Today is my 9-year anniversary of living in London! Time has flown since I got my first visa and moved to the UK in 2007. But I’ve learned a lot about life in Britain since arriving in England. In celebration of the milestone, today I bring you my 19 expat tips for living in London. Or visiting. Either way, you’re set.
Expat Tips for Living in London
Like many American expats, I moved to London thinking the UK would be pretty similar to the US. Apart from funny accents, a strong class system, and words like “loo”, it would be a lot like home. Then I got here and realized how wrong I was.
Some differences are big, others barely noticeable. But are 19 of them, in no particular order:
Everyone loves the Queen. If you joke about her, you will be tarred and feathered.
The food in Britain is not nearly as bad as it used to be. Neither are the teeth. Don’t let either put you off visiting.
There are a lot of silent letters in British place names. Take Alnwick, for example. There’s a silent L and a silent W. They do it to trick us.
Watching the English by Kate Fox is the expat bible. Everyone I know in London has it (even my English friends). Get it here. Read it. Learn it. Love it.
Trains are never on time. If you’re on a train that’s on time, check a map because you’re probably in Switzerland.
Refrigerators are smaller than bread boxes. Food is normal size. I’m not sure how people who cook at home cope with this. I avoid the problem by eating out all the time.
Christmas is just Christmas in the UK. There’s no “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings”. I even got a Christmas card from a Muslim friend once. I’ve traded all my politically correct sayings for “Happy Christmas” to fit in.
If you’re an American in Britain over Thanksgiving, make sure you know your Squanto from your Miles Standish. Brits love to ask about Thanksgiving, and it’s a bit embarrassing to have forgotten all the things we learned when we were seven.
Mother’s Day is celebrated about three months earlier here than in the States. If you see a Mother’s Day card in the UK, buy it. There won’t be any in the shops when you need to mail one to your mum back home.
Grown men do actually say “whoops-a-daisy” here. It’s not just something they made up for Hugh Grant in Notting Hill.
Underwear are called pants here. Pants are called trousers. This knowledge prevents many awkward moments.
Alcohol consumption is a national sport. If someone invites you for “a” drink, you might need a liver transplant the next day.
Tea consumption is another national sport. If someone invites you for “a” cuppa, be prepared to drink at least five. And don’t put milk in your Earl Grey.
Puns are the highest form of humor. Check your eye rolls at the door.
Taking leftover food home from a restaurant isn’t a thing here. Just ask the restaurant that made me sign a waiver before releasing my extra spaghetti. I’m serious.
Understatement is huge here. Trade “this is the best thing ever!” for “this isn’t entirely crap” and you’ll fit right in.
In London, talking to strangers and making eye contact with other tube passengers is taboo. If you must speak, the two permissible topics are the weather and the stranger’s dog.
Washers and dryers are the same machine here, and it takes around 17 hours to do a load of laundry. If you move to the UK, you may want to quit your job or invest in disposable clothing.
London is the best city on earth (and by that I mean it isn’t entirely crap). If you haven’t been here, you should come.
Are you from abroad? What are your expat tips for living in London?
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