London is the largest city I have ever experienced, bursting with people, filled with history and above all else, rich with culture. After living there for two years, I can truly say that I have learned a lot about London, its lifestyle and its people.
If, like me, you are thinking about heading to the UK for your overseas experience, here are my top ten tips and lessons to help you on your way to becoming a Londoner.
What have you got to lose? If you have always dreamed of living in London, just do it. Take the chance, as the saying goes, you only live once. If you really don’t like it (which I’m not sure is impossible) you can always go home. And the added bonus of London (if you do feel homesick) is that there is an awesome community of Kiwi’s and Aussie’s already over here.
Dive in, head first
Although my first few weeks after arriving in London were very busy and on the go (think new job, making friends, ski holiday), I wouldn’t change it at all. Each day I saw something new, crossed somewhere off my bucket list and met someone new, I can’t think of a better way to have completely immersed myself in that new life. Plus, that is the thing I loved most about London, no matter where you are in the city, you will never be bored again. Flower market? Pop-up cafe? Palace? I get terrible FOMO if I don’t do all of it at once, straight away.
Layering is your new best friend
Start practicing as soon as possible. The art of layering remains a little bit of a struggle for me, but I will get there. Temperatures can change very quickly and its better to be overdressed than under. Put on around 50 layers to prepare for everything and you should be safe, then learn how to artfully remove some of them when your squished like sardines on the tube with other overly wrapped commuters. Only joking, but in all seriousness, outfit prep is key. Also, it’s probably a good move to carry a handbag sized umbrella, just in case.
Sunshine will become the ultimate treat
People go nuts in London when the sun comes out. T-shirts off, beers outside, iced lollies all round and ultimately, everyone is instantly in a great mood! So, keep your sunnies and some jandals with you so you can head out and join in. It’s a treat, so you definitely want to make the most of it.
Wait for the green man
As stated above, London can be a dangerous place during rush hour – so the sooner you learn to cross the streets safely, the better. Even if it looks clear and the little man is red, just wait. Otherwise you will accidentally be playing chicken with oncoming traffic rushing around the corners. Not to mention going red faced when they give you a good old honk!
Get App Happy
At home in little old NZ, we don’t need to rely on apps to get ourselves out and about, to work and back or to the the local pub, probably because there’s about three main roads. But over here in the big smoke (Auckland is nothing) it was a risk for me to try and get from A to B without triple checking with at least two apps. My favourites are Citymapper and Transport for London (TFL). Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, pick up a Boris Bike and cycle through the parks for a more scenic route.
Get to grips with Escalator etiquette
Obey the signs at the tube stations, always stand on the right side of the escalator. Standing on the left is pretty much the worst and most inconvenient thing you can do, EVER. And someone will let you know, loudly. Oh, and walk off the escalator. Standing for those last few moments will bring the whole system to a crash.
Learn the lingo
Although I’ve put this last, it is by no means the least important. If you want to be taken seriously, I strongly advise learning the “English” words. For example, Ice blocks are iced lollies, lollies are sweets, singlets are vests and pants does not mean pants such as jeans, they means underpants. Don’t be caught out in the cold weather saying ‘I wish I wore some pants today,’ you might get a rather funny look. Trust me.
Do you have insiders tips on adapting to a new culture in a new city? Share your stories with us here and you could see your work published on six-two…