This 2 week trip covered London, Brighton and Oxford, with London being my least favourite: way too crowded and the traffic is crazy! Super expensive too! The price for food and accommodation matches Vancouver’s prices except of course, with an exchange rate of 1.75, this means 75% more expensive than in Canada!
The best part of my trip was meeting up with 3 good old friends, Yvonne, Neil and Paul who happened to be in UK at this time for different reasons.
Here are 10 things I learned during this trip:
- Uber is much cheaper than a black cab in London but they can’t use bus lanes like official black cabs can. Taking a traditional London black cab does have its charms. Cab drivers must pass rigorous exams to prove they know their way around the city and they often like to share their world view with passengers. But they are expensive, especially in heavy traffic, which is very common in London.
- The standard tip in restaurants is 12.5% but most automatically include the tip in the price of the bill. Black cab drivers expect a tip of around 10% of the fare. Tipping isn’t the norm in bars and pubs, unless food is served. Coat check attendants, doormen and bellmen usually get £1 for their services.
- You must stand on the right at the tube stations unless you want to experience the passive-aggressive wrath of a Londoner’s stare! Stand on the right when you step on the escalator. If you want to walk up or down, stick to the left.
- London weather is notoriously unpredictable and though it’s warmer and much drier than Vancouver, Vancouver gets an extra 300 hours of sun annually. It was pretty cool to experience 4 seasons within 6 hours on one of the days: I left home with light showers then the sun came out, until giving way to hail and then the skies finally cleared.
- In London, never make eye contact. No matter how crowded the train or strange the situation, Londoners will steadfastly ignore eye contact at all costs. Striking up a conversation with a stranger on public transport is practically unheard of. However outside of London, Brits are generally a lot friendlier and happy to chat, and they always make eye contact.
- Londoners appear to be cold and unfriendly. Most Londoners ignore strangers on the street or on public transport in the city. That being said, cabbies, hairdressers and some shop assistants will often engage in conversation, and so will drunks in pubs (and there are lots of them in London!) In general, however, breaking the ice with an average, sober Londoner is a tougher proposition.
- Distances along roads are measured in yards and miles. Objects are measured in centimetres and metres. Height is in feet and inches. Food is weighed in grams and kilos. People are weighed in stone and pounds.
- You can drink on the street.
- The secret to blending in with locals lies solely in the use of one word — “innit” — a colloquial abbreviation of “isn’t it?”
- There are some strange place names such as Bottom Flash, Booty Lane, Cock Alley, Nether Wallop and Sandy Balls. Yes, seriously. LOL!
The overall cultural here is very laid back. I heard UK is the least compare to the rest of the Europe already. I still can’t believe it’s acceptable to reply to business emails a week later. It’s normal to close a real estate deal in 2-3 months. And it takes 1-3 weeks just to open a new business bank account! It’s like they have no sense of urgency here! It’s just too frustrated for me (a little rabbit) to survive in a place that is on “turtle speed”! Lol!