London is huge. Really huge. You might think it’s a long way down to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to London.
To give the city it’s due, and because I stayed here for a whole week, London gets the dubious honor of being featured in a epic trilogy* of posts.
I’ll be starting off my London series with a short guide of things Americans should know before coming to London.
Pronunciation and Lingo
Here is a short guide to show you exactly how different two identical languages can be. American English on the Left, British English on the Right.
Apartment = Flat
ATM = Cashpoint
Bar = Pub
Bangers = Sausage
Bird = Pretty Lady
Book = Booky Wook
Chips = Crisps
Coffee = Tea
College = University
Dollar ~ 0.65 Pounds**
Exit = Way Out
Elevator = Lift
Fries = Chips
Glasses = Specs
Laptop = Lappy Toppy Too-ta
Lawyer = Barrister
Mile = Kilometer
Pretty Lady = Bird
Poofter = Tourist
Subway = Tube
Take Out = Take Away
Television = Telly
Telephone = Telly
Telly Savalas, actor = Telly
Tired = Knackered
Truck = Lorry
Zebra = Zeb-ra not Zeeb-ra
City Layout and Pedestrian Navigation
As with all European cities, London is laid out in a manner most resembling spaghetti. Digested spaghetti. This issue is compounded by it’s enormous size (that’s what she said).
But wait. There’s more. Street signs are almost nonexistent. And when they are present, they are placed on buildings rather than corner poles. This makes finding your way around a pointless exercise in idiocy without the aid of a map.
If you do decide to walk, you might want to take heed of crosswalks. It really is funny how many innate instincts are used while crossing the street. I’ve caught myself looking down the wrong side of the street many times before crossing, but have yet to be the cause of a fatality. See the next section for my views on English driving.
Everyone knows the British drive on the wrong side of the road but not everyone is aware of the sheer insanity with which they pilot their automocars. While in cities like New York, pedestrians own the streets, British drivers couldn’t give two shits. Watch your step at all times, or risk becoming a meat hood ornament.
Lanes? Forget about it. With the labyrinthine maze that passes for central London streets, you can never really be sure from which way traffic is coming.
God forbid you get behind the wheel of a car. In addition to everything being all backwards and weird, making sure you’re going the right way depends on nothing more than instinct and feel.
Oh, and know how to drive stick.
The Tube. The Tube is good. The Tube is fast. The Tube gets you where you need to go. The Tube is reasonably priced. All hail the Tube.
That being said, I’m sure the bus system is good to, but unless you know the routes really well, I’d stick with the underground.
Money and Expenses
England is expensive! Like, super expensive. Don’t come here unless you’re planning to spend money. What makes this so much more difficult is that, as with most European countries, England uses no paper money lower than a fiver. Thus, 1 and 2 pound coins are ubiquitous. This gives you the false sense that spending a few coins is cheap, when you’ve really just pissed away four pounds ($6.20**) on a Cadbury. Although, that may be worth it. Cadburys are mouth gold.
Not like Harry Potter.
Fairly standard, with a few endearing quirks.
First off, the Britons seem to have revolutionized sexism by placing their clothes-washing machines in their kitchens. There’s something to be said about efficiency.
It is also worth pointing out that the light switches for their bathrooms are outside the room itself. So be careful, lest you run into a dark water closet.
On a slightly related note, the phrase “To Wash Up”, in America meaning to wash one’s self, in the UK refers to doing the dishes. This poses many problems in the case of a female friend asking you to help her “wash up”.
Well, that’s it for now. Hopefully I didn’t miss anything. If I did, I’ll catch it in post. I’ll start writing a bit more about the experience soon.
*Disclaimer: Trilogy will have more than three parts.
**As of this writing