In this post, CAPA London blogger Alexis shares some of the differences she's noticed between the US and the UK, as well as some tips for adjusting to life in London. Check it out!
Having lived in London for a few weeks at this point, I have noticed a few differences between life in London compared to the United States. These vary from subtle differences in language (such as referring to chips as “crisps”) to lifestyle differences (such as commonly commuting through the Underground transit system). Noticing and adapting to these changes are key factors of adjusting to life as a Londoner. Below are some of the differences I have observed so far based on my experiences here, in no particular order.
A typical Tube station.
Public transportation is extremely common. One of the most popular forms of public transportation here is the Underground transit system, known to locals as the Tube. It’s a breeze to navigate and can take you all around London. I use the Tube multiple times a day because it is so convenient.
An Oyster card, which is essential for entering and exiting the Tube stations.
To use the Tube, it is easiest to have an Oyster card. This card allows you unlimited uses on any line of the Tube when it is active. It is required to both enter and exit the Tube stations. Fortunately, CAPA provides an Oyster card for every student, and it will work during the entire duration of your stay!
On the Tube, there is an unspoken rule about being quiet during the commute. Talking on the phone or with the friends around you will likely earn you glares from other passengers.
Water is not necessarily free in restaurants like it consistently is in the US. However, some restaurants do have this option if you specifically ask for water “on tap.”
Plastic straws are not nearly as common as they are in the US. Straws in restaurants are often made of recyclable material. The first time I even saw a plastic straw in London was after a month of living here!
The Deliveroo app is really convenient for ordering in. This applies to both restaurants and groceries!
Grocery stores are not likely to have free plastic bags for you to store your items in. People bring their own recyclable shopping bags for their groceries. My flatmates and I each bought one or two of these bags and have to remember to bring them to the grocery store.
The food here has less preservatives and there is a noticeable difference. The food tastes so fresh, especially the fruit! My flatmates love the strawberries in particular, but I find myself constantly buying grapes. They taste so sweet! However, the food also expires much faster. I have learned to be especially careful with how much bread I buy at a time, because it will go bad after only a few days.
Since the food expires faster here, the amount of groceries that people in London buy at once is considerably less than what I have observed in the US.
This sticker says “Please queue here” which is equivalent to saying, “Please line up here.”
Some words have different meanings in London. Here are a few examples that I have noticed so far during my stay:
- “Lining up” is known as “queuing”
- “Chips” are known as “crisps”
- “Fries” are known as “chips”
- “Soccer” is known as “football”
It can get confusing at times, but you will get used to it!
Dryers are not as common in London households as they are in the US. Instead, a common household staple is a drying rack so that clothes can be hung to dry after the washer. If you want to wear an outfit for a particular occasion but need to wash it first, make sure to take into account the time it will need to dry!
Stores close earlier than you might be used to. In the US, we expect stores to be open late into the night, or maybe even 24/7. However, most of the shops I have seen close at 9PM every day except Sunday, when they close even earlier. Even the Tube, which so many people use, stops working at midnight. Keep this in mind when you are planning your day!
A typical bus stop in London.
Street signs are usually on located on buildings instead of on the street corners, so they can be more difficult to locate.
The directions I used to travel to the London Eye.
One more popular form of transportation is buses. You will likely go on the iconic red buses that London is known for, and you can find bus stops on almost every street! You can also use your Oyster card for this. The buses still run late at night when the Tube is closed but at a lower frequency.
The Google Maps app is incredibly helpful for getting around, particularly in terms of using public transport. The large expanse of the Tube and bus system can seem overwhelming, but this app made it easier to navigate. However, note that the Tube stations do not usually have service as they are underground. If you need to use Google Maps or a similar app, make sure you get the directions before you enter the station. I often screenshot my directions, just in case.
By noting these differences between London and the US and adjusting to them accordingly, I was able to live the Londoner way of life a little more authentically. I hope this list is helpful to you in some way, especially if you are planning to visit London sometime soon. Thanks for reading!
Alexis Thomas is an official CAPA blogger & vlogger for summer 2021, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Neuroscience and English Writing double major from the University of Pittsburgh, she is thrilled to be studying abroad in London this summer.
Alexis' journey continues so stay tuned.