I’ve come to realize that involving myself in extracurricular activities has become an addiction. I like to be involved, I enjoy engaging myself in new activities, and I find meeting people from different backgrounds exciting. It’s no wonder that I had the right mindset to study abroad, and it’s also no wonder why I decided to engage myself in the local cross country running team’s activities.
You read that right! Yes, I’m taking some of my traveling and studying time in London to run with a bunch of strangers on Victorian-era roads. It sounds downright nuts to some, and to others that might sound pretty interesting.
Well, in truth, it’s not my favorite activity I’ve been doing in London, but it has certainly been one of the most memorable ones that I’ve done so far. Not only have I been able to learn the roads of the city and enjoy some beautiful sights, but I’ve also met some local (and not so local) students that have given me so much insight into the world of being a Londoner.
For example, I’ve met a twenty year old German student named Joe who studies computing at Imperial College in London. He is a pretty bright student and is even brighter when it comes to giving advice about London. When it comes to America, however, he hasn’t the slightest clue. He thought American football involved a bat to hit the ball with, that Halloween is celebrated on the same scale as the Super Bowl, and that everyone in the United States enjoys Thanksgiving more than Christmas. His views on America were a tad off and I had to laugh with him about the stereotypes he had about the country I was born and raised in. Then it struck me. I would have been laughed at too for all of my stereotypes I had on Britain before coming here. I was wrong about many of London’s icons and ways of life, and I’m glad to have been clearing up some of my stereotypes on a firsthand basis. In honor of my newfound cultural knowledge, I’d like to enlighten some of you, too!
What you need to know to be a “Londoner”
- Coffee is just as popular as tea around here, and “tea” time really does exist.
- A cup of drink is referred to as a “cuppa.” When drinking a “cuppa,” it is common to eat biscuits, scones, or some sort of pastry with it.
- Burger King, KFC, and Starbucks are just as well-known here as in the States. However, Starbucks is the most popular and can be found near almost every underground station.
- When riding the tube, it is normally completely silent. Commuters resort to the underground for their daily transportation, and talking can be deemed as a nuisance.
- Look right first instead of left when crossing the road. Vehicles drive on the left hand side of the road.
- Do not get offended if a Brit uses sarcasm during a casual chat. The humor of the United Kingdom is different than in the United States, and is more dry.
- It isn’t unusual for professors or coworkers to invite you to go to a pub with them. Going to a pub is a casual outing, much like going to dinner in the States. It is not an invitation to party with them.
- When someone says “cheers,” it can mean “hello,” “goodbye,” “good day,” or “thank you” based on the context.
- Most local newspapers are free in London and are handed out by newspaper boys within the tube stations. You do not need to pay for them.
- The weather in the United Kingdom is brisk and it does rain often. An umbrella is key.
- Clothing choices vary when looking at street style in London, but it is safe to say that most fashion surrounds neutral colors like beige, black, and greys, as well as anything plaid.
- Avoid talking about politics, religion, and the Monarchy. These topics can quickly lead to heated debates.
- Red telephone booths are common but have mostly been converted to Wi-Fi hotspots instead of telephones.
- One can never go wrong with watching the British Broadcasting Channel (the BBC).
- The London Eye is located on the river Thames, not an ocean.
- Big Ben is considered the “heart of the city” because it is connected to Parliament.
- Students attend “university,” not “college,” and have “terms,” not “semesters.”
- Going on vacation is considered going on “holiday.” Most holidays are spent traveling to other European countries or spending time in the city.
- The word “posh” means fancy, rich, expensive, and sometimes overrated. It isn’t always a good thing to be looked at as posh.
Look at you, now you’re a lot more knowledgeable of London culture than I was when I first got here! You’re practically a Londoner yourself. Next time you order a “cuppa” with one of your colleagues from “university,” make sure to avoid being too “posh” and welcome them with “cheers.” They’ll think you just hopped off the plane from a “holiday” in London, England!