London Top 10: So much amazing, I can’t even.

You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.

~ Samuel Johnson

The above quote is cliche, I know, but I find it so true. After having lived in London for a year, I’m just completely smitten with the city and will gladly talk the head off of anyone who wants to hear all about it and attempt to convince them they need to visit. I’ve been back in the States since late 2014, and this love for the city still hasn’t worn off! So I’ve decided to write down my favorite places I recommend in London for anyone who decides to go. I recommend taking a minimum of a few days in London and checking out at least one thing in each category, and use Google Maps to pinpoint and group them by location and save time. However, it is a massive city, I lived there for a year, and there were still things I didn’t see, so that gives you some idea! Just whatever you do, drink it all in and enjoy it!

1) View from up high: London Eye or The Shard

A view of London Bridge and East London from The Shard at sunset

These are two ways to see the city from above, and I enjoy different things about each of them. The Eye is very iconic to London, and is right across from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, so it’s a great area to walk around, but the Shard is a more recently added icon (just completed in 2013) that is also the tallest viewing platform in Europe! I recommend scheduling either one ahead of time around sunset, as the city is extra beautiful at dusk.

2) City Tours: Cruise or Walking Tour

Big Ben

Big Ben, part of the Westminster Walk tour

Usually for every city I visit briefly, I go on a guided tour of some sort to give me a big picture idea of what the city looks like, the history, and a general feel for the place that you would not get by exploring on your own. The only overall city tour I did in London was a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. It was good, but I feel like London is too big for a short bus tour to do it much justice – it may just be overwhelming. A couple of visiting friends did a river cruise, which I think would be a great way to take in the skyline and most iconic sights and history. There are also a lot of walking tours you can do in central London, some free. For more independence, I love the free walking tours through Rick Steve’s Audio Europe app, which will show you parts of the city in a reasonable walking distance at your own pace. If you can only do one, I recommend the Westminster Walk, which is short but will show you several of the must-see sights of historic London!

3) Markets: Old Spitalfields, Borough, or Camden

Delicious German pastries at Borough Market

One of my favorite things is a good market, whether it’s food, goods, art, or all of the above. I usually just walk around and absorb each markets’ feast for the eyes, only occasionally buying an item or two. And so I checked out all of London’s major weekly markets. Old Spitalfields is actually more modern than it sounds – is my favorite and mostly focuses on quality handmade crafts and goods. I bought a shirt, a scratch map of the UK & Ireland, and a handmade card holder from a map (for my transport cards, mainly, and yeah, I like maps). They also have some great food stands and restaurants there at the market.

Borough Market, right next to the original London Bridge, is a big and crowded, but fantastic, food market every Saturday morning. Fresh produce, seafood, cheeses, baked goods, sandwiches, jams, fudge… if you’re a foodie, just go check it out. And come hungry.

Finally, Camden Market, not far from where I lived for about 8 months, is a collection of several markets next to each other – funkier kinds of markets with both food and goods (handmade and not). A great place to find a gift, get yourself a corset or steampunk necklace, or eat a fresh, hot doughnut. Depending on what you’re most interested in, I recommend checking out at least one of these to get the full London experience. And check ahead of time to make sure your market will be open when you want to go, as they all have seasonal hours.

4) Well-groomed Nature: Regent’s Park or Hyde Park

Regent's Park

A peaceful springtime evening in Regent’s Park

London is one of the most green cities per capita in the world. This may not be immediately obvious when you’re just seeing the most famous sites, but there are several huge parks in the city, and I made a point to visit all of them. My favorite (though I love them all) is Regent’s Park. It has everything for a park: a blooming, statue-filled, manicured English garden, a beautiful pond, mini-forests of trees, huge fields full of running, laughing crowds in the summer, wide paths to stroll or bike along, the Queen’s garden with couple little waterfalls, a big hill to overlook the rest of the park… it’s easy to spend hours just walking around here. There’s a zoo there as well, but it’s tiny and sad and not worth the time and expense, in my opinion, so I tend to ignore its existence – there’s much more to enjoy elsewhere in the park.

