Adjusting To Life In London

A gorgeous evening in London

Upon moving to London this semester, I had a lot of expectations. I was excited to get out of my comfort zone, meet new people, see new sights, try new food, and most of all, experience a new culture in one of the best cities in the world. However, culture shock has hit me since starting the semester, here are some cultural differences that tripped me up:

  • Saying “toilet” instead of “restroom.”  I know this is an odd one to start with, but nobody says “restroom” here.  In fact, you’ll get mocked if you say it, as I did.  It’s either a “toilet” or “loo.”
  • Everybody smokes.
  • Never ever ever say “fanny pack.”
  • Always stand on the right side of an escalator.
  • It’s “pavement,” not “sidewalk.”

Wandering Around in Central London

  • It’s okay to not tip at restaurants.  You can if the service was above and beyond, but generally it’s not considered rude to skip it.
  • The metric system! Seriously, when I was buying bedding, everything was in centimeters, and I had to do quick maths in my head to get the right size.
  • Drinking is totally no big deal (there is a pub attached to the University of Westminster’s Harrow campus).
  • Driving/walking on the left.
  • “Alright?”  The first time someone said that to me was at the local cinema.  I looked at the theatre attendant blankly at first and then awkwardly said “yeah.”  Generally, in the US, if someone says that to you, there’s something wrong.  In that moment of awkwardness at the theatre, I was thinking that there was some sort of horrible deformity on my face. However, after the movie my friend told me that it’s just a greeting like “How are ya?” or “What’s up?”

Cool Light Show At Trafalgar Square

  • “Pants” DOES NOT have the same meaning in the UK that it does in the US. This one comes with a funny story. On my first night, I went out with some other American students to a local pub.  At one point I had spilled a little bit of my drink on my jeans. Without even thinking about it, I said “It got on my pants,” and the folks sitting near us just looked at me like I was crazy.  So, I had to explain to them that I meant my “trousers.”

There has certainly been a challenge in adapting to another country’s ways. But, that’s part of the fun of studying abroad.

Piccadilly Circus

Tom K. is a Spring 2018 CEA MOJO Blogger in London, England.  He is currently a Junior studying Communication concentrating in Journalism and Media Theory and Production at Western New England University.  

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