12 Tips to Beat the London Learning Curve

Making the leap across the pond is more complicated than swapping your dollars for pounds and driving on the left side. Everything is slightly different in London, from the lingo to the lager. Get a head start on the London learning curve by reading our guide to moving to the U.K.

1. Don’t look for solace at the bottom of a meat pie when the national dish is Chicken Tikka Masala

The English food scene has a bad reputation in America, but if you play to its strengths, you’ll eat well. Finding a good slice of pizza (or pizza by the slice, period) isn’t easy, but fantastic Indian and Pakistani restaurants are cheap and commonplace. Lebanese food and kebabs also deserve a mention.

2. Say goodbye to your U.S. credit score

British banks don’t look at U.S. credit history, so you’ll have to start from scratch. However, there are credit cards that allow you to retain your existing status in the U.K., so if you’re planning to move to London in the future, try to get your hands on one now.

3. Skip the tip at the pub

No, this isn’t advice for the frugal traveler. Of course tips are appreciated anywhere you go, but you truly are not expected to add gratuity at pubs. So unless it’s your predilection to do so, sign the bill and move on without feeling sheepish about it. And don’t call it a “check” — the waiters will give you strange looks.

4. The two-fold wallet will not suffice

Change isn’t for chumps in the U.K. The two-pound coin is ten times more valuable than a quarter. Buy yourself a wallet with a coin pouch so you can hold onto that valuable coinage.

5. The bus is a common mode of public transportation

Much of London is only accessible by bus, but the buses are reliable, clean, and hey — it’s a red, double-decker bus. Isn’t that part of your London dream? The roads are filled with buses and they’re a cheaper alternative to the Tube.

6. The tube closes at midnight, so plan your night out accordingly

Speaking of the Tube, London’s subway system shuts down earlier than you might be used to back in the US. London black cabs are lovely and classic, but very expensive. Taxi apps offer a less expensive option for late night transportation.

7. Most apartments come fully furnished

Don’t plan on moving your furniture or flatware with you to the U.K. Most apartments come stocked with sofas, tables, pots, pans and many of the other things you need to get set up in your new home. Usually not included: A dryer. Get familiar with these:
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8. There is no such thing as a “British accent”

Dialects differ more in the tiny country of England than the entirety of America. The many distinctive northern English accents and the posh, Hugh Grant accent you’re familiar with bear little resemblance to each other.

9. The language is the same, but also different

Along with the accents, the words and expressions are drastically different as well. No need to study British English before you move, but here are a few words you should know to avoid embarrassing misunderstandings:

  • Pants = underwear
  • Pissed = intoxicated
  • Roommate = person living in your room

10. Reserve your seats at the cinema

A growing trend in America, reserved seating is the norm at London movie theatres. If you try to show up last minute for a popular movie, you’ll probably end up with a sore neck.

11. Teasing (AKA banter) is considered playful and affectionate

Expect to hear some good-natured ribbing from Londoners. It’s called banter and it’s not meant to be taken personally. It’s all in good fun — so let your guard down and hop on the banter bus.

12. Some companies don’t accept electronic payments from overseas banks

If you have student loans or other recurring bills from overseas, you may need to pay using your U.S. bank account. If you’re getting paid in pounds, you can use our online money transfer service to send yourself money from the convenience of your apartment “flat” (you’ll get the hang of it).

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