Hyde Park, another great option, has many of these amenities, but also is more iconic and a bit more central to the sites. It’s next to Kensington Gardens and Palace, has the Serpentine pond, and modern Princess Diane memorial fountain. It’s so central that there are a lot of other sights you might want to see right nearby, as well!

5) History: Tower of London and Tower Bridge

A Yeoman Warder guard during a tour at the Tower of London with a bit of the Tower Bridge in the background)

The Tower of London is one of the oldest buildings in the city, a royal palace, and the heart of the history of London. There is plenty to see for all ages, including the actual Crown Jewels, the ravens that guard the Tower, statues representing the wild animals once chained in various areas for the entertainment of the king, a chapel built on the graves of thousands of executed assumed traitors, and the spot where Ann Boleyn was decapitated. A short stroll away is the beautiful Tower Bridge (not the London Bridge as many think – that bridge is much older but not as striking), which is at least worth a photograph or two, as one of the most recognizable London landmarks.

6) Art: V&A or Tate Britain

Sculptures at the V&A

London is one of the best cities in the world for art, and the most amazing part is that almost all the museums are free! There’s really something for every art lover, but my personal favorites are the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) and the Tate Britain. The V&A was founded by Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert, and its collections span two thousand years of art in virtually every medium: paintings, sculpture, photography, glass, furniture, clothes, ironwork, everything! It’s a beautiful museum to stroll around casually, take a free tour, or head straight to your favorite medium’s section and drink it in.

Tate Britain is a much more traditional kind of museum, dedicated to paintings by British artists, but it is so well planned and curated that it bounded above my expectations. I used their free mobile walking tour with my phone and headphones, and spent most of a day here. But even with more limited time, Tate Britain is a worthwhile stop for art lovers.

7) Entertainment: A West End or Globe Theatre Show

Lion King on the West End in London

The Lion King on the West End (so I’d already seen it in two other cities, sure, but it’s my favorite show)

London is one of the world’s top cities for live theatre, I dare say, and I saw a bunch of shows while I was there in London’s theatre district, the West End. My very favorite West End show was Billy Elliot, which I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it! Whatever you’re interested in, buy a ticket ahead of time online – and on a limited budget, you can get cheap tickets for terrible seats. I’ve done this a few times, but enjoy a show much more in better seats. Completely up to you, but if you like theatre, make sure to see a show while you’re in the city.

Besides the dozens of West End shows at any given time, there’s also Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, a recreation of the original in the same spot! They run a series of shows throughout the spring-autumn, so check out which show is playing during your trip; tickets sell out quickly. I was lucky enough to see the Comedy of Errors, and it was brilliant! Globe actors are clearly talented and passionate. I also recommend taking the informative tour of the theatre, giving you its background and history, which you can do whether you have tickets to a play or not.

8) Royalty: Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Park

changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s workplace and residence during the week, is a British icon. It’s beautiful to visit the outside of any time, and you’ll see a couple of fuzzy-hatted guards in front of the palace, but depending on the time of year, there are a couple other things you can do. For about two months in late July-September (when Her Majesty is on holiday), you can tour the State Rooms inside the palace, which are very extravagant; everything is ornate and gilded. Or, during the off-season, you could see the changing of the guard, with lots of pomp, horses, and official looking Brits in a marching band. Check on the guard-changing times ahead of time, as they are seasonal. It’s pretty exciting, but I went in April, and it was super crowded and involved a lot of waiting around even after I showed up and got a decent spot – I’m sure it’s really crazy in the middle of the summer, when most of the tourists come, and you may not be able to see much. Tip: Many people crowd up to the fence of Buckingham Palace, but most of the marching happens in the roads in front of the palace, so I recommend picking a spot there – you won’t see much peeking through that big black fence. While you’re there, walk around the lovely and relaxing St. James’s Park in front of the palace. It’s especially beautiful in the springtime, when the many trees and flowers are in bloom!

