Goodbye, London <3

My time in England is quickly coming to an end, much to my dismay.  Over the last three months, I’ve compiled a list of things I’ve learned here in London, which I will share with you now:

1.) Learn to appreciate your natural hair. Even if I were to spend all morning straightening my hair, it would no longer be straight by the time I walk outside. The British weather is not conducive to hair styling. I’ve learned to go with more of a wind-swept, somewhat wavy look 😀

2.) Most Brits have excellent manners. I’m impressed, in general, by the politeness and courtesy they all seem to possess.  That is… unless they’re drunk.

3.) That being said, middle-aged British men you pass on the street have an odd way of making you feel both attractive and really uncomfortable at the same time. They’ll beep their car horns, whistle at you, and go out of their way to look you up and down as you’re walking by. They have absolutely no shame in checking you out and remarking, “Lovely…” as you walk down the street.  I have to say that this is not limited to the UK but applies to Europe in general. Kind of an interesting cultural difference to experience as an American.

4.) Afternoon tea. It should be a thing everywhere.

5.) It’s not a line, it’s a queue.  There’s a much simpler word for waiting in line: it’s called queuing.

6.) Americans, do refer to my list of words throughout this blog if you don’t want to sound like a tourist while you’re in the UK.  In general, it seems the British find it endearing when you use an “American” word, but just be prepared for a laugh. They’re not really laughing at you, more just at your “Americanness.”  I don’t think that’s a bad thing!

7.) There is such thing as an American accent.  We don’t think so as Americans, but we apparently have an accent.  However, most non-Americans think that the “American accent” is what we know as the “Southern accent.”  I’ve been told many times that I don’t sound American because I don’t have what they call an “American” accent.  Be prepared to explain that there are MANY American accents, depending on what region of the country you live in.

8.) The British, and Europeans in general, are mesmerized by the size of the United States. Quite frankly, they’re intimidated by the size and by the fact that laws vary by state. People here have actually said that to me, that they wouldn’t be able to handle the different laws state-by-state. I reassure them that the laws are more or less the same, with a few weird ones here and there. Generally, if you’re sticking to one region of the country, the laws will be very similar, and most of them should be common sense.

9.) Tesco is the best supermarket chain… besides the Piggly Wiggly.  As far as price goes, I’m pretty sure Tesco might even be cheaper than ShopRite, which is the cheapest I know in the States. The main thing is that the food is of good quality, so between price and quality, Tesco is the best supermarket I’ve found here.  It’s also the most similar to American supermarkets, as far as the layout.

10.) Smoked salmon and cream cheese should be a much more popular combination in the U.S.  Almost everywhere I’ve eaten, as well as all the supermarket ready-meals sections, have this heavenly combination on a sandwich. I’m sorry, but peanut butter and jelly is far inferior to smoked salmon and cream cheese.

I’m sure there are many other things I can add to this list, but for now, this is what I’ve actually written down.  Also to make a couple of additions to the vocabulary list:

45.) asphalt/blacktop- tarmac

46.) mischievous/naughty-cheeky

47.) Santa- Father Christmas

48.) “Merry Christmas” – “Happy Christmas”

Doesn’t that last one just sound awkward?

Mickey D’s: British-style

So I finally had my first taste of McDonald’s in London this morning. To be honest, I actually can’t remember the last time I had anything from McDonald’s, but I’ve been warned many times that the portion size is much smaller here than in the States (I don’t think that’s a bad thing, actually…).  I got a toffee latte and a bacon and egg McMuffin, and though, yes, the portion size is much smaller than I remember, it had a good flavor. The latte was absolutely perfect. I’m not a big coffee person, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. On the rare occasion that I got a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate from McDonald’s in the U.S., I’ve always burnt my tongue on it, as it’s always served hotter than the fiery depths of hell. I’m not sure if I was just lucky or if it’s a regular thing here, but my coffee was the perfect temperature, still hot but able to be consumed without burning myself. So anyway, there’s my American review of McDonald’s breakfast here in the UK.

Humans of the London Underground

I discovered this hilarious summary of the types you meet on the Tube.  I honestly laughed so hard that I started crying.  Pretty funny for anyone who has had to use the London Underground:

http://www.studentbeans.com/mag/en/travel/17-types-of-london-commuter-who-are-literally-the-worst?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=STBFBAds101GAL&%3Futm_source=facebook

More “Britishisms”

In theory, it takes 21 days to form a habit.  If this is the case, then it’s safe to say that I’ve solidly programmed myself to look right before left when crossing the street.  I’ve lived my whole life looking left before right, and now I’ve noticed that I look right before left without giving it a second thought.  Yes, the famous “Brits drive on the wrong side of the road” issue has become the new normal for me.  I only hope that when I get back to the States that I remember to drive on the “right” side of the road… see what I did there?

I did a little research into why this is, and I found the following information on http://www.2pass.co.uk/goodluck.htm#.VD6UAPldX9Y:

“Up to the late 1700’s, everybody travelled on the left side of the road because it’s the sensible option for feudal, violent societies of mostly right-handed people. Jousting knights with their lances under their right arm naturally passed on each other’s right, and if you passed a stranger on the road you walked on the left to ensure that your protective sword arm was between yourself and him. Revolutionary France, however, overturned this practice as part of its sweeping social rethink. A change was carried out all over continental Europe by Napoleon.The reason it changed under Napoleon was because he was left handed; his armies had to march on the right so he could keep his sword arm between him and any opponent. From then on, any part of the world which was at some time part of the British Empire was thus left hand and any part colonised by the French was right hand… The drive-on-the-right policy was adopted by the USA, which was anxious to cast off all remaining links with its British colonial past. Once America drove on the right, left-side driving was ultimately doomed.  If you wanted a good reliable vehicle, you bought American.”

So there you have it.

Also, the traffic lights here turn yellow not only before a red light but also before a green light.  I actually laughed the first time I saw that.  It gives you the option to accelerate gradually, as opposed to the American method of taking off as fast as you can when the light changes from red to green.

Another “Britishism” I’ve noticed, particularly on trips to the grocery store, is the use of “re” at the end of a word, as opposed to “er.”  “Fiber”, for instance is spelled “fibre” here in the UK.  Or “theater” is spelled “theatre.”  It’s a subtle difference, but it’s something you begin to notice all over the place when you become aware of it.

One of my very first memories of London was made upon arriving at Heathrow and meeting up with my cab driver to go to my house.  As he was loading my suitcase into the trunk, I instinctively went to the left side door to sit in the passenger seat.  “No, no,” the driver said to me, “I’m driving.”  I was puzzled for a few seconds before I looked in the window and saw the steering wheel on what I know as the “passenger side.”  I said, “Oh, right, of course,” and looked back at the cab driver.  He was laughing at me.