When I decided to intern abroad in London, I was under the impression the culture would be pretty close to America. I mean, we used to be part of Great Britain way back when right? Wrong. Speaking English is one of the few similarities Londoners and Americans share. But don’t worry, it’s easy to adjust and you might find you even prefer British culture!
Every girl is concerned about how to dress like a Brit. London style suggests that time was spent to look decent before heading out the door, however it’s perfectly acceptable to put your own unique twist on style choices. Londoners generally dress more formally than Americans. Typical outfits include pants/jeans, dresses, or skirts. I’m interning during the summer (when it’s supposed to be hot-but it’s London) and have seen few people wearing shorts or just leggings. Almost every woman owns a trench coat, so I’d suggest bringing one, especially if you are working an internship. It protects your dress clothes from random rain showers while looking chic and fashionable. Including a scarf to keep your neck warm while walking to and from the tube is a good idea as well!
Regarding shoes, I suggest loafers, nicer sandals, or canvas shoes. Prepare for lots of walking with sturdy close-toed footwear. Also, chunky heels are popular for dressy occasions. Flip-flops usually indicate you’re American and wearing trainers (tennis shoes) with business clothes is normal when traveling to work.
I came to London expecting fish and chips, black pudding, and other traditional English entrees. These classics can be found in most pubs, but there are endless cafes and restaurants to match the pallet of any foodie out there! London is a world city, therefore it’s home to diverse people groups from across the globe. You know what that means? Lots of food! Food brings everyone together, regardless of background, language, or skin color, because we all have to eat.
Whether you prefer Thai, Indian, Greek or Italian, I suggest trying everything and exploring new dishes! While visiting London markets, I’ve uncovered a love for Thai green curry! Speaking of markets, they’re definitely one of my favorite things about Europe. The wares and trinkets are unique, and the food is to die for! It’s cooked right in front of you and a couple laps around the food stalls collecting samples will amount to almost a full meal! (Don’t miss Portobello, Camden, and Borough markets.)
London food is ten times more fresh than American food. Upon arrival, I bought a bunch of groceries and realized at my flat all they all expired in like two days! There are minimal preservatives or additives, which allows me to justify sampling the endless pastries (they’re fresh, right?) Many vegetarian and gluten-free options are also available and although Great Britain is acclaimed for serving afternoon tea, it’s the coffee shops that have taken London by storm. **Disclaimer, if you’re trying to overcome a sweet tooth, run the opposite direction! There are yummy treats, breads, and sandwiches in every cafe window :)
Know that your vowel sounds and lingo will most likely stand out as American. Oh, how I wish for a refined British accent to sound immediately more elegant and interesting! But since that’s not the case, it’s best just to own your American roots! Fortunately, there are accents from all over the world spoken in London, so you won’t be alone.
Brits tend to be more polite and reserved in speech and conduct. Be prepared for British phrases, such as “rubbish” and “mind the gap”. Just remember that “university” means college, a “jumper” is a hoodie/sweater, and you need to use “the toilet” not the bathroom. Finally, you’ll hear lots of different languages being spoken around you. Granted, I’m interning at an international school for English, but even so, most people I’ve encountered speak multiple languages. However, a friend once reminded me that no matter what language you speak, a firm handshake and friendly smile resonates well with anyone.
P.S. Cars/cabs/taxis DO NOT yield for pedestrians, so look both ways.
Be prepared for lots of cigarette smoke because it’s the social norm.
Bring something to read on long Tube ride.
Best of wishes for all who are coming to intern in London! Cheers!
The world awaits…discover it.