57 Crushing Moments Of Culture Shock I've Had Since Moving To London
USA ✈️ UK = confusion, intrigue, and going to Currys for a curry only to realize it's a retail electronics store.
LIFE IN LONDON
1. London is a true world city. This hit me immediately when I stepped off the plane. New York City might be the melting pot of the new world, but it cannot compete with London. Walking down London streets feels almost like strolling through the capital city in a Star Wars film with all sorts of eclectic alien species here for business and politics.
2. Urban foxes are everywhere. They roam the streets like house cats, except they've been known to attack babies.
3. There is no "universal sidewalk right of way" here. In America, it's a universal and unspoken rule that you keep to the right on sidewalks and streets and stairs. In England, you might think since they drive on the left, everyone walks on the left. You would be sorely mistaken. For WHATEVER reason, everyone walks on any side of the sidewalk they please. It's chaos.
4. London is OLD AF and super historic. This is obviously well known, but it still surprises me. Example: I was invited to a ping pong bar. When I walked into this particular London ping pong bar, a little plaque at the door read "Ping Pong was created and patented on this very site in 1901". OF COURSE IT WAS.
5. London architecture is also historic and very appealing. Goodbye, postmodern glass rectangles! I won't miss you.
6. You can legally drink alcohol anywhere you please. Inside, outside, in the parks, on the streets. You cannot legally drink on public transportation though, but people still do.
7. And yet you can’t drink beer in football (aka soccer) stadiums. This is the one place I expected to be allowed to get drunk, but, alas, it's not allowed.
8. The lawyers in this country wear WIGS. This is their normal work garb. The wig-wearers are called "barristers". The wigs are made of horsehair.
9. Nothing happens past dinner on Sundays. The city basically shuts down. Bars and pubs and many restaurants close at like 6pm. If a friend comes to visit on Sunday and you're like "let's go do something!", you will soon find there is literally nothing to do and nowhere to go.
10. The London Tube service tells you over a loudspeaker when someone has jumped in front of a train and delayed your commute. Those who live outside of major metros may be alarmed to learn that jumping in front of a train is not uncommon. What's noteworthy is that the London Tube Service is so frank with the details. This is a big difference from New York where the announcers kept the gory details hush hush. Here, a voice drones over the loudspeaker, "Trains are delayed because of a man on the tracks."
11. Inside the London Tube, you will experience a phenomenon I call "tiny legs".
12. A drunk man once passed out across the railroad tracks and delayed my overground train. The conductor told us over the loud speaker that the police had to remove him from the tracks. This is apparently not unusual. All my fellow passengers groaned when the PA went on, as if to say, "Ugh, that makes two times this week."
13. They take Christmas very seriously in London. The entire city shuts down. Nothing is open. Not even Chinese food places. I thought I could always rely on Chinese food places, but sadly no.
THE "ENGLISH" LANGUAGE
14. In the UK, "pants" means "underwear" and "trousers" means "pants". This can get really awkward really fast.
Me: "I like your pants."
Co-worker: "EXCUSE YOU WHAT."
Me: "I need to buy some new pants. This pair has a hole in the crotch."
My friend: "Wow, TMI."
15. Brits pronounce "pasta" as "pass-tah", and this will confuse you so, so much more than it should.
16. In the UK, people say "Let's meet at half six", by which they mean 6:30. Meanwhile my American ass is over here like, Okay, math. Half of six is three, so we're meeting at three. Got it. God, these people are smart.
17. When someone says something is a "good shout" they mean "good idea". The first time you hear this can be comical. Observe:
"Hey, let's go get sushi."
"Good shout, man."
"I'm not shouting. I'm literally right here."
18. As a greeting, everyone in the UK says, "Are you alright?" When they say this, they simply mean "hello". But every single time I hear it, I think I look sad or upset.
19. The word "terribly" means "really" and the world "awfully" also means "really". I'm terribly glad we went out on this date. Tonight went awfully well. I really like you.
20. "Rubber Johnny" means condom. Sure.
21. British slang sounds absolutely foul to my American ears. It's worth adding that I've heard all of the below phrases in youthful but polite company. Many I've heard in the workplace.
- "It's gone tits up." = It's gotten bad.
- "What a wanker." = What an asshole.
- "It's such a ball ache." = It's such a hassle.
- "Stop being a tit." = Stop being an idiot.
- "Stop being such a tosser." = Stop being such an idiot.
- "He's a prick." = He's an asshole.
- "I'm pissed." = I'm drunk.
- "I got twatted last night." = I got extremely drunk last night.
- "He's a cunt." = He's a HUGE ass. (This is definitely a bad word.)
22. Instead of "sleeping in" Brits "lie in". This doesn't sound like a big deal but it's confusing in conversation.
"Hey! Any plans for tomorrow?"
"I'm having a lie in."
"You have a lion?!"
"No, I'm – nevermind."
FOOD & BEV
23. In the United Kingdom, English muffins are just called muffins.
24. No one refrigerates eggs. It’s simply not done. The grocery stores have them sitting on shelves. Somehow the eggs don’t go bad. I don’t understand scientifically how this works.
