6 Tips for Americans Travelling in London | UK Survival Guide
Are you an American considering a trip to London? What sort of cultural differences can you expect? How have times changed and what should you be careful of? Americans travelling in London need to know a few tips to have a fun and safe holiday, so read on to learn what’s most important.
Remember Sting’s awesome song, Englishman in New York? “I don’t take coffee, I take tea, my dear…I’m an Englishman in New York.” The cultural differences between the UK and the US are stark in some cases but isn’t that half the fun? Travelling overseas to experience different cultures is one of life’s pleasures – and these days, with cheaper flights and accommodation options like Airbnb, travelling to places you’re dying to see has never been easier.
What are the differences between the UK and the US?
Well, maybe not as much as you might think! Some travellers say that the differences between the Brits and Americans are not as vast as they were many years ago. Since the 1960s, the “British Invasion” of pop culture, music, fashion and movies has been ramping up. People in the UK are fascinated by American culture and likewise, with people in the US – they can’t get enough of “all things British”, whether it’s books like Harry Potter or superstars like bands Blondie or One Direction.
As a writer and Content Strategist, I am really in love with language quirks. The language used by people in the UK compared with the words people in the US typically use have their differences and peculiarities. Check out this list of 20 British words that mean something totally different in the US. Sting (the prominent English artist) sang about the difficulties he experienced as an Englishman in the largest city in the USA (New York), but the fasination goes both ways. So, what about the life of an American in London?
Just imagine that you are a young man or woman from Texas or other US city, who is going to move to the capital of Great Britain for the first time. Read the following tips to get the best idea of what to expect.
6 Tips for Americans Travelling in London
#1: Hello fussy, bustley, busy London
London is a BIG city – nearly 9 million people. Because it’s the business capital, everyone is in a constant hurry. You will find yourself surrounded by people walking fast and even running in all directions, which can seriously disorient a person. You might find yourself wondering, “Why all this hurry?”, as if all citizens of London are late for some hugely important event. Unintentionally, you might begin take up the pace yourself! Just make sure you follow these unspoken English travel rules.
#2: Double decker buses are a popular form of transport
The London Underground is one of the most efficient railway systems in the world, but what is one of the major landmarks of London? Apart from Big Ben or Westminster Abbey, the iconic red double decker buses are something you’ll find all over the city and beyond. And for good reason too, because these red busses are a main form of municipal transport in the UK capital. Besides this, they are a good alternative to the Underground. So, jump on the bus and get a cheap tour of the capital of the Great Britain. Check out sites like TripAdvisor to find reviews of the best London bus tours in your area.
#3: Be careful with drinking
People from the US take note – the Brits just love a bevvie or two! Some say that London has a special drinking culture. From pubs, to pints, “Snakebites” to larger, there are some words that you’ll need to get used to as an American.
Most universities (colleges) have several pubs and alcohol is an integral part of many social events, similar to parts of the US. Pubs, nightclubs and other establishments are in abundance and the drinking age is 18, unlike the more restricted 21 in the United States. However, be warned and do not abuse this special culture or you might find yourself on the wrong side of the law! Remember that a sound mind is an important thing when you’re travelling. Keep your wits about you!
#4: Tea in London
Another unique feature and attribute of London is the locals’ love of a good cup of tea. While Americans might lean more towards a strong cup of coffee, tea definitely has own culture in Great Britain and can be drunk at almost any time of the day or night.
However, be warned that on your arrival to Heathrow Airport you might find only a few teashops and most of these will be on the expensive side. Head out to the many central suburbs of London to try an award winning cup, or even purchase one of the top ten English tea brands to take home. Just make sure you declare it when you enter the airport.
#5: Do you speak English?
London is a hugely multicultural city! According to the UK Telegraph, ““The top five countries of birth (for Londoners) were India, Poland, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Republic of Ireland.” This means that there are lots of unique language nuances that prevail and lots of English (and other) slang.
Walking on the streets of London, or when travelling by public transport, you will hear people speaking and you might find some of the accents challenging. Listen carefully, be polite and ask questions. You’ll need to get used this variety but soon you will understand and communicate without any troubles at all! If you’re looking to meet people – an accent might even help you make friends!
#6: Weather forecast? Never heard about it!
London is not really known for its beautiful weather. In fact, for much of the year, you’ll find rain and drizzle but that’s all part of its charm! Everyone knows that the weather in London is “naughty”, but when you get there you’ll find that the streets and public transport system are set up nicely for this. However, there are some tips for the newcomers to London relating to weather issues:
- Dress in warmer clothes than you think you need. Layers are essential.
- Always take an umbrella with you. Choose a small one that folds.
- Wear boots in winter and solid shoes in the summer.
- Comfort and style are both important in London, so plan to look your best!
- Purchase a Macintosh (known as a “Mac”); a small, foldable raincoat to protect you from sudden drizzle.
Ready to fly to London for the trip of a lifetime?
Despite the differences between the UK and the US, there are still many things that Brits and Yanks have in common. Americans travelling in London should have an easy, fun time when they spend a bit of effort getting to know the local culture.
In time, you might even learn to master a British accent and to learn all the language nuances with ease. Just be polite, behave yourself and be sensible and you’ll have the time of your life!