1. Be prepared to walk.
Even with the amazing public transport in London, you’ll have to walk from the tube to wherever you’re going. And since you’re underground, that also means stairs. My thighs currently look like those of a Greek god’s, so that’s a bonus.
2. Never transfer from Bank to Monument.
The signs all say you can do it. The announcement on the train says you can do it. But you’ll have to descend into the depths of hell and back up again in order to. Trust me, it’s not a good plan.
3. Respect the queue.
4. It’s an international city.
We say in the States we have international cities, but I now realize that we have no idea what we’re talking about. In London, there are languages of all kinds wherever you go. Step off the Whitechapel tube stop and it’s like you’re in a bazaar in the Middle East, though go a few blocks North and you’re in the hipster capital of the city. People circulate in friend groups of all colours and countries. There are so many different cultures. Get ready to absorb them.
5. For God’s sake, stand on the right.
6. For God’s sake, keep left.
7. Dress in layers if you’re travelling on the tube.
For some reason, the Central and Northern lines don’t believe in air conditioning. This makes rush hour so much fun (not).
8. You have to flag down the waitstaff if you need anything.
9. “The gap” isn’t that bad at some stations.
At others, you could throw a small child down it.
10. TFL is your best friend and your worst enemy.
A lot of Londoners complain about TFL, but I have to throw in some praise for them because if something’s messed up, by god, they’ll let you know it’s messed up. The CTA could take a few pointers on this point.
11. Don’t expect to get a cocktail anywhere for less than £6.
12. If you want to bake with chocolate chips…
Sucks. You can’t really find them anywhere.
13. Accept your American status.
This has been a really difficult one for me because I hate stereotypical American culture and I’ve definitely done things like avoiding talking out loud to people so they won’t know I’m American. But a lot of people haven’t been, and they often want to hear about the differences between London and the States.
14. Don’t talk on the tube.
15. For normal streets, remember to look right, then left.
For one ways, good luck, bud. Especially cause parking in London? It’s a free-for-all.
16. “Cheers” is a universal term.
“Have a nice day” = cheers. “Thank you” = cheers. “You’re welcome” = cheers. “I think you’re cute” = cheers.
17. Subscribe to everything.
I know people hate emails but London has a TON of great weekly newsletters that let you know what’s going on in the city for the weekend for very little or free. Some of my favourites are Twenty-Something London, Broke in London, the Londonist & Time Out London.
18. Primark is bae.
19. London is obsessed with green space.
Take advantage of the fantastic amount of public gardens.
20. Visit markets.
This is one of my favourite aspects of London. There are often really cheap cute clothing and accessories, great food and handmade goods depending on where you are. (East End markets are where it’s at).
21. Sign up for the Waitrose rewards card only for the free coffee/tea.
22. Never, ever visit Piccadilly Circus, Oxford St or Leicester Square without being prepared to be slowed down/mobbed/annoyed/etc. by tourists.
23. England may not be famous for that many great foods, but they are doing scones and clotted cream right.
24. “Subway” signs do not mean public transportation.
They mean little tunnels so pedestrians can walk under the street. What you’re looking for is “Underground.”
25. Homesickness happens.
It’s hard to see posts from friends back on campus. Studying abroad is undeniably an emotional roller coaster and it’s not going to be as easy or exciting as you think it will be all the time. But roll out of bed, drink your cuppa, and remember you’re living in one of the most vibrant cities in the world for only a couple months. Live it up.