Expectation: I’m in the Tube station and I have to use the bathroom. Where can I find one?
Reality: First, they call the bathrooms “toilets.” Second, there are very few actual public restrooms. The Tube and other public areas rarely have them. Unless you are dining at a restaurant or buying from a store, make sure to use the bathroom before you leave.
Expectation: When making a phone call, I should expect to hear the long dial tones while waiting for the receiver to pick up.
Reality: The dial sounds are short beeps, similar to the ones that failed call beeps. I hung up two or three times before I realized!
Expectation: Cars, buses and taxis will drive in a more cautionary style and they will slow down if I’m crossing a random street.
Reality: It is a race to get where they are going, no matter if anyone is in their way. Unless you’re at the crosswalk (which there are plenty of) and it’s your right of way, they are speeding past. Just be sure to pay attention and stick to the crosswalks!
Expectation: I sit down at a nice restaurant and the service is great so I am ready to tip a nice 20%.
Reality: Your wallet will love you because there is only an *optional* 12.5% gratuity added to your bill. They also don’t tip at any pubs when ordering drinks!
Expectation: My dollar bills will buy me so many scones and lattes!
Reality: Nope! They use the currency pounds instead of dollars or euros. They have bills of €5, €10, €20, €50 and €100, and they use €1 coins instead of a bill. They also have a 20 and 50 pence coins and a €2 coin.
Expectation: The parking spaces are going to be very spacious making it so easy to park.
Reality: Depending on where you are in the city, there is no side-by-side parking and it is mostly all parallel parking. Every driver is an absolute pro! Quite impressive.
Expectation: I’m going to hop off the plane at Heathrow and everyone will have a cute British accent. There’s no language barrier so I will be able to understand everyone!
Reality: London is a melting pot of so many different languages, cultures, foods and people. You’ll definitely hear British accents but you will mostly hear all different kinds of accents and languages! You won’t necessarily be able to understand them either. Be patient and try your best as they will with you.
Expectation: This whole subway system is so confusing. I won’t be able to get anywhere, ugh!
Reality: First, it is called the Tube! Much cuter if you ask me. It is very straight forward! There are maps everywhere you look and, if you need further assistance, there are workers at all stations there to help you. Just ask!
Expectation: Everyone here probably hates Americans. They think we are all stupid and loud. They’ll be so rude to me.
Reality: While I cannot speak for what they think of us, most people I have encountered are so friendly and nice! Most inquire questions like what state you’re from or if you’re studying or just visiting! Don’t be afraid to ask questions either, most everyone is understanding!
Expectation: I’m going to rent a car or something and I’ll totally be able to get everywhere more easily.
Reality: Do not ever rent a car in the city! Traffic is insane, hence why most people take some type of public transportation. Also, they drive on the opposite side of the road, making everything different for those of us used to driving on the right.
This post was contributed by Emma Ferguson, who is spending her spring semester studying abroad with AIFS in London, England.