I have decided that this semester instead of boring you all with the ins and outs of my life I would take a step back and allow the Ithaca students here in London to tell you about their journey here. From orientation through to departure I am hoping you will get an insight into life as an international student in London and those of you who have left us behind can reminisce on the past and potential future students can be assured that life over the other side of that huge pond is not quite so scary after all...
On that note I would like to introduce our first blogger of Spring 2013: Marisa Andrews, a junior Drama major. Marisa has chosen to enlighten you all on the cultural differences between London and the USA as although we may think we speak the same language there are many times when we find ourselves lost in translation.
Travelling to London for the semester was my first time outside of the United States, so needless to say I was a bit scared. I’ve never encountered a different culture before and was worried about the change. I can now say with confidence that London is not scary at all! But there definitely are some cultural differences. I’ve made a list of a few that I noticed. If you’re thinking about travelling to London for a semester, don’t stress about memorizing every one of these before your plane touches down in the city. The ICLC staff will teach you everything you need to know about the country. However, it may be nice to know some of these ahead of time. This is in no way a comprehensive list, just things that I’ve noticed!
1. We all know that they drive on the opposite side of the road. However, I personally forgot this means that we also have to look the opposite way before crossing the street. Look to your right first!!!! Luckily, many of the central areas of the city actually have LOOK RIGHT and LOOK LEFT painted right on the pavement. Pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way. Let the cars go first!
2. You have to swipe OUT of the tube (subway system) as well as swiping in, so don’t put away your Oyster card (subway card) too fast! Also, instead of literally swiping a card, all you have to do is put your oyster card up to the card reader (Like the dorm buildings at IC).
3. The tube closes around midnight, so buses may be your only option if you’re out late. Luckily, there are a lot of buses that run all night and they’re pretty easy to figure out. If you’re in a bind, there’s also always a taxi service that can get you home.
4. There are no 1 pound (dollar) bills. They’re only made in coins. They also have a 2 pound coin. It’s much easier and more efficient.
5. There are also 2pence (cents) pieces. They are not efficient. I still don’t understand why they exist.
6. Fashion is very different. You won’t see anyone around in sweatpants or sweatshirts, and jeans are a lot less common. Everyone is much more put together in general. Muted tones are also much more common than bright colors.
7. Pants means underwear, and trousers mean pants. Don’t say pants.
8. “Wellies” are rain boots.
9. It is totally okay to sit in a café for an hour with a friend, even if you’ve finished your drinks.
10. Most cafés and some fast food places (such as Pret a Manger) will charge more for food to eat in than to take-away (their word for take-out). So, if you’re looking to save money it may be best to bring your food back home or to school, rather than eating it there.
11. There is a HUGE difference between preservatives in food products in the United States vs. England. England uses a lot less chemicals in their food, so food doesn’t last as long. Be prepared to shop more and stock up less.
12. It is a universally accepted fact that chocolate in England is superior to American chocolate. Cadbury is accessible, cheap, and amazing. Buying too much chocolate is a huge problem that I just don’t mind having. Try it all. Aero bars are also great. (Can you tell I’ve developed a chocolate problem???)
13. Peanut butter is a lot less common, expensive, and harder to find. Nutella is a lot more common, cheaper, and everywhere. Take advantage.
14. Classes are held only one time a week (mostly) and they are 3 hours long. It takes awhile to get used to, but having a 15-minute break in the middle helps. The classes are much more essay-based rather than exams, and there will also be more outside components – museum visits, sporting events, theatergoing.
15. 24/7 store hours are rare. A lot of stores close early, and some do not open on Sundays at all.
16. You push a door in to enter, and pull a door to exit. (Unless noted otherwise).
17. Slang words such as “cheers” and “hiya”.
There are obviously many more, but after a month of living in the city I already have a hard time identifying them. Once you get settled in to your flat and the city, London becomes a second home away from home. I’m so thankful to be able to live in such a great city for these next 4 months!