While I have only been in London for two short months, I have had the privilege of traveling to three out of four countries in the United Kingdom (UK). Northern Ireland, I will get to you someday! In that short amount of time I have discovered some similarities and differences that make these three beautiful countries unique.
I will start with England as I have spent far more time in England than I have in Scotland or Wales. I have had the chance to travel around the different cities in England through my own travel and AIFS organized day trips. These include London, Cambridge, Salisbury, Oxford, and Brighton. While in England I have noticed the following:
- England has a far greater amount of cars than Scotland or Wales. Even if you go out to the countryside, there are cars everywhere! This could be as England has the largest and most concentrated population of the countries.
- Following on from that, England is home to a lot of crowds. Cities like London, Oxford and Cambridge are popular tourist destinations which attract large amounts of people.
- There seems to not be a large focus on being environmentally friendly. Granted, there are pockets that do their best with recycling facilities but I need to see more.
- I love that everything is open late. Stores, restaurants, coffee shops, everything!
Out of the three countries, Scotland was my favorite. I loved how even in Edinburgh, the capital city, the air still felt fresh and the city as a whole was less busy. I was lucky enough to be on the AIFS Scotland trip which took us all over the country. We went to Edinburgh, Inverness, Fort William, Glencoe, Loch Ness, and the Isle of Skye. Here are some of the things I noticed:
- The Scots are a very friendly group of people. Not just the people in the small villages, but the bigger cities too.
- Scotland as a whole came across as more environmentally conscious. Every single coffee shop I went into, even in the rural towns had compostable coffee cups. They also had a lot more public garbage cans and recycling bins throughout the country.
- With an estimated population of just 5.45 million, Scotland is a very rural country. This means it is home to amazing landscapes and small picture perfect villages. This was great to see such a contrast between the busy streets of London compared to the quiet glens of Scotland.
- There were not nearly as many cars in Scotland, maybe having to do with so much of the country being rural.
Wales is a beautiful place and I had a lovely time, however I only visited the capital city, Cardiff, so I definitely left things to go back for. Here are some things that I noticed:
- In Wales signs are written in both English and Welsh! Welsh is a language spoken by around 19% of the population and the majority of those who speak Welsh also speak English, making Wales a truly bilingual nation in the UK. I noticed many people speaking Welsh during my stay, which I found extremely interesting.
- Most places close quite early. This would have been a good thing to know before I visited. I arrived at about 4:30pm in the afternoon, and at about 6:00pm decided to venture out to grab something for dinner. However, when I went out all the restaurants and shops were closed with the exclusion of a few.
- When I finally managed to find a place that was open, all of the servers were extremely inviting and friendly. They all were all so willing to answer my touristy questions and provided me with many fun things to do in Wales.
One thing that unites the UK are pubs! They are everywhere and almost always full of families and friends sharing food and chatting. Historically the pubs are focal points of a community. I really enjoy this because I like the idea of going out with your friends and sitting around a table and talking.
Isabella Selvitella is a student from the College of San Mateo, studying abroad in London, England through an AIFS Customized Faculty-Led program. Isabella has a passion for writing and travelling and is excited to explore both of these while in London this Fall. Keep checking back for future blogs posts here.