Except the locals are not only British, but also Somali, Indian, Chinese, or any of a plethora of ethnicities represented in London. Take a walk down Empire Way near Wembley Stadium and you’ll hear Farsi, Punjabi, Mandarin, and Bengali among just a few languages. So have fun picking up that British accent, considering a significant chunk of what you hear will be not British.
This philosophy makes sense when you are a traveler staying in Westminster and time is not on your side. But with a teaching job at TimePlan, fellow teachers to grab a pint with, and adult responsibilities, London becomes less of a trip and more of a home. Just because there is so much to see and do does not mean it needs to be seen and done all at once. Plus your Saturdays in, spent eating PB & Js and binge-watching Doctor Who, help make the weekends out at the Rooftop Film Club and the Handmade Burger Company all the more enjoyable and affordable.
The tube itself is quite good, if unreliable. If you can catch the Metropolitan line directly to your work in King’s Cross during peak hours and also manage to get a standing spot that doesn’t involve your neighbor’s armpit and a briefcase on your backside, you are in luck. Unless, of course, there is planned work, a delay, or a malfunction.
Try to alight at Oxford Circus in the heat of summer despite the surge of oncoming passengers. A commute from Wembley Park to Brookland Junior School is only 14 minutes by car, but will take over an hour by bus. Plan for at least two people to chase bus 83 or 182 and make it wait at each stop. Make sure to sit between the man eating a nauseating sandwich and the screaming child just for kicks. Cancel any and all plans on the opposite side of the Thames unless they are worth at least 2 hours of travel.
Except you spell every other word incorrectly according to British English. You’ll constantly forget to add a “u” to color and mold, and you’ll switch the “er” in center, liter, and meter. Don’t be annoyed by the overuse of “brilliant,” “cheers,” and “rubbish” as part of everyday vocabulary, and make sure not to comment on your neighbor’s pants, or she may blush. You will learn to interpret body language over words, because you will never be told straight up that you’re a jerk or your ideas suck, since “That’s interesting” will suffice.
Small is the biggest possible overstatement in regards to housing in London. Better adjectives would be cramped, miniscule, or diminutive. Your bed will serve as your sleeping quarters, sofa, dinner table, and storage unit simultaneously. Don’t forget to smile gracefully when reminded you are privileged to be paying a mere £950 per month for a 32-square-meter asylum with white walls and burnt orange doll-sized cupboards in Wembley. Look on the bright side, since there are no candles, nails, tape, pets, or plants allowed, you don’t have to worry about any extra money spent on frivolous decorations.
Nobody will notice or care. They are too busy heading to Canary Wharf, reading the London Evening Standard, sipping a Costa coffee, or chatting with friends. Chances are they were newcomers too just last week, last month, or last year. With a constant stream of new arrivals, it is near impossible to tell if people have lived in London their whole life or just arrived yesterday. So revel in your anonymity because nobody cares about your arrival date.
You can eat shepherd’s pies at Piebury Corner and fish and chips at The Codfather to your heart’s delight, but rest assured there are also other options available. From Polish croissants to Bombay spiced snack mix, the grocery is full of offerings to suit every palate. Asda even has an American food section devoted solely to Gatorade, Pringles, and Snickers.
If you are craving specifics such as Twizzlers, bottled mustard, or tortilla chips you may be out of luck. However, the majority of food does not have processed chemicals or unpronounceable words in the ingredients, since the government seems to care about what the population is ingesting.
If you party every weekend at Fabric and eat out at the London Designer Outlet every night then yes, you will go bankrupt. Still, you don’t have to eat digestives for every meal to survive on a budget. A week’s worth of staples such as broccoli, ground beef, and rice for two at Lidl can cost less than a single meal out at Nando’s.
For entertainment, the National History Museum, Royal Air Force Museum, and many others in the city are free, providing endless options including exhibitions on the average London woman, science experiments on crowd movements, WWI poppy memorials, and new theatre pieces at the Battersea Arts Centre. Even when you need a fix, you can still save money by choosing Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen over Wagamama, yard tickets at the Globe over a ticket to Cineworld, and a 4-pack of Strongbow from Tesco over a beer at Hobgoblin.