8) Grand Churches: Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral

London, and England in general, has countless huge, beautiful cathedrals and churches. These are the two most famous and iconic in London, but they’re very different. St. Paul’s Cathedral has one of the best views of the city from the top of its tallest tower, but be prepared to walk up the 550 exhausting steps to the top if you want to see that (and I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re short on time – instead do the Shard or Eye for other great views). It was designed by the famous architect Christopher Wren, and famously survived the Blitz of WWII that devastated so much of the city.

Westminster Abbey is older and holds tons of history, including the last 1000 years or so of royal coronations. Crowded with hundreds of graves of royalty and historically significant Brits, the church is not technically a cathedral (a different nearby church has the title of Westminster Cathedral), but is certainly as grand as one. I recommend taking a tour if you go to either church, as you will learn a lot about the history and significance that you wouldn’t get otherwise from just looking around.

10) Historic London Underground: The Tube

 Historic Baker Street Underground Station

Historic Baker Street Underground Station

Whatever you do, make sure to ride the Tube (Londoners’ nickname for the London Underground, the under- AND over-ground city transit system) at some point to get from place to place. It was the first underground train in the world, and for some inexplicable reason I fell in love with it, and stayed in love even when commuting to/from work on it every day! To me it’s very easy to navigate, especially considering the number of lines and size of the city. I found that you can get anywhere within central London within 30 minutes. Get an Oyster Card for easy travel by both tube and bus, either online beforehand or from a London tube station when you arrive. The downside of the tube is that you don’t see any of the city while you’re down there, it’s a different world! So I recommend taking the tube at least once or twice, especially for any longer distance trips, and walking or taking the bus the rest of the time. If you’re as fascinated by the history of the tube as I am (or transportation in general), I highly recommend the Transport Museum in the Covent Garden neighborhood if you have time!

And that wraps up my Top 10 list of things to do in London! I have a few other tips that I’ll elaborate on in a second post, as well as an upcoming post on day trips from London. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or feedback! I shall leave you with this…

I like the spirit of this great London which I feel around me. Who but a coward would pass his whole life in hamlets; and for ever abandon his faculties to the eating rust of obscurity?
~ Charlotte Brontë

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Traveling Alone

I love solo travel. The sheer freedom of being able to do whatever you want is great, because rarely will one find a travel partner who wants to go to all the exact same places you want to check out, even within the same city. Of course, there are downsides too – it can be nice to have some of the burden of logistics shared when you travel with another organized person, and also being able to share the experience with someone. But for an introvert like me, I like being able to really experience a place solitarily. And now, with social media, I can instantaneously share the beautiful vistas and unusual situations with my friends and family and not really feel alone anyway. The biggest drawback? The awkwardness of taking selfies and/or asking strangers to take my picture. But I’m working on getting that down.

I’ve been going on extended group trips since about middle school and never got homesick – an early indication of a future love of travel. I rode a plane on my own for the first time when I was 20 – a relatively short flight to Los Angeles on the way to meet my group for New Zealand, but I think that trip helped me get more familiar with airports and the process of flying. With a decent amount of travel experience under my belt, it seemed only natural to me to go on a trip alone. So in February of last year, during a seemingly random burst of wanderlust, one day I booked a round-trip March flight to London for a week.

Why not? I’d wanted to visit England for years and years, I’d saved up money to travel, and I knew no one would want to go with me. I had full control over what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it. I didn’t even ask anyone if they wanted to join or request the time off work before I booked the flight. This was happening, and nothing was getting in my way.

So I was surprised when I talked about my trip and people asked me who I was going with. Really, you’re going alone?! Wow, how brave. (And I could tell by the looks on some faces that they were thinking, How strange.) This gave me some doubt about how well the trip would go or if it would end up horribly, but really I wasn’t too worried. It was an English speaking country and I had friends over there to meet up with, so perfect for traveling alone. And it was a wonderful trip! I fell in love with London and had a fantastic time in my friends’ English towns and Cardiff. There were of course some kinks, but I really didn’t mind being by myself.

