To keep it short, London is the greatest city in the world. However, because of all the amazing things to see and do while studying abroad in London it can get a bit overwhelming. Here are a few quick tips to help you fit in.
Mind your Manners (and the Gap)
London is a paradox being wholly British while being wholly un-British all at once. The one thing that almost every Londoner can agree on is the rules of public decorum. First, you are American and you are loud. You don’t know it yet but you are; it is a stereotype and stereotypes have some sort of truth in them. Actively work to speak quietly and everyone around you will be grateful. Be quiet on public transport, just grab a seat and enjoy the ride.
Give up your seat for the elderly and pregnant, it sounds like a no-brainer, but to be a Brit, you have to be polite.
Have everything ready when it’s time to scan a ticket or pay for something, it’s a huge city and people have places to be.
Learn to queue. If there is one thing Londoners can do well it’s Queue Up. You will see what I mean if you ever travel to mainland Europe. Queues are wonderful and understanding that things are done a certain way will win you the respect of your fellow Londoners.
Find your Local
London is divided into so many different neighborhoods each with their own impression. Within each neighborhood, you will find great local restaurants, shops, and pubs. While that place a few stops on the tube may be cooler, or have better food, try to find at least one place within your neighborhood and do your best to become a regular, make friends with the British. You’ll feel like you belong and maybe get better service and treatment in return, you may even develop a London vocabulary with all the witty banter you partake in.
Avoid the Crowds
There are some great tourist attractions in London, and you know what they are (I recommend the Tower of London) and they are cool to see, at least once. However, once you see them, you’ll learn to avoid those areas like the plague. Everything around them is marked up and dressed up for tourists. You don’t even have to go far away from them to get a more realistic look at London life. My friend once took me off of Leister Square to a place that had what is still the best Chicken Katsu Curry I have ever had this side of Japan. Explore, get lost, and find cool new things.
Be a Londoner
Almost 50% of London’s population is foreign. To be a Londoner is to be someone who enjoys all the city has to offer. To be a Londoner, be polite, walk quickly and with purpose. Slower walkers to the right so that those of us who are quicker can go on the left. Enjoy a day at the park. Have a pint after work. Go see a show. Eat food from a country you’ve never been to. Make friends. Sorted.
Alex Henderson is an Associate Academic Coordinator at CEA Study Abroad. He studied abroad in Chiavari, Italy in the summer of 2012 and lived in London from 2007-2010.
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