Studying abroad is simultaneously a terrifying and exhilarating experience. Culture shock is a real thing. I laughed at people who warned me about culture shock because England has such close connections with the USA and it's an English speaking country, so how different could it be? The answer is very different. Even friends of mine who come from bustling places like NYC say that London is unique and they also have to adjust to the cultural differences. However, researching the city before departure can help ease the confusion and anxiety of being in a new environment. Here are some tips to help you transition to the place I now call my home, London!
1. Know your terminology!
Do you know your chips from your crisps? Your biscuits from your cookies? How about your pants from your trousers? It's probably best that you look up as much British slang as you can before you go so that you understand when people tell you to take out the rubbish, wear your wellies, or get in the lift. Also, people say cheers a lot, most commonly in place of 'thank you' which is odd to Americans because we typically only say it when we're holding a glass.
2. Be mindful of shop hours.
London, unlike New York, is not the city that never sleeps. Stores start closing around 6 or 7 pm and they typically don't open until 10 am. If you're looking for something to do at 8 in the morning, Starbucks is your only safe bet.
3. Take advantage of the city's resources.
You'll never be bored in London. There are endless things to do including red carpet movie premieres in Leicester Square, watching a play or musical in the West End, concerts, endless miles of shopping, trying exotic foods, or going to a museum. If you like it, London has it.
4. Know which countries make up the U.K.
5. Remember: No Tube after Midnight.
If you're planning on traveling around the city at night, be aware that the tube doesn't run after midnight. A good alternative is to have the Uber app installed on your phone. It's cheaper than a black cab and safer, in my opinion.
6. English weather = temperamental, plain and simple.
Pack layers. It's true that it's always overcast in London, but it's not always raining. It can be hot, cold, wet, and dry all in the span of 2 hours so wearing layers is the easiest way to be prepared. Also, pack a good waterproof jacket or an umbrella because you will inevitably need it.
8. Use the national rail.
The National Rail is a train service that can take you all over Britain. Take advantage of the relatively cheaper ticket prices and venture outside of London. British culture is not necessarily London culture and it's worth the experience to visit other towns so you get the complete British experience.
9. Google Maps is not always right.
I speak from personal experience. Sometimes Google Maps will tell me that I need to switch from the tube and take three buses to get to my destination when I know that I can just switch tube lines. My point is that Google Maps is a valuable resource but don't use it as a crutch. Over time, you will grow more comfortable with your knowledge of the city. Have confidence in that knowledge and become self-sufficient.
10. Take lots of pictures.
You can never take too many photos. Even if you think these are moments that will live in your mind forever, you won't remember every detail. You don't need a fancy camera, I just use my iPhone. It's also important that you take photos so you can share this marvelous experience with your loved ones.
11. Buying clothes when you get there is better than over-packing (trust me you will buy clothes).
This is not one of those cases where it's better to "have it and not need it, than need it and not have it". At the end of the semester/school year you will have to take all of your things back with you. Make sure you leave enough room in your suitcases to fit all of the souvenirs you will buy. If you do need clothes, London is a good place to go shopping. Primark is my favorite because they have cute clothes for budget prices,
12. Be spontaneous.
Living in London is like being in an electrical current; everything is high-paced, exhilarating and slightly overwhelming. It can feel good to have everyday of the week planned so there is some organization to this hectic life but one of the most fun things to do is to be spontaneous because you have the resources to do so. Want to go to Edinburgh for the day? Hop on a train. Want to see a show tonight? Book it online. Be (responsibly) crazy.
Lead Image Credit: www.creativesteamlondon.co.uk