A Travellerspoint blog

Run For Your Life


rain 17 °C

When choosing London as my study abroad destination, I was curious about how much of a difference there would be between our cultures. Since we speak the same language (sometimes anyway), it seems plausible that customs would be the same as well.

So far, however, I am happy to report that I’ve already noticed a number of differences. The most obvious one which everyone immediately announces is that the British drive on the other side of the road. Yes, I realize this, and yes, I use the signs every time I cross the street that tell me which direction to look. Today, I realized that I actually say “look left” or “look right” aloud as I’m reading it, so I’m sure it’s even more painfully obvious that I’m American than just my general appearance (or whatever the British use to determine you aren’t one of them) proclaims.


Another traffic difference, which I actually find very handy, involves the traffic signals. They turn yellow when changing to both red AND green. Maybe this is for the drivers since I think a lot of them drive manual transmission cars, but it’s really handy for pedestrians too. We can see if we have time to sprint across the street or if the light is about to turn green and the cars will floor it right into us. (When people come home saying the cars don’t stop for pedestrians, let me tell you from personal experience that they are most definitely not kidding.)

Next is shopping. I haven’t done any recreational shopping yet because I’ve been too busy acquiring necessities such as a working converter (which I found) and groceries (which I hauled). One of the stores I went into while searching for a converter was called “Argos.” I’d never heard of it before, but one of my flat mates recommended it and he showed me the gigantic catalogue of their products which included pretty much everything you could ever need, including my converter!

In the States we have stores that have everything. But at Argos you don’t go around looking for what you want and putting it into a basket. You stand at one of the counters and look through one of their many catalogues and choose what you want. Then you take your order to the counter and someone goes to the back to fetch your items! It was the strangest thing! (And in case you were wondering, I actually got my converter at the store prior to this one, but I had to come check it out anyway to make sure I got the better deal, which I did.)

The grocery store was entertaining as well. Or at least it was until my arms got too tired to hold all the stuff I wanted to buy. I noticed four distinct differences at the store compared to the ones at home: eggs are not refrigerated (kind of scary); bread can be bought in a half loaf (convenient when buying for one); they have different candy and bigger-than-king-sized American candy (looks tasty); and sauces come in considerably smaller jars (smart really, because there always seems to be too much sauce once the pasta's gone).

Posted by ecfong 18:01 Archived in England Comments (0)

Ticket to Ride

Day 1

all seasons in one day 17 °C

I am happy to report that I made it to London and my trip went so smoothly I could hardly believe it! I made it no problem to my terminal well before boarding time, and I found out after I had been there for a little while that I was able to go into the NW lounge. Once I realized this, I had just enough time to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and a moderately comfortable seat before having to head back out to board the plane. Due to fortuitous circumstances, I was able to ride in World Business Class, which I would like to say, is definitely the way to fly. I was thoroughly entertained by having my own TV, and I was impressed that I only watched one movie before going to sleep. It was really nice to be able to stretch out in my chair (there was enough room for each person to recline back fully without crowding the person behind them). However, unless I was doing something wrong or my seat didn’t work properly, I couldn’t seem to figure out how to get the chair to lay flat. (By looking around I determined that either everyone else was having the same problem, or they just didn’t go as flat as I was led to believe by the little picture on the remote.) It did go straight, just not horizontal; so I basically slept on an incline for five or six hours. It wasn’t exactly comfortable, but like I said, it was a vast improvement over coach.

After my flight I got through customs without a hitch, and found my luggage easily as well. The smaller piece had actually gone around a few times before I grabbed it because it looked smaller than I remembered. One sad event however, was that my new pink luggage tag was lost somewhere between check-in and the conveyor belt.

I made it to my flat using the British version of SuperShuttle, aka Dot2Dot. It was really easy and the staff was really nice. We asked the driver if he could do me a favor and actually take me to two places, because I had to get my keys at one building and then actually get dropped off at another. Normally they’re within walking distance, but with a lot of luggage I preferred a ride. He was going to try and tease me and make up a reason why he couldn’t, but then he didn’t think of anything and just laughed and said sure.

When I got to my flat I learned that there is no elevator. This was a slight problem since I had a lot of luggage to haul up ten – yes, ten – flights of stairs. Fortunately, one of the guys who lives in the building offered to help me and he ended up taking the two heavy suitcases. I was incredibly thankful because if he hadn’t helped me I’d probably still be working on it. As soon as my things were in my room, I had just enough time to change and then I went downstairs for the building meeting and tour of the neighborhood.

Afterwards I went to dinner with one of the girls (Lauren) who I already knew from Santa Clara. We walked around for a bit, essentially redoing the walking tour because we were in search of an ATM. Once we found it, we kept looking for a place to eat. Eventually we ended up near Hyde Park and found a little restaurant, Italian, I think. What actually caught our attention in the first place though was the big ice cream sign in the window. We ended up both getting pizza, but I’m sure we’ll return for ice cream at some point.


You may be wondering what the random picture of the car is; we found it during our explorations. It is not a paint job, but Astroturf! We had to take a few shots of it to get one that wasn’t too blurry, and by the end we very much felt like tourists.

When we got back I finished unpacking and found out that my converter didn’t work. I brought with me one of the universal ones, and since I had a power strip I assumed that I wouldn’t need anymore than that. This has been half of the reason why it has taken me so long to get anything online, the other half being the fact that the power keeps going out. Anyway, I’ll put this up now before anything else happens, and then hopefully I can get another update written soon! Thanks for reading and I hope everything is going well wherever you are!

Posted by ecfong 05:36 Archived in England Comments (0)

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