Living in London would be a dream come true for some of us Anglophiles, but once the honeymoon stage wears off, and life as an expat becomes the norm, there might be a thing or two that’s hard to get used to … or ten:
1. Queuing up
With eight million people living in London, and over 16 million visitors reported in 2013, it’s an understatement to say: London is crowded. More people, more lines. Londoners take there queuing up seriously, even having some guidelines. It’s not a bad idea to average in queuing up into your travel time with a line for the Oyster Card, a line to get through the turnstile, a line to get down the escalator, a line to get on the Tube, and upon arrival you queue up to make your exit. And, of course, a line to get into where you’re going which might be a royal park, a major museum, or just a local pub at peak hour.
2. Hang drying clothes
One of the bonuses about living in London is that a lot, if not most, flats come with a washing machine. But that’s not necessarily the case with dryers. So, you have the convenience of washing your clothes, but then you hang dry them overnight on a rack, and you have crunchy jeans for the rest of your stay. Or you have the delightful option of carrying your wet clothes to a nearby laundrette (laundromat).
3. Over-the-counter drugs
It’s hard to figure out what’s what at the pharmacy because the brand names are all different. The Boots pharmacy has all the typical stuff behind the counter, like Aleve or Advil, so you need to queue up, explain your ailments, and they then give you what they see fit versus just going to the shelf and checking out. On one level, it’s nice that someone is there to listen to you whinge about your hot head and sour stomach, but talking to someone can feel like a chore if you’re not feeling so well. And it might be a little embarrassing.
4. London is expensive
You may go to a pub and think, “Ooh, $5 for a beer isn’t too bad.” Nope, nope, not five dollars … five pounds … which is more like $8. Of course, in any foreign country, you have to do the conversion in your head, but it just kind of pinches when you’re losing money on the exchange from the dollar to pound. London is a pricey city, weak dollar or not, and as Apartment Therapy puts it, “It’s just too depressing to think about,” but even so, they’ve done a breakdown on the cost of living in London including rentals.
5. Unpredictable weather
You really don’t know what to expect when leaving the house in London. You could easily experience three seasons in one day with it being cold and chilly on your way out, a heat wave if the sun comes out, followed by a downpour, and then back to cold again. It seems like layering is the trick, which may require a tote bag or backpack to carry your extra clothing. Carrying an umbrella all day, every day, can be an added annoyance. Londoners typically skip the umbrella and just throw on a hood.
6. Your U.S. hair dryer may not work so well
Electrical sockets aren’t installed in London bathrooms due to the wiring and for safety reasons. Let’s say you find a socket elsewhere in the flat, you have your American/European adapter, the likelihood of your U.S. bought hair dryer working for more than a minute is … not good. The voltage shooting through a London flat is 240V, while we’re accustomed to 120V in the U.S.. If you’re one of the lucky ones, and your adapter works fine, then due to the U.K. frequency being 50Hz, and the U.S. frequency being 60Hz, the air coming out will feel like a light buzz. You’re better off just buying a new hair dryer in London for £10 ($15).
7. No iced coffee
Londoners have upped their coffee consumption, but there’s still a difference in menu items. When walking into a cafe, or even an American Starbucks, it’s unlikely to find a refreshing iced coffee on the menu. But the baristas are up for trying to make the cool drink if you ask and provide directions. If someone is making iced coffee on the fly, like simply pouring hot coffee over a cup of ice, it may turn out watered down, more the color of tea, and kind of gross. The trick is to cool the hot coffee by adding ice to it, let it sit for a bit, and then pour it over the ice in the clear plastic cup.
Your American cell phone may not work at full capacity when visiting London. Depending on your plan, your phone may be able to call out, but not able to access internet unless you’re at a hotspot. So, if you’re on the bus and a little lost, you’re done. That’s when you look for the nearest Starbucks because you know they have free wi-fi, but really, do you want to spend all of your time in London at an American coffee shop? Depending on how long your stay is, you may get a proper phone with a 12-month plan, or opt for a pay-as-you-go phone. The pay-as-you-go phones are convenient, but you could easily be cut off in mid-conversation if you run out of minutes.
9. Nights cut short
“Oooooh, this is the best night of my life, I don’t want it to ever end,” you think to yourself, as you chat away, and then the sobering lights go on. The pubs in London close down around 11 pm or midnight for the most part, which may leave you feeling shortchanged and grumpy. There may be some bars or dance clubs that are open later, but if you’re caught off guard and have to travel, they too might be closed by the time you get there. Londoners who are in the know tend to go out straight from work and are ready to go home by midnight. Coincidentally, or not so coincidentally, the Tube stops running around the same time, so, again, if you lose track of time, you may find yourself feeling a little lost.
10. Work visas
You may turn up to London thinking, “You know what, it’s now or never, I’m going to wait tables for a year, and work on my screenplay.” There is one slight problem with that plan; you can’t work in London without a work visa no matter the type of work. The establishment will ask for proof of eligibility because a violation could result in a stiff penalty. If you have your mind set on writing that screenplay in London, the U.K. government website has all the fun facts on applying for a work visa.
On the other hand, as visitors we’re not perfect, here’s a video on how not to irk the locals in England.
Does anything in particular bug you when spending time in the U.K.?Read More