american Culture Shock in the UK

8 Things That Cause Culture Shock For An American In The UK

Always make sure to mind the gap!


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.

Cover Image Credit:

Lindsey McEvoy

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12 Struggles Only Portuguese Girls Can Relate To

It's like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" but Portuguese edition.

As mentioned before in my "8 Ways You Know You're Portuguese" article, I'm 100% European Portuguese. Which means that if you're reading this, you're probably somehow related to me (see #5). You know these 12 things to be true if you grew up in a Portuguese household:

1. You're pressured to marry a Pork Chop.

A Pork Chop is a Portuguese person. The older generation feels that this term is derogatory, but Portuguese Americans self identify as 'Pork Chops.' Some families will probably disown you if you don't marry a Portuguese guy, but I lucked out and my family is pretty open minded. Let me put it this way, if you're not married by the time you're 28, your grandma and your mother are going to take you to the Portuguese club to find a nice Pork Chop to settle down with. You may not be forced into a Portuguese marriage, but it's highly preferred that you marry within the culture.

2. You're always too fat, even if you're skinny.

Portuguese people are a feminist's worst nightmare. They will body shame the hell out of you and feel no remorse. You could lose 20 pounds and look/feel amazing and a Portuguese person will still say "well, you could stand to lose a few more pounds."

3. You must remember your Portuguese classes that you took when you were five years old.

It is a crime against humanity to a Portuguese person if you don't at least understand the language. If you can speak it, read it, and understand it, you've automatically earned yourself the "golden child" title. Every time I move to a different state, my Grandma's only warning is "don't forget your Portuguese," because someone's got to carry on the culture.

4. Am I white? Mixed? Hispanic? Unclear.

I grew up thinking I was some kind of Latina just because the Portuguese language is so similar to Spanish. You probably feel comfortable in Hispanic communities because of your Portuguese background. I eventually realized that I'm white, but I still get told that I look racially ambiguous. Whenever someone asks what nationality I am, I give them three guesses. It's rare that people ever guess Portuguese, but upon finding out that I am, I suddenly become "exotic."

5. You have 55 first cousins.

This is not an exaggeration. My dad actually has 50 first cousins. I have 13, but I have way more cousins in Portugal that I've either never met, or I've met them, but wouldn't be able to pick them out of a line up. If you go to Portugal and visit all of your relatives, the faces and names start to blur together and it's safe to call every man "Joao" and every woman "Maria" or "Ana Maria" and they'll be delighted that you remembered their names.

6. You have to make sure you don't marry your own cousin.

Portugal is such a small country that if you meet a fellow Pork Chop in America, chances are, you're somehow related or your families are friends. I suggest drawing an extensive family tree before shacking up with a Pork Chop.

7. Somebody is always praying for you.

Portuguese people are devoutly Catholic, so it doesn't matter if you're temporarily down on your luck or a self made millionaire, you have a tia (an aunt) that you probably only see when someone in the family passes away, who prays on the rosary every night for you.

8. You must have a name that can be pronounced in Portuguese.

There are two criteria for naming a Portuguese baby: is it the name of a saint, and can it be pronounced in Portuguese? If your uncle twice removed that you see every six years when you go to Portugal can't say your baby's name, you need to pick a new one. Names like "Riley" and "Jackson" won't get Grandma's approval.

9. You're considered adventurous if you move out of your parents house before you're married.

It's rare that Portuguese women don't live with their mothers until they find a spouse, and even once they do get married, it's not uncommon for their mother to move in with her daughter and her (hopefully Portuguese) husband.

10. You've been given something with Our Lady of Fatima on it.

Fatima is Portugal's claim to fame. It's the city in Portugal where three kids claimed they saw the Virgin Mary in 1917 and it's now a popular, religious tourist destination. Your grandma has probably given you something with the Blessed Mary on it to put in your car or in your bedroom so that you stay '#blessed' all the time.

11. You're not allowed to be a vegetarian.

Portuguese people are fishermen and their specialty is codfish, so it's nearly impossible to maintain a vegetarian diet in a Portuguese household. You can be pescatarian though!

12. You have to warn people before you introduce them to your family.

Have you ever seen "My Big Fat Greek Wedding?" That's what it's like to bring a non-Portuguese boyfriend to a Portuguese family gathering. Good luck.

Cover Image Credit: CDMPHY / Flickr

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Day Four In Italy: Florence

This is the day we learned the history of everything


Waking up bright and early we first took the tour bus to the country side of Florence where we visited a medieval town full of shops that lined a beautiful countryside.

CountrysideBrooke Burney

We spent about three hours here just looking around, buying things, and taking pictures. Once the three hours were up, we went to a winery where they explained how they made wine with the grapes in their vineyard.

In the vineyardBrooke Burney

After the tour, they fed us lunch with some of their wine. Then, after we ate, we passed through their wine shop and took the bus back to the Piazza della Signoria. On the way back, our tour guide was telling us about Michelangelo and his time creating the Statue of David. We had to stand in a line for about thirty minutes but when our time came, we were thrilled. We entered and saw artwork from many different artists. However, Michelangelo had a hallway of his own that was mostly filled with unfinished sculptures of statues with David being at the very end.

Statue of DavidBrooke Burney

After the tour of the art museum, our tour guide took us to the square where the churches were and gave us a history lesson on them. He gave us a background on the pictures that were painted on the doors and what they represent.

Brooke Burney

After this tour, we went back to our hotel where we were able to go eat dinner. My friends and I went back to the small square we first went to and ate in a small pizza joint.

Italian pizzaBrooke Burney

If you ever go to Europe, keep in mind that they have a hard time splitting orders. As we were sitting at this table, we asked for separate checks but they made us pay separately on a single check, which was kind of funny watching three American girls pick through their euros.

After dinner, we went back to our hotel to pack for the next day. To the train station, then Pompeii!

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