While anyone traveling to, living in or visiting London may hear that the city is both easy to transition into and devoid of too much culture shock, that doesn't mean that the city doesn't present its own set of challenges. Here are a few tips to help you adjust to life in London quickly and easily:
1. Europeans walk everywhere…we mean EVERYWHERE. There’s no such thing as a walk that’s too long. Short walks in Europe have a typical minimum duration of 45 minutes, so be prepared and always have on a pair of comfortable shoes.
2. Take the Tube. This is London’s easiest form of transportation. Immediately after arriving in London, be sure to purchase your Oyster card. This will give you access to the underground train service, better known as the tube. After you purchase your card, remember to register it online, so that if you lose it, you can still have access to it.
3. The Oyster card can be used for the public buses as well.
4. Stand on the right side of the escalators and allow people to pass by on the left side.
5. Take the tube or the Heathrow Express to the airport. This will save you time and money.
Where to get necessities
1. Boots: This store has everything from designer make-up brands to over-the-counter drugs. It is your go-to cosmetic drug store. Think: CVS on steroids. You can find Boots all over the city, so be sure to look online in order to find the nearest location to you.
2. Argos: Think Target of the future. Shopping here is done entirely on an iPad, so type in the items that you are interested in, add them to your virtual shopping cart and press check out when you are ready to pay. Once you are ready to check out, you will head over to the front of the store where a sales person will bring all of your items to you. Argos is a perfect stop for anything from bedding, furnishing and home care, to tech savvy items and more.
3. Sainsbury’s: This should be your go-to spot for all of your food-related needs. They sell everything that your kitchen requires, from produce to meats to sodas, and more. Think: a mini supermarket at a brilliant price. There are locations everywhere, so be sure to find the one located nearest to you.
4. Three: This is where you should go in order to purchase an international SIM card. Be mindful that you will receive a new phone number with the area code of +44. Be sure to unlock your phone while still in the United States.
How to Spend Your Weekends
Food glorious food. London is known for its gorgeous markets. There are so many markets sprawled all over the city. The best way to immerse yourself in the British lifestyle is to wake up early and spend your entire day at any one of these markets, if not at two or three.
1. West End: As Broadway is to New York, the West End is to London. Make your way over to Piccadilly Circus to see a show. Pro-tip: go to a discount ticket booth in Piccadilly Circus to get your tickets half off of the original retail price.
2. Futbol game: FYI: we're not talking about American football. This is what Americans refer to as soccer. Head over to watch London’s top soccer teams compete.
3. Going out at night: Get to places early. There’s no such thing as being “fashionably late” while in London. Lines start at the door around 10:00 pm, so be sure to plan ahead. Insider tip: don’t pregame too hard or be visibly drunk upon arrival, as the bouncers won't let you in if you are obviously drunk.
4. High Tea: While in London, make your way to the city's hottest tea rooms. Although high tea can be pricy, enjoying tea in London is an experience that all tourists need to have in order to feel like true locals. Most tea rooms close around 5:00pm, so be sure to arrive before then. Make a reservation and be sure to inquire about the dress code, since some tea rooms are fancy.
5. Go to a Pub: pubs are literally everywhere in London. Since 18 is the drinking age, there is no need to worry about whether or not you will get in.
Things to Know
1. The first level of any building is known as the ground floor or as "zero". Unlike in America where the entry floor of a building is the first floor, in London, the entry floor of a building is known as ground and the next level up is the first floor.
2. Traffic lights turn yellow before they turn green, so don’t be surprised when traffic starts moving right after a yellow light.
3. Driving is done on the left side of the road.
4. UK outlets require a different plug and converter than those used in the rest of Europe.
5. Other than when in chain cafes such as Starbucks, it is very difficult to find iced tea and iced coffee in London. Also, getting ice in your water is pretty unheard of in London.
6. The cold cuts you’re used to in America do not exist in London.
7. Bring a credit card with a chip.
8. Bring a big wallet when traveling in London. Pounds are larger than American dollars, so be sure your money will fit in whatever wallet you choose.
9. Everyone is always carrying umbrellas in case of rain, so in order to fit in, it is recommended that you do the same.