London – What we’ve learnt so far

 1. Walk on the right hand side of the footpath 

Or maybe it’s the left. I’m really unsure about this one. Maybe its that there actually isn’t any rule. Be prepared to be doing the awkward two step multiple times a day in your first week until you get the hang of it. Basically just follow the crowd and for gods sake don’t get in someones way! They have important places to be 5 minutes ago don’t you know.

Edit: Whoever is walking the fastest has right of way so march your little heart out
2. Logic is a rarity
It starts with not using the same side of the footpath as they do on the road and is a bottomless abyss of questionable habits and systems. As Kiwi’s we are lovers of ingenuity, logic and common sense. Basically anything that creates a short cut or makes things easier. Why call a quick transaction where you pay by waving the card over the EFTPOS machine ‘PayWave’ when you can spend your time wrapping your mouth around saying ‘Contactless Payment’ every time. I think that perhaps the longer things take here the better. Cue Royal Mail lesson…
3. Snail mail > Email
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Our excessive amount of mail

You will receive everything via post and it will all be in separate envelopes that will arrive in a staggered fashion. Heaven forbid you should receive all of the information you require at the same time. For example you will receive your Debit card in one letter and up to 5 days later you will receive a letter with your PIN number in it, then you need to go into a branch and activate your card/change your PIN. No risk of the national mail service going out of business here. Cue Rubbish lesson….

4. Britain love them some packaging
Everything comes in individual packaging. Buy a bag of chicken breasts – every piece of chicken has its own packet as well as all individual packets being in one large packet like some kind of packet inception. Vegetables aren’t loose – it’s all wrapped in plastic. The reusable, recyclable supermarket bags are a positive, but they have certainly over looked a few things while playing their part in the war to save the planet.
5. Don’t stand on the left side of the tube escalators
This one is immediately obvious when you walk into a tube station so you shouldn’t be able to mess this one up. Stand on the right, walk on the left. Don’t think you have the power to buck the trend. Just don’t even try it. Enough said.
6. The Underground is often overground

Depending on what line you take you will discover that the famous Underground tends to err on the upper side of ground. Some lines only pop up for air on occasion and only two never see the light of day (according to Wikipedia). Once you experience all 3 levels of tube lines you will realise that where possible, an overground tube is definitely preferable. The Central Line (almost entirely underground) doesn’t have the nickname Central Heating Line for no reason.

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The Chancery Lane Underground entrance 

7. Don’t let terrorism change your ways

Admittedly the recent attacks on London have been scary. I often find myself in crowded areas, busy tube stations and trains thinking that surely this would be an opportune moment for an attack. It would be easy to let those thoughts to run wild and cause one to avoid any events and change your entire schedule to avoid rush hour but realistically none of us have any idea what or where they will target next and sometimes it’s not even where the most people are. I tell myself that there are 9 million people in this city, chances of being caught up in an attack are super slim so we must just Keep Calm and Carry On!

8. Drivers are courteous to pedestrians

This one takes a bit of getting used to. On a pedestrian crossing at home you expect cars to stop but you still stop to check they are slowing down before walking. In London you don’t even need to be on a pedestrian crossing for cars to stop and let you cross. It’s all a bit confusing at first because we are so used to timing our road crossing/j-walking to walk behind a moving car so when they start slowing down to let you go first you find yourself doing the awkward sidewalk two step with a car!

9. Get an NZ bank statement sent to an address in the UK before arriving

This was hands down the best advice we received before coming to the UK. No doubt you have heard that setting yourself up with bank accounts, NI number (IRD number equivalent) etc is a vicious cycle of impossibility. Lloyds bank used to only require your passport to open a bank account, now they require a utility bill in your name that you have received via post to the flat you already have which requires you to have a bank account to pay rent… oh or a bank statement in Pounds, because of course you already have a UK bank account prior to needing to open this one…. poor form Lloyds. We went with Barclays who also require proof of address but happily accepted our ANZ statement in NZ dollars. This MUST be received via post and not a printed online statement. (refer Royal Mail facts above)

10. Allow a good 40 minutes to get anywhere in the City

Heading from the suburbs to the city centre – allow 40 minutes. Heading from home to work – allow 40 minutes. Heading between two suburbs next to each other but not on a tube line – allow 40 minutes. The tubes are a fantastic public transport system but as soon as you want to go somewhere that’s not on a direct tube line – be prepared for some admin and get a side of fries with the combo of public transport systems you are going to have to use. Or there’s always Uber. I would highly recommend downloading the Citymapper App PRIOR to arriving at Heathrow – you will use it on the daily for almost your entire stay in London – and it works in other big cities worldwide so it’s a no brainer really. And the Uber app if you don’t have it already – you’ll get sick of walking eventually.

11. Your personal bubble will reduce in size

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An empty Central Line tube – as rare as hens teeth

If you’ve been to Asia before you will be aware that a New Zealanders personal bubble is exceptionally large because we can get away with that in our spacious country. In a city with more people than our entire country however, be prepared to get up close and personal with strangers on a daily basis. Your mind will be blown when it comes to your first Monday morning Tube commute. There’s no other way but to get your shoulder pads on and scrum your way on there! It’s an experience the first few times but then you succumb to having your head in someones armpit, someones bag poking you in the back and being able to read someone’s paperback novel that they’ve managed to wedge between people to get in a morning commute chapter.

To some up, I thought I’d share with you some of the App’s that have made our London lives possible so far.

Must Have Apps

  1. Citymapper – route planner
  2. Uber
  3. TripAdvisor
  4. Skyscanner – find and book cheap flights
  5. Uber Eats – food delivered
  6. SpareRoom – find a flat
  7. Fever – Cheap and sometimes free events/activities
  8. Groupon – cheap deals on errthang
  9. Been – to skite about and keep track of how many countries you’ve been to
  10. Go Euro – find and book train/bus/flight tickets Europe wide

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “London – What we’ve learnt so far

  1. Hey Nicole!! Lovely to read your Kiwi observations of London – and very helpful tips for others embarking on their OE. Hope the sun is shining for you both there : )

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome! And all so true! Don’t forget to add in the supermarket status shopping! Haha!
    And another site, WOWCHER so you can get a wow a day! Hahah! love it girl xx

    Like

  3. Have really enjoyed reading this – well described – we had help to set up a bank account with Lloyds when we lived there & have kept the account, going back to the branch that we started with in Warminster in 1998. But trying to do something on line was a different story – we wanted a savings account – & no – we didn’t have a utilities bill. An English friend had to go into the branch with us along with his passport to verify our New Zealand address & he had never been out here!
    On our first visit in 1993 we were taken by our daughter, on the Underground, at rush hour -at one stage I couldn’t move & I think I was looking in the ear of a big Russian guy. When you’re ;older’ – don’t expect to get a seat except perhaps from teenagers. Liked using the Oyster card tho I think it has been upgraded.
    The New Zealand Historic Places card is worth having & gets you into many historic sites. Keep enjoying the surprises that you find in London – it is a fascinating city – but other parts of the UK are great as well.

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