Later last year, I took an even more spontaneous trip to New York City to meet Julie Andrews and experience the city for a few days, since I’d never been there before. That trip was fantastic too! Now people who know me seem less surprised/worried about my traveling alone, because clearly I can pull it off. But I’ve often wondered, why is this such a strange phenomenon to them? Plenty of people travel alone.

Upon exploration of various articles and blogs on the internets, it’s now my theory that it’s because I’m female, and also probably because I’m introverted and it just surprises people that I’d want to be so adventurous. Would you be surprised to find out that an outgoing guy went on a trip to London on his own? Is that because guys can obviously take care of themselves?

If you’ve ever wanted to go on a trip but couldn’t get anyone else to go with you, here’s my advice: just go. Don’t wait around, because usually things don’t just happen on their own, contrary to popular belief. Don’t let your significant other hold you back if they don’t want to go. Find a way to make it happen. Do your research, go somewhere safe, and in all likelihood you’ll be fine and have a great time!

Why I feel more American in Britain

I’m sure you’ve had the experience of going somewhere and feeling the differences between yourself and the natives more keenly, realizing you’re more different than you previously thought. Whether it’s language, race, religion, politics, clothes, whatever. There are even differences within the US, from city to city, state to state. Well, that’s how I feel when I go to the UK, and I haven’t even spent that much time there yet. As many people do, I’ve spent a lot of my growing-up years trying to fit in, whether consciously or not, sometimes with more success than others. Wondering if I’d fit in better somewhere else.

I’ve often said I feel like I belong in Europe, or Canada, or somewhere else liberal, but that’s only while I’m in Indiana that I think that. I’m not the patriotic type. I said the pledge of allegiance in school and I watch parades and fireworks on Independence Day like anyone else, but I’m not of the belief that the USA is better than all other countries. Everywhere has it’s pros and cons. Everywhere has good and bad people. No one’s religion is “more right” than anyone else’s. And that is one big thing that makes me stick out around here. I don’t have the usual “God Bless America” license plate, because I think God should bless Canada and Morocco and Ecuador too.

In London, I feel much more like an American. Aside from the language differences I’ve been writing about, there are definite cultural differences. Despite its cultural inclusiveness, most of the people I came into contact with were British, and they have a certain way of doing things.

These are the main things I think would separate me from fitting in with the Brits.

1. I’m more casual

I’d wear jeans and a t-shirt or hoodie every day if it were left up to me. But in Britain, when you go to work, the guys wear suits, and the ladies wear jackets, skirts, and heels. You won’t see the stereotypical big, weird hats like Kate and the Queen wear, but dress is just more formal.

That butterfly hat is actually kind of fun with the dress.

My company’s office in Indiana is mostly casual when we’re not meeting clients, but in the UK it’s “smart” (I’ve taken this to mean business casual or slightly more formal) every day except Friday, and no one ever seems to wear khakis. I figure I can get away with walking around the city in flats instead of heels and rarely wearing a skirt because I’m American. No one has berated me yet.

2. I’m less polite

This actually goes along with the formality theme. I often say “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me,” and even the occasional “bless you,” but beyond that it’s not natural for me to be extra polite. I swear I don’t try to be rude, but I’m pretty sure I come off that way sometimes in the UK.

In our UK office, whenever someone leaves to get a drink from the “tea point”, they will ask if anyone else would like something to drink while they are there. Invariably, someone always wants coffee or some milk for their tea. But I’d rather get up myself and get my own drinks, so I’d rarely offer or ask. I like the break anyway. It just made me feel rude. But really, sometimes having manners like that just seems like a waste of time to me. Yep, there’s my Americanness again…

3. It’s dangerous for me to cross the road.

Ever since I started crossing roads, I was taught to look left, right, then left again before crossing the road. Always look in the direction a car could be coming from first. Right? Well, my brain is not so great at suddenly changing this direction. I am not even going to attempt to drive there.

