Experiences In England

July 10, 2017 miscellaneous, travel 12

I may have mentioned this before, but I used to write about travelling. Like most people, I abandoned my travel blog once I got back home, but I still love travelling, so I figured I would just turn it into a category on my blog. So from now on, every once in a while, I’ll write about the places I’ve been and the things I experienced there.

As many of you know, I moved to England for my postgrad degree last September. I’ve now lived here for ten months, so I decided it was about time to write a post about all the little things I noticed since moving here. I always love reading about how someone experiences a different country, and all the small things that give a place its character, so I hope you’ll feel the same!

Speaking English and Dialects

I would consider myself a fairly competent English speaker. Out of all the things I worried about when I moved to England, the language was probably the least of my concerns. You can imagine my surprise when I arrived and realised I couldn’t even understand everything the taxi driver said, or comprehend when a cashier asked me if I needed a bag at the supermarket. Oh, the lectures at university and communicating with my fellow international students were no issues – it was the locals I had trouble understanding. After talking to a guy from the U.S. who said he showed the people at Subway a picture of a tomato to illustrate what he wanted to order, I felt slightly less bad about my struggle to understand the Geordie accent!

Word Mix Ups

In a similar vein, I sometimes struggle to figure out which words belong to ‘which’ English. I laughed about the tomato episode mentioned above for about twenty minutes, because it always seems funny to me when people who all speak English can’t communicate, but to be honest I kind of get it. I didn’t really learn a specific form of English, which on the one hand is good because I understand both the words courgette and zucchini, but it also means that the clerk gave me a funny look when I asked for a zucchini at the store, because they’re called courgettes in England. Even trickier is when the same word has different meanings, such as flapjack. I ordered a flapjack at a restaurant and expected a pancake, but got a muesli bar kind of thing. And then of course there’s the infamous rubber/condom/eraser situation everyone gets told about at some point or another.

Public Transportation Etiquette

This could be an entire post itself. I used to think public transportation is more or less the same in every country (bad), but there’s a plethora of unspoken rules you need to be familiar with. For example, in Germany, you don’t have to wave down the bus (if someone’s at the bus stop, the driver stops), but in England the driver will just keep going if you don’t wave. Similarly, (at least where I live in England) the bus stops aren’t usually announced on the bus, so I spent the first few days frantically trying to figure out when I have to get off while tracking the bus on Google Maps.

If you don’t have a long term ticket, you also usually need to have small change to pay for your ticket (one bus driver got very angry and rude when I only had a ten pound note to pay for a two pound ticket on a Sunday morning). There’s not always a formal line at the bus stop, but it does seems to be a social faux pas on par with insulting someone’s mother if you enter the bus before someone who was waiting for it for longer than you were. People also often get up to exit far before they actually have to get off. Finally, you say thank you to the bus driver when you exit the bus.

I’m fine with most of those things (except for not announcing the stops, because what the hell), but one thing is still extremely frustrating to me: where I’m from there’s one company you pay for all busses, the subway, and the short distance trains. Here, there are about ten different bus companies, as well as different companies for the metro and the trains. If you buy a ticket for one company, it’s not valid on any of the others. Sometimes even the same bus will be operated by different companies at different times of day, so e.g. your ticket is only valid on that bus before 6 pm, because then another company takes over.

The Weather

I knew that the summer in England would be slightly colder than in Germany, but I was not prepared for no summer at all. I know the English weather is a stereotype in and of itself, but I guess I didn’t quite belive it? To be honest, I was thrilled to spend the summer here, because I lived in an attic room the last few years, and despite its reputation, Germany does get quite hot in summer – it’s often above 30 degrees during the summer, so you can imagine how that felt in an attic with no A/C. So when I heard it stays a few degrees cooler in summer in England, I figured that’s exactly perfect. I was imagining 20-25 degrees and sunny weather. Yeah… no. I had to turn on the heating in June.

I figured it would be even colder in winter, but was again surprised when the temperature never really dropped much below the freezing point, which was nice after getting -10 degrees in Germany during the winter holidays. I also understood the thing about ‘felt’ temperature for the first time in my life. Where I’m from, the felt temperature is pretty much the same as the normal temperature, so it always seemed superfluous to me. Here, there’s a massive difference between 19 degrees and 19 degrees and wind.

Quirky Stores

Obviously, England is famous for its pubs, and I do love them. There’s one other thing I noticed though. To me, it always seems like there are a lot of small, individual stores. Obviously, you have them in every country, but I feel like there’s a lot more individuality in the design here sometimes. Even chain stores and bars often seem completely different in different cities. A small speciality store that solely caters to cat lovers? Sure, no problem. A second hand book store in an abandoned train station with a little train running through it? Check. A café painted all in pink and Alice in Wonderland themed? Right along