then…
Maybe there are some geniuses out there who don’t have to use an app and to you, I tip my hat. However, most people I know who have lived/are living here, use an app. My personal favorite is Citymapper – it tells you in real-time when a bus/tube will be arriving, and gives you a few different routes as well as tells you how much it will be via each transport option. Think, busses, tubes, ubers, walking, cartwheeling, skipping… okay so 2 of those don’t belong, but download the app and find out for yourself how much easier it is to get lost less in this cultural jungle.
You walk to the bus stop, you walk to the tube, you walk from the tube to work or wherever you’re trying to go, and by 10AM you’ve already done 3000 steps – maybe more depending on what you’re trying to do. Back in the states, on average on a day I didn’t work out and just went to work I would barely clear 1,500 steps. Now, since I’ve been here I’m averaging 5,000 steps a day and my metabolism has shot up dramatically. (Another reason to accept the biscuits and tea!) But seriously, the amount of calories you can burn if you’re actively walking and going up and down escalators instead of standing to the side is amazing.
Now that you’re super stoked about walking, give your shoe choice some solid thought. Tons of people change their shoes from walking around and using public transport, to another pair when they get to their final destination. If you’re sightseeing make sure you wear some especially comfortable shoes. I seem to do fine in my booties, but I see a ton of people wearing Converse and Toms.
The tea obsession is real. It’s not played out in the movies. We have an actual kettle in our apartment, and there’s also one at work, and every house I’ve been in. People love their tea, and if they’re not sipping on tea then they’re on some espresso dipping biscuits.
Say yes every time you’re offered tea or coffee because what you may not realize is that who you’re with is also going to be drinking tea and eating biscuits and you don’t want to be the only one not. #SoAmerican
When I think biscuits, I think flaky bread buns – but the Brits disguise their cookies by calling them biscuits. I’m absolutely convinced of it! The absolute best biscuits I’ve had here are Disgestives. These biscuits are literally the most amazing thing on the planet. Especially the chocolate covered caramel ones. AND they’re only £1 in most stores for a whole package of them!
They’re certainly not the best for you, but if you’ve been trekking around all day, getting lost on the tube, falling down a stair or two, and have gotten poured on – stop and get yourself some Digestives to turn your day around.
PS – You can get a head start on living your life like a Brit and pick up a package of these from Publix, I’ve seen them there before but they’re home to the UK
I’m certainly not living like a Brit just yet, but if I would’ve known these things ahead of time it could’ve helped speed up my “Brit wit”.
Keep letting me feel out life over here, and I’ll keep you posted on how life is adjusting in a different country, in a huge city, with loads to learn and even more to share.
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Holla back to the last few days of my life, which I spent walking thousands…09 August, 2017