Not as easy as you might think.

They write “look right” on every street for anyone who isn’t from one of the handful of countries with their strange road layout, but it doesn’t help me much. After several attempts at crossing the road and nearly getting hit, I decided I should just stick to the crosswalks and wait until the little man turns green. Much safer that way.

4. My accent

I almost didn’t include this one because it’s so obvious, but it’s true. I’ve heard a lot of people from Indiana say they “don’t have an accent”, but everyone has an accent! It’s just that most of Indiana has what I would call a standard Midwestern American accent (officially called a North Midland dialect), which is very similar to what most people in movies and on the news have, so it’s “normal” to us. But in the UK, I most certainly have an accent and I’m immediately pegged as an American. Annoying, but hey, what can you do – I really don’t want to go so far as to try to speak in a British accent on a regular basis. While it might be fun, it seems almost offensive.

Here’s an interesting article about different terms for the same things throughout the US. Did you know that in part of Wisconsin they call a drinking/water fountain a “bubbler”? I want to start calling it that.

So, I may never be just like the natives wherever I live, but I’m okay with that. It just makes other people more interesting.

Things New and Old

One of the most frequent questions people ask when they find out I’m moving to England is, “Won’t you miss ____?” The answer is probably yes. I actually enjoy my life here in Indiana and I’m happy; I just like going new places and experiencing new things. So of course I will miss the people and places I love here: my friends, coworkers, family, apartment, cat, etc. But every choice you make comes with a trade-off – so for everything I miss, something new and interesting will take its place, and I will probably make new friends and favorite places during my year in London. So it’s worth it.

There’s the obvious major stuff, and there is the little stuff that one doesn’t normally think about. I’m noticing things as moving time gets closer, and I thought I’d put in list form. What I’m giving and getting. It may be therapeutic.

I will miss bike rides. The feel of the wind through my hair and view of beautiful, calm suburban paths and parks as I ride down the long, flat bike trail near where I live.

 

but I’ll enjoy efficient public transportation to take you anywhere. This comes in especially handy after a night at the pubs.

underground humor

I will miss having two monitors and my own big cubicle at the office.

multiple monitors

but I’ll enjoy an extra bank holiday, plus more if any royalty happens to get married.

royal wedding

I will miss Pandora. Why must my favorite music streaming service be blocked in the UK?

Pandoracat listening to music

But I’ll enjoy the BBC and other channels you automatically get if you have a TV. In addition to Doctor Who, who doesn’t like a good British reality show about teenagers learning to drive on the “wrong” side of the road in the midst of partying?

david tennant

I will miss asking for water and just getting water, not – “Still or sparkling? Tap or bottled? Ice or no ice?” as though preferences are as individual as tea.

tap water

But I’ll enjoy Pret a Manger, a fantastic sandwich/wrap place. I will have to stop myself from eating there every day.

pret a manger poster

I will miss NPR. I listen to it constantly when I’m in the car; I especially love the shows Radiolab, This American Life, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and A Way with Words. I’ll try to listen to podcasts in the UK, but it won’t be the same.

a goat on a cow

But I’ll enjoy the delicious English baked goods like crumpets, biscuits (cookies), and scones.

lolcat crumpets

As you can see, I’ll miss the States, but I think I’ll be okay!

My Wanderlist

I like reading other travel blogs, and when I encountered the amazing Janaline’s World Journey List, I was inspired to create my own. And, well, it doesn’t hurt that I have a slight obsession with making lists. (ListGeeks, anyone?) I haven’t been nearly as many places as Janaline, but before getting more into my current travels I thought I’d share some of the highlights of my past journeys, starting when I was a teenager.

