This first week is speeding by, to say the least. Every day has been jam-packed with orientation, making new friends, and exciting London excursions. Even before classes have started, I find myself learning new things about this city. Here are 10 things I've learned about London in my first 5 days!
1. Your greatest threat is the light-speed cyclists. As if adjusting to looking right, left, right, left and then crossing the street wasn't enough, bike riders going 40 miles an hour creates an extra layer of danger. Not only are they silent, but they don't always obey the rules of traffic. Despite this...
2. Everyone jaywalks. London is a city and like all cities, it's always bustling with people trying to get from one place to another. The crosswalks (or zebra crossings as the Brits call them) have very short time limits for crossing, so you can almost always see someone, or sometimes lots of people, dart across the street. I think I'll just wait for the next light, thanks.
3. You can get anywhere and everywhere on public transportation. I've got to say, I've experienced a lot of public transportation in my day, and London's tube and bus system are perhaps the best. Frequent, reliable, and inexpensive, you can take the tube or bus almost anywhere you want to go. Want to go somewhere outside of London? The national rail system can take you there as well. It's a welcome change from waiting 20 minutes for the metro (looking at you, DC).
4. People are extremely polite. I consider myself a chronic apologizer, so I feel very at home in that regard. Even if you're the one in the wrong, expect to be apologized to.
5. There's way more than just one "British" accent. Until I got here, I knew that there were distinct English and Scottish accents, but I hadn't known about all the rest. Different regions have different accents, including Cockney, Yorkshire, Geordie, Welsh English, Scouse and many more!
6. Crumpets. Just crumpets. Why don't we have these in the United States? They're like English muffins but way better. Not to mention they're extremely inexpensive (only 55p for 8!). My roommate and I might have several packages in our room right now. Not only are they delicious, but you can feel extremely English eating them.
7. Dress in layers. It's only a little chilly outside right now, but buildings in London keep their heat on high. You can easily go from a brisk autumn day to a sweltering room or tube station. The best remedy for this is dressing in layers (especially with my favorite, a flannel).
8. Walk on the left, stand on the right. Honestly, this should be rule number 1. On the escalators, if you plan on going up or down the steps, you'd do that on the left side of the escalator. If you'd rather just ride it to the top or bottom, stand on the right. This isn't a suggestion, Londoners take this very seriously. If you're standing on the left side of the escalator, expect some annoyed sighs and tsks.
9. Everything is smaller. As a lifelong American, I'm used to having things large. The USA is the land of big cars, tall ceilings, 20-ounce coffees and even spacious bathroom stalls. Not here. Things in London are all quite small. You'll rarely see an SUV driving down High Street. Even the grocery stores inside the city are very small, carrying only the essentials. Once you get used to it, it's actually really comfortable and pleasant.
10. Nothing beats a pub dinner with friends. After a long day of traversing the city, very few things compare to settling down in a local pub with a few good friends and some fish and chips. The food, the atmosphere, and the people make the pub a great place to unwind and have some fun in a relaxed, homey environment.
This list is far from complete, considering how busy these last five days were. I'm excited to see just how much more London can teach me!