Monday, 9 January 2012

LONDON: Welcome to the Island

After my amazing holiday in the UAE, I started my new job and life in London, England. It might not be the best month to move into a new country, but luckily it was not as cold as I expected. The weather on the island was very mild compared with Munich, which is usually very cold and dry in the winter. Living in London is pretty easy, it does not take too much effort to get used to any rules or cultural differences. That’s what I thought, but let me list some of the things you need to consider if moving over:

  • Signing up for a National Insurance Number: usually a quick process, particularly if your employer organises most of it for you.
  • Phone contracts: Contracts are in general cheaper than pay as you go cards.
  • Street directions: Luckily there is always a sign reminding you which direction to look at when crossing the road.

  • English Pubs: They are everywhere!! Commonly work colleagues go for a drink (or 2 or 3 or more) after work to “socialse”. British people always pay for rounds when in a group, as that is the common culture. Thus, if you ever go for “a drink” with 3 or 4 British people, don’t be surprised if you have at least 4 drinks, especially as it is considered rude to turn down an offer of a drink! 
  • Queuing for good restaurants: Whenever you see a well named restaurant you can be sure that there are a few people standing in front of it, just to wait to get a seat. However, I’m not talking about a few minutes, I am talking about 20-45 minutes.
  • British politeness: It’s never wrong in this country to say thank you or excuse me too often. You will always hear British people say sorry to you, for example if they are in the way or bump into you, even if it wasn’t their is like a natural instinct for them to say it! A nice change from some other European countries. 
  • Wrapped vegetables and fruits: If you are looking for some fresh vegetables and fruits, you either pay more at shops such as Waitrose, Whole Foods, Mark’s and Spencer’s, or you accept the ones which are packed in plastic bags or are in tins. 
  • Opening hours of shops: Supermarkets and stores are open all day long even on sundays and bank holidays, which is great as it gives you more flexibility and makes people go shopping more often!
  • Hunting for deals: Wherever you are in England, you always find deals, such as buy two get one free or buy 4 get it for £2.
  • British vocabulary differs: There are some words British people use, which you should be aware of. The tube is the underground, crisps are chips, chips are like fries, trainers are sneakers, trousers are pants, rubbish is trash. There are many more, but make sure you know some as some British people dislike the use of “Americanisms” in their language.
  • Foxes everywhere: In Germany it is very rare to see a fox, but here they seem to walk around like cats and also, at night, they can get very loud and even sound like cats.
  • Don’t be shocked by girls wearing the shortest skirts you have ever seen in your life even in the winter! British people are used to wearing short clothes even if it is freezing cold outside, particularly on a night out.
  • It is not unusual to look unusual: In London you have the freedom to wear whatever you want. You may get the odd strange look if you are wearing something particularly outrageous, but the majority of people in London accept it as just normal or even cool!
  • Cupcakes: Brits love having a dessert after meal. I have already tasted some of the most delicious cupcakes from Hummingbird bakery

The more foreign people I meet here, the more often I hear that it takes about a year to get  used to the city and the culture. Maybe it is because there are so many different cultures living here in London? You can walk down any street in London and within 30 seconds hear languages from all over the world spoken by people who live in London. 

Not only this, London is so large and varied, you can spend one day in one part of the city and the next day in another, and feel like you are in a totally different world! Let’s see how long it will take me to feel at home in this country...