25. Bacon is much larger here. American bacon is a belt, and British bacon is a bed sheet.
26. HP sauce is brown and delicious. Its origins are mysterious. No one knows why it's call HP sauce, but no one is questioning it.
27. The store called "Currys" does not sell curry. They sell electronics. Don’t google “curry” after a night at the pub and then walk to Currys thinking you will be able to order a curry because you will be VERY DISAPPOINTED.
28. The Brits have unrecognisable names for recognisable foods. Going through a grocery store in the UK is a little adventure.
29. British pubs have 19th century names like “The Bricklayer’s Arms" or "The Mason's Hands". Someone should open a contemporary pub called “The Account Strategist's Fingers" or “The User Experience Designer's Wrists”.
30. British cask beer is often less alcoholic. The craft beer revolution in the states means I can order a variety of beers in the 5–8% range at many bars. In the UK, most beers are between 3.5–5.5%.
31. British people drink a lot. Like a whole lot.
32. British people have no embarrassment being drunk in front of friends, family, co-workers, or anyone. On any given Friday night, you will see middle aged men and women outside the London pubs so drunk they can barely stand. In America, we would find this shameful. But here, there is no stigma against it. Everyone drinks like a college kid. Similarly, in America, senior management at a company likely does not get extremely drunk in front of employees (Christmas Party being the big exception). In the UK, however, senior management will get LOADED at a pub, and then it's back to work the next morning. And yes, the drunken cavorting that would give nightmares to American HR departments occurs on a weekly basis in London, for good or ill.
33. British people love chicken so, so much. I didn't realise any culture loved fried chicken as much as the American South. It turns out British people do. The quintessential "fast food" in the UK is the chicken shop (or the kebab).
34. Lastly: this cruel, cruel joke.
OBJECTS & OBSERVATIONS
35. UK phone numbers have no universal cadence. The USA uses da-da-da, da-da-da, da-da-da-da. But Brits don't have one. This makes it hard to remember numbers because people just recite a chain of digits in whatever cadence they please: 893249351628.
36. The UK does not make bills larger than 50. Once I had to pay rent in cash, and my wallet was so fat it was practically cube-shaped.
37. British money is made of plastic. It looks like it was designed by futuristic aliens. American money now looks like monopoly money to me.
38. Often British sinks have two water faucets. One is hot water only and one is cold water only. This makes finding that "just right" temperature impossible. It also makes it easy to freeze one hand and scald the other hand at the same time.
39. British men aren’t afraid of red trousers (read: pants). Courage has a colour, and it's salmon.
40. In the UK, washing machines are located in the kitchens. Laundry rooms are not a thing here. In fact, people consider laundry rooms or utility rooms to be old fashioned. Meanwhile, they're drying all their clothes on a rack outside because dryers are not very popular... Right.
41. Some British products make no sense to me at all.
42. Because of safety regulations, you aren’t allowed to have light switches in bathrooms, so they have these pull cords hanging from the ceilings. Don't ask why because I don't know.
43. If a party invitation says: "Fancy dress required" it means you need to wear a costume NOT a suit and tie. DO NOT SHOW UP TO A FANCY DRESS PARTY WEARING A SUIT OR YOU WILL BE RIDICULED.
44. The UK keyboard's return key is in a different place, and it will seriously fuck you up. Why would you make it SMALLER? It's the most important key besides space bar! My emails\ all look\ like this' \ now\'.
45. The banking system in this country is HARD. You need to memorise multiple codes and password to log into your account. This is like four-factor authentication. It’s complicated. They even issue you a small digital calculator which you have to carry around and use to generate access codes if you want to log into your account. Believe it.
46. They drive on the opposite side of the street (which I knew). But because I’m conditioned to look the other direction when I cross the street I’ve almost been run over many times. Watch yourself!
47. Politics is pretty heated.
48. Everyone in the UK uses what we call “military time”. I somehow had no idea.
49. The UK does not have bathroom "stalls". Instead they have smaller rooms within the bathroom that each contain a toilet. I feel like I'm living in a luxurious simulation. In the states, you can take a shit in a Gucci store and you're still going to be looking at somebody else's feet.
50. Some haircut places specialise in mod haircuts. I had NO idea this was still a thing.
52. British people are not rude, and they're not reserved. All Brits I've come into contact with have been extremely welcoming, warm, and friendly.
53. British food is not bad. It is actually good. For starters, London is a world city and has all the exciting eating options you would expect to find in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc. With close proximity to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, you might find the London versions of these foods are even better than what you know in America.
54. Even the classic British foods are delicious. Unless of course you don't like gravy. In which case, please pass me yours.
55. Brits do not have bad teeth. THIS IS FAKE. I have NO idea why this stereotype exists in America. It's ridiculous. Young people here had braces growing up just like we do in the US.
56. British people are not "fancy" or "posh" or "refined". Some of them are, sure, but they're the exception not the rule. Most British people do not own a coat with tails, they don't belong to some club, and they aren't obsessed with social niceties.
57. Lastly, the British countryside is hella beautiful and deserves more credit.