  • My first taste of world travel was in high school (2005), when on a school trip I explored the masses of historical art and ancient ruins in Italy and Greece.
  • Saw the pope speak in Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City.
  • Stared up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
  • Explored the lava-preserved ruins of the city of Pompeii.
  • Ate delicious pasticcio and baklava in Tolo, Greece.
  • Witnessed my bus driver punch a hit and run motorist in post-Olympics Athens, Greece.
  • A few years later during college, I joined a spring break road trip to Jacksonville, Florida.
  • Imitated a monkey at the North Carolina Zoo.
  • Overlooked the beach from the top of an old fort in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest US city.
  • Feasted at a Hangi as part of the adopted family of a native Maori tribe in Tauranga, New Zealand.
Queenstown, New Zealand

Me just outside of Queenstown, New Zealand

  • Hiked down to enchanting Narnia at Cathedral Cove, New Zealand.
  • Zorbed in a big watery ball down a hillside in New Zealand.
  • Bathed in a silky warm mud bath in the geothermal springs of Rotorua, New Zealand.
  • Rode on horseback through the hills of New Zealand where The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed.
  • Danced the night away in the bars of Wellington, New Zealand.
  • White-water rafted on the Rangitikei River, New Zealand.
  • Climbed Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand.
  • Bungee jumped off a ledge overlooking Queenstown, New Zealand at night.
Top of Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Top of Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

  • Viewed St. Louis from the top of its Gateway Arch.
  • Took a whirlwind world tour at the International area of Disney World’s Epcot, Orlando, Florida.
  • Had a blast at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida.

Me at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

  • Petted a penguin at Newport Aquarium in Kentucky near Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • Was awed by Van Gogh and Monet’s original paintings in London’s National Gallery.
  • Rode the London Eye, the big wheel near Big Ben, to take in the incredible views of the city at night.
  • Photographed the incredibly old and beautiful churches and architecture of the financial district, called The City in central London.
  • Watched a West End show in London, Phantom of the Opera.
  • Walked around the adorable, classic English town of Sheffield.
  • Enjoyed bread pudding in a traditional English country pub in Leicester.
Leicester Abbey, England

Me at Leicester Abbey, England

  • Met the stars of Doctor Who at the first official convention in Cardiff, Wales.
  • Went hot air ballooning over central Indiana.
  • Zip lined through the forest of Brown County State Park in southern Indiana.
  • Got rescued by the Coast Guard from a jet ski in Detroit, Michigan.
  • Perused the fantastic collection of impressionist paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago and saw my warped reflection in The Bean in Millennium Park next to it.
  • Stood in Times Square in New York, where it is still packed and buzzing at midnight.
  • Looked over New York City from the top of Rockefeller Center.
Rockefeller Center

Me at the top of Rockefeller Center with Central Park behind me

  • Strolled through Central Park and saw the iconic statues and pathways.
  • The stars of the show Once on Broadway signed my Playbill after I watched the show.
  • Crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on foot to see amazing views of the Manhattan skyline.
  • Saw as much of the massive Metropolitan Museum of Art as I could in a few hours.
  • Attended a Julie Andrews book signing in the Upper West Side of Manhattan so I could meet her.
  • Perused the massive bookstore that is Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon.
  • Ate at Portland’s legendary food trucks downtown.
Golden Gate Bridge

Me in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

  • Crossed the Golden Gate Bridge over San Francisco Bay.
  • Hugged one of the very tall and majestic California redwoods in Muir Woods.
  • Stood in a prison cell in Alcatraz after cruising over from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.
Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco

Me at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

  • Danced through the aisles on the Ellen Degeneres Show set and sat in the gazebo from Gilmore Girls and on the couch from Friends at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, California.
  • Found that my hand is the same size as Julie Andrews’s in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California.
  • Walked down the Hollywood Walk of Fame next to the red carpet the day before the Oscars.
  • Played in the sand at sunny Santa Monica Beach, California.
  • Watched the changing of the guards in front of Buckingham Palace.
  • Toured Westminster Abbey, with all its royal history, in London.
  • Watched Palace Guards play the Happy Birthday song to the Queen of England on her 86th birthday at Windsor Castle, her favorite getaway from Buckingham Palace.
  • Experienced the ancient mysteries of 5,000 year old Stonehenge.
  • Drank water from the thermal springs of Bath, England.
Roman Baths in Bath, England

Me at the Roman Baths in Bath, England

  • Shopped at Harrod’s in London, the largest department store in Europe.
  • Cruised down the Seine River in Paris and saw the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral.
  • Sipped champagne at lunch in the Eiffel Tower.
  • Braved the crowds at the Louvre museum in Paris to see the Mona Lisa.

Words are quite brilliant things

I’m back in the States now, but I’ll be going back to the UK for much longer in about two or three months depending on when the visa comes through. So to tide me over I thought I’d do a post on one of my favorite cultural subjects: language.

The Brits have some of the best words. They did kind of originate the English language, after all. Here are some of my favorite British words and phrases that I’ve encountered, and their translations into US/American English:

  • tea point (kitchen / office break room)
  • bug bear (pet peeve)
  • wonga (money)
  • dosh (money)
  • brass (money)
  • torch (flashlight)
  • knackered (exhausted)
  • fit (attractive, although they also say physically fit)
  • bird (woman/chick, in the sense of fit bird meaning “hot chick”)
  • wee (either “pee” or “small” depending on context)
  • jumper (sweater)
  • fancy (like, as in I fancy that fit bird.)

The funniest ones are some of the more dirty ones, and can easily cause misunderstandings between Americans and Brits:

  • Pants actually refer to underwear in the UK, so don’t compliment someone on their pants if you mean their trousers!
  • Said the actress to the bishop = That’s what she said
  • Suspenders are often what they call garters, whereas braces are what we’d call suspenders
  • Fanny is their term for vagina, whereas they would say bottom or bum and never name someone Fanny or buy a “fanny pack”
  • Fag is not a derogatory slang term in the UK, but rather a cigarette
  • When a Brit says they got pissed last night, they don’t mean angry; they got drunk.

And I love food in London, although sometimes it can be confusing to order. Here are a few terms I noticed while perusing menus that I had to look up or ask about:

  • courgette = zucchini
  • aubergine = eggplant
  • Wellington is traditionally a rich beef dish with a pastry crust, but I’ve had a delicious spinach-mushroom wellington.
  • My favorite food term is probably rocket, which looked fun when I saw it as an ingredient on a sandwich, but it’s just arugula, no space travel involved.

There is so much fun slang, don’t be surprised if I do a part two once I go back!

Welcome!

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace, not far from where I’m staying this visit.

As I write this, I’m currently in London. When I go back to the States (Indiana) on Saturday, I will have been here for three weeks, working most of the time on a business trip. I’ve had a great experience though especially on weekends – saw a lot of the city, drank in a bunch of pubs, a packed day trip around England, and spent my 25th birthday in Paris.

I love traveling, eating, and absorbing different cultures. England isn’t super different from the US, really – same language, very similar customs and a modern democratic, Western society. But I notice lots of little things and always want to share them. Words and phrases in British English are my favorite, and then there are things like how they don’t do tips at bars or pubs and that there are two rival mail services. Lots of little quirks that are interesting to a foreigner like me, so I’ve been sharing them with my European coworkers as well as tweeting and facebooking to share with my American peeps. My coworkers suggested I create a blog to talk about my experiences, so here I am!

Once I get a visa this summer, I’ll actually be moving here to London for a year to help get my company’s new UK office going. This is a fantastic opportunity, and I’m really excited, because other than through a job it’s very hard for an American to legally move to another country. London is a huge and amazing city, but I plan on traveling around the rest of the UK and Europe too because everything is relatively close together. On this blog I’ll share my experiences with both living abroad and traveling to new places. I hope you enjoy it! I also love feedback (as I think most bloggers do), so please join in the conversations about words and culture and things I encounter.

Eiffel Tower

France says the Eiffel Tower is the tallest building in Europe, but England says it’s The Shard in London.