A month ago, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and decided to travel to another continent alone. I’ve always wanted to do it, and admittedly made excuses not to make it a priority. Well, the cards I was dealt with changed and I finally decided to go. One of the places on my bucket list was London, England. Maybe it’s the music, the fashion, the movies, or the humour – I don’t quite know, but it’s somewhere I’ve wanted to go since high school.
So, what did I learn?
1. The time zone difference will mess with you
This impacted me substantially as the time difference between Toronto and London is five hours, with London being five hours ahead. Meaning, 7pm London time is 12am Toronto time. On a weekday, that’s a tough thing to adjust to since you may be accustomed to a certain sleeping schedule due to work (ugh, adult commitments). Not only does it mess with your sleep, it also messes with your eating schedule. Get used to eating breakfast during lunch, lunch during dinner, and dinner during midnight snack session. Imagine trying to get some sleep, jet-lagged, and no food in your stomach.
Don’t think about it too much. When it’s bed time in London, just try and sleep. Try and eat during London’s time. Maybe force yourself to sleep by downing some sleeping pills or drowsy-allergy medicine, only in the most desperate situations of course!
2. You can walk almost anywhere in London
Walking around London was one of my mini wins. I saved a lot of money by walking to all my destinations. Mind you, I was staying in the core of London, walking distance to The Shard and London Bridge. But even walking south or north, I essentially walked to all the major tourist areas. Because the city is a tad cramped, things are relatively close to one another.
Walk to the farthest destination for that day, then slowly walk yourself back to your hotel/hostel/AirBNB while stopping at all your sights along the way.
3. Getting lost is good for you
Loosely connected to point number two, getting lost was one of my favourite things to do in London. There is so much to see and do that getting lost is a good thing. It’ll force you to discover places you otherwise had no plans of seeing. If you get lost and don’t find anything interesting on one street, literally walk to the following block and you’ll find something that’ll intrigue you.
While planning your day, plan exploration time for when you inevitably get lost. Don’t stick so much to an hour-by-hour itinerary or else you’ll miss all the beautiful things right in front of you.
4. The food isn’t as bad as people say
Before going to London, I’d read all about the terrible food reputation London gets. Some articles suggest it’s because their produce isn’t as fresh as other places? Honestly, maybe those articles are just looking for clicks but I found the food to be the same caliber as I would have in Canada or America – more or less.
Don’t even worry about it! See something in text or photo that gets you excited, just get it.
5. There are Costas and Pret a Mangers everywhere
You know how in North America Starbucks is everywhere? Or in Canada how Tim Horton’s is everywhere? Well Costa and Pret a Manger are everywhere, with the latter being a healthier option. I also think they’re expertly placed for when people get hungry or have to use the washroom because every time I had to, there was a Costa or Pret within arm’s reach. Sneaky bastards.
See one of these places and get a cup of coffee or five. I actually quite like Pret. And call it Pret, without the “a Manger.” I was only able to get away with it since Canada’s second language is French.
6. Londoners are friendly, despite what you hear
I was on a subreddit asking for travel advice from Londoners. And someone said that Londoners aren’t as friendly as Canadians, and that “we’re [Londoners] all cunts and twats.” If I’m not mistaken, he or she told me to stay in Canada. I said, “Screw that guy!” and spoke with whoever I needed to for directions, etc. And people are splendid, offering me advice whenever I needed it. Perhaps that person was just trolling me, but Londoners are awfully nice to tourists.
Don’t be shy, talk to all the randos! Especially at the pubs. I did catch an instance of bike-rage between those two gentlemen above, but nothing really escalated.
7. Pubs (bars) operate differently
You know when you enter a pub or a bar and you’re expected to be greeted by a hostess, who pokes at a tablet or computer screen to find you a table? Yeah that’s not how it happens in London. You’re expected to order any food or drink from the bar then have a seat. They also give you a number to put on your table so they know who to bring the food to. The first time it’s a little jarring but it’s quite refreshing since you’re likely to spark a conversation with someone at the bar. This one dude was telling me about the beer he was drinking, told me to take a picture of it, and wouldn’t leave me alone until I ordered it. I think his name was Craig. Oh Craig.
Take the opportunity to meet locals while chilling at the bar or waiting to be served.
8. Weather is a creeper
“Oh, hey London sun!” 10 minutes later, I’m drenched head to toe. Of all the things to believe about London, it’s that it does rain. Long bouts of sun and heat are unusual, so be prepared to deal with gloomy Insta photos and wet clothes. Don’t look out the window and see sun and expect it to stay that way. When I was there, it was raining or gloomy for 75% of the day.
Dress and pack accordingly. Do bring waterproof boots, an umbrella, and a waterproof jacket. Don’t wear your fancy Allsaints leather on a rainy day – just don’t.
9. Local Uber drivers aren’t talkative
One of my main methods of transportion was Uber Pool. It’s on the cheap and you get to meet people! Well, don’t include the driver. I found that the local Uber drivers couldn’t be bothered to talk to me while those working in London from abroad loved to chat.
Don’t get offended if your driver isn’t talkative. Just remember you’re getting from point A to B and someone is driving you there.
10. Nobody will question your accent
Well, my Canadian accent at least. Maybe 2% of people asked me where I was from. And those that did weren’t even London-born. They were visiting from somewhere else. However, if it came up in conversation with locals that I was from Canada, they were enthused. I suppose Londoners get on with Canadians. Surely the same can’t be said about our closest neighbour. You know who you are. So, we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.
11. Your #OOTD outfit is a Londoner’s #IDGAF outfit
I like to believe I’m well-dressed. A common compliment I get when I first meet someone has to do with my style. That fell to the wayside in London as everyone dresses so freaking well! I felt this most at Covent Gardens. It’s almost as if they have stylists standing next to their apartment doors giving them the green light before leaving home. It’s absurd. But it also inspired me to up my game… Yep, I’m currently working on that.
Well if you don’t care about fashion, don’t be fussed. If you do, don’t even worry about it. The saying, “There will always be someone out there better than you” couldn’t be any truer when it comes to fashion in London.
Are you planning a trip to London? Going alone? I hope my astute observations about the metropolis help you out in one way or another.
To see my trip in living colour, be sure to check out the Youtube video below.
Great post. I spent 6 weeks in London whilst in college and fell in love with the city. Couldn’t agree more about the people, and the fashion. It’s no longer just boiled meat three meals a day either. The ethnic food is stellar. Glad you enjoyed your stay!
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Hey Tim! Thanks for the comment. I’m definitely going to return to London, love it!
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So true, I found Costa was around almost every corner haha always able to get that caffeine fix! These are all really good points – I know the time change messed me up for the first day or so!
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I regularly Google Costa and Pret in hopes it’ll come to Canada. Thanks for the comment!
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as a Londoner I’m always refreshed in reading visitors’ take on their experience in London. I enjpyed your part on getting lost being a good thing. It is good from a visitor’s poitn of view, not someone living here having to get to an appointment in an area one hasn’t been.
But on the subject of foid, London has incredibly changed in the last 20 odd years since I live here. Yet, on the subject on Pret A Manger being the more healthier option, Pret is forced by court to take the “natural” off its signage as pesticides / E numbers have been found amongst the other issues Pret is found out like two customers having died from hidden (non disclosed,non labeled) allergens in products.
My own survival as staff I extensively write about on my site with an easy overview as a “mind map”.
Sorry to ” pop the bubble” regarding Pret, but it’s not all as it seems at the front.