A Place Where The Dumpsters Are Charming: How To Expect The Unexpected

Madison Palmer
September 30, 2019

Welcome back! It has been quite some time, which is to be expected because it can take some time to settle into a new country. If you missed the last post, here’s a quick update: My name is Madison, I am originally from the Boston area, and I am studying Health Practice & Policy while I’m in London for the fall semester.

So, what’s this post all about? I am settling into Camden Town quite nicely. However, there were definitely some things I was expecting when coming to London, and other things that I was not. I have been here nearly a month, so this post is essentially my impression of London thus far!

What I was Expecting:

  • The weather to fluctuate often, and lots of rain.
  • London people to use different phrases for things, such as “brolly” for umbrella.
  • People to dress differently. I had heard that shorts were almost nonexistent in London and to not pack them!
  • To live in a charming, cute city!
  • Classes to be graded a bit differently.

The Reality of My Expectations:

  • Weather and Dress: The weather does fluctuate often, but I have been very lucky! The first few weeks were gorgeous. Turns out that shorts DO exist. Yes, I have seen more people wearing jeans than shorts, but I honestly think that might just be because the weather is different and have nothing to do with style differences. Feel free to bring your favorite pair of shorts for the first few weeks.
  • London Terminology: While I was expecting London terminology to be different from what I was used to, I was oh so wrong on what I was expecting. I was expecting everyone to be referring to their umbrella as a brolly. I must embarrassingly admit that I have not heard or seen that term used once in the past month. It has begun to rain some but I have seen plenty of “umbrella” stores. Oops. Some other phrases that I was not expecting to hear were “To Let”, “Signposted”, “Mind the gap”, and “Queue.” I soon discovered that “To Let” was the equivalent “To Rent,” because signs of apartments or offices everywhere had that posted. I was also not expecting the phrase signposted, but that one was pretty self-explanatory. And when traveling on the tube you will see and hear “Mind the gap” over and over and over. Get used to it. This phrase was different for me because everywhere in the States signs might say “watch your head” or “watch your step” but here it seems that watch is consistently replaced to “mind.” Interesting. Trash cans often say “litter” on them. And lastly, a line is always a “queue” here.
  • Spelling: I was aware of “colour” versus “color” but not much more than that. Simply walking around the city has led me to believe that most things are spelled exactly as they sound. For instance, I have seen “yoghurt” and “tyre” all over the place.
  • The Charm: I was definitely expecting London to be a dreamlike city, but it was so much more than I imagined. Hence the name of this post, I kid you not, I have seen dumpsters that are patterned in a way that makes them actually cute! Yes, I have stopped to take a picture of a pink dumpster or a dumpster with a cow print on it. Every corner you turn in London you will see flowers upon flowers (maybe the rain is good for something). Doors are typically painted different colors, as are houses. And the architecture: stunning! I have immersed myself in an Architecture of London course, where I am treating myself with a tour of the London architecture each session. London is a charming city that I have fallen absolutely in love with.
  • Grades: I have heard from friends that studied abroad that the grading system is quite different. To sum it up, the U.S. grades on a system where everyone starts at 100 and points are deducted for incorrect answers. In the UK however, everyone starts from a 0 and you are scored on how well you did, not what you did wrong. So a 60 or 70 should have you grinning from ear to ear. As a student that is very grade driven, this was a lot to take in for me. The grades are not easily “translated” to what a typical U.S. grade would be, so that is difficult for me to get used to. Also, you can expect to only have one to three grades per semester in each course, so each is weighed very heavily. In one of my courses I have one paper worth 100% of my grade. Yikes.
  • Other: 1. People talk so much quieter here. I have never realized how loud Americans can be until I have to lean in to hear what someone is saying in London. 2. Most of the water that I have received is not super cold like I am used to, but just lightly chilled. 3. Portions are so much smaller! Even in fast food chains, the portions are drastically different from what I am used to. For instance, at McDonald's, ordering a medium drink is equivalent to the small cups in the U.S. Fun fact: a McChicken is my go-to fast food in America. Here, a McChicken is a Mayo Chicken…nonetheless, just as good.

Overall, I have fallen for London as a whole. We do speak the same language after all, so I was not expecting a huge culture shock. There is so much more to London than what I was expecting, and I love it all that much more. I am shocked to have become so comfortable with a city that I have only lived in for a month. Thank you for listening to my first impression of being a Londoner, and I hope this helps those of you preparing to study in London!

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Madison Palmer

<p>Hi I'm Maddy! I am a rising junior at Providence College and I am from a small town in central Massachusetts. I am the middle of five kids in my family, but I am the first to be studying abroad! I love to run and I think that's a great way to explore and learn a new place (not to mention it is some time in peace away from the chaos of a busy house!). I also love reading, writing, and all things makeup. I have been to very few states in the U.S. that do not touch Massachusetts, but I once made my way to Spain for ten days.</p>

2019 Fall
Home University:
Providence College
Sutton, MA
Health Studies
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