Adjusting to Life as a Londoner

Jul 12, 2021 10:10:00 AM / by Courtney Risner

As she settles into her accommodation abroad in London, Courtney talks about how living there is different than anything she's been used to in the US. With her new homestead in the Maida Vale neighborhood, see what Courtney has explored from small things such as turning on outlets to big things such as nearby parks and amenities.

This semester, I am living in Maida Vale in the City of Westminster in London. I live with four roommates (flatmates), all of whom go to school with me back home. It has been an… adventure, we’ll call it, adapting to life in Flat H and navigating London living.


One of the best parts about studying abroad is living in a new, unfamiliar, yet exciting place. I have been living in my flat for almost a month and it has been exhilarating and exhausting, due to the learning experience that comes with adapting to life in a new country.

On arrival day, I was taken aback when our taxi pulled up to this beautiful house that will be our home for the next three months. It looked like exactly what you see in the movies or on postcards.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Summer2021_London_Courtney Risner_our flatOur flat.

When we got inside, there were so many goodies for us from CAPA, including our welcome folders, stocked with everything from a TV guide to instructions on how to operate our tea kettle (since we’re big microwave users in the US).

The views from our flat are stunning and I never get tired of looking outside our windows. In the front, we have a quaint little residential street, dotted with morning commuters, joggers, shop owners, school children, dog walkers, casual strollers, delivery men, and so many others.

Looking out of the back window is an entirely different story. Just below us there is a cobblestone road with 1940s style gas lamps, creating a cozy feel. But beyond that, you can see the cityscape of Westminster and skyscrapers peeking out from behind the trees.

CAPAStudyAbroad_Summer2021_London_Courtney Risner_view from my windowThe view from my window.

One thing my flatmates and I have started doing recently is taking evening strolls around our neighborhood. Not only has the weather been magnificent and it’s been nice to explore the area, but we’ve discovered so many coffee shops, bakeries, and takeaway restaurants that we didn’t even know were there.

My neighborhoodMy neighborhood.

It was on one of these strolls that we discovered we also have a park right down the road that we now often frequent. It's situated on the canal and it’s nice for picnics, reading, or just sitting outside after work when the weather is nice. Gondolas with quiet jazz music and flocks of white swans cooling off float past us from time to time and really bring the spirit of Little Venice, as it is called, alive.

ReadingReading in the park.

But, like I said, living here is different than anything I was used to and it has definitely been a learning experience. For example, we were absolutely astonished by how small the washing machines are here. You could fit three, maybe four pairs of pants in at a time. Coupled with the fact that we don’t have a dryer, like most places in Europe, we had to totally revamp the way we did laundry. We even have a laundry schedule now.

Also, places in Europe typically don’t have air conditioning. Not just homes, but stores, cinemas, and even museums. Since it doesn’t get as hot here as the Chicago summers that I am used to, it hasn’t been too noticeable yet, but we did learn the power of cracking a window and taking a cold shower after sweating from walking around all day.

Other things, however, are such small differences that you don’t think would take so much time to get used to… but they do. For example, you have to turn on outlets when you want to use them. It’s just a little switch, but you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve thought my phone was charging when it was in fact not. Or, how about the fact that they don’t use coffee creamer here? And if you try asking someone in the supermarket for help, don’t be surprised when they lead you to the cream cheese. Oh, and my fellow Midwesterners, if you visit London, beware, there’s no ranch dressing here.

So far, living in the Maida Vale neighborhood of London has been amazing. I’ve learned a lot about the London lifestyle and European living. While it’s different from home, it’s a nice change and I feel like I am truly embracing another culture. I’ve never felt closer to reaching my goal of living like a true Londoner!

Check back next week for more content from my adventures in London!

Thanks, Courtney!

Michaela Clarke

Courtney Risner is an official CAPA London blogger for summer 2021, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Journalism and Political Science major from the University of Missouri, she is studying abroad in London this summer.

Courtney's journey continues all summer so stay tuned.

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Topics: London, England, Local Culture