I am currently spending a month in London for a study abroad dance program and I've noticed a lot of differences between the US and the UK. Even though they speak English in the UK, it was still somewhat of a culture shock coming to my first European country.
Here are 8 big things I noticed that are different.
1. Iced coffee doesn’t exist
As an avid Dunkin' drinker, I was determined to find the best iced coffee when I got to London. I went to Pret A Manger for the first time, one of London's chain coffee shops, and ordered an iced coffee. After a few seconds of pause, I could tell the man was very confused. I asked if they served cold coffee and apparently that isn't a thing across the pond.
So, I've been substituting my fix for an "iced Americano," which is basically iced espresso with milk... cue the shakes.
2. They drive on the left side of the road
Okay, this was the definitely the most confusing thing for me once I got here. I was expecting to see all different models of cars than I'm used to in the US, but I recognized a bunch of them. However, driving on the left side of the highway from the airport was the weirdest experience. Every car I looked at out the window that didn't have a person in the left front seat gave me a mini heart attack. I definitely thought there was no one driving a few cars because I'm so used to the driver being on the left side. I had to trick my brain into not panicking when I saw no passengers.
3. You can go to bars and clubs at 18
Getting into bars and clubs with my US ID is definitely a treat since I can't legally drink in the US with it. The thought of bringing my passport as a backup form of identification to a bar is a little terrifying but you do what ya gotta do. I've already been to a few pubs where I've been asked to immediately show my IDs because I apparently look like I'm 12. Jokes on them because I'll be celebrating my 21st birthday while I'm across the pond.
4. Water is nowhere to be found
One might ask, "How can you survive without water?" Well, IDK myself but the people here somehow do. Public water fountains are nowhere to be found. As part of a study abroad program for dance, I am drinking as much water as I can whenever I can. Water is also enjoyed at room temperature. Iced drinks are rare to find.
5. They use pounds and everything is more expensive
Pounds, confusing right?!? I've never used anything besides American dollars so I knew it would take me time to get used to a different currency. If you thought things in the US were expensive, the value of a pound in the UK is much higher. It took me a few days to realize that 1 pound isn't a bill, but rather a coin. The smallest bill is 5 pounds.
6. Tipping at restaurants and taking home leftovers are not a thing
In American culture, we're used to giving a 20% tip on top of a bill at a restaurant. Well, here they don't do that. Instead, you pay a service fee, which is included in the total cost of the bill. Also if you don't finish your meal, you won't be asked if you want a to-go box. The meals are portioned a certain way so they're manageable for a single person and food is wasted.
7. No air conditioning
I have had the opportunity of experiencing some of the most beautiful weather in London over the past few weeks with bright blue skies and temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s. With this beautiful weather comes the heat, which leads to a lot of sweating. Most homes, restaurants, pubs, and shops don't have air conditioning due to the cost.
8. Military time is the main notation for time
24-hour notation is widely used in the UK for things such as timetables and technical applications, however, 12-hour notation is used more in everyday life in conversation. Since I've never followed the 24-hour notation, I'm constantly subtracting 12 from anything past 13:00 to make sure I'm on time for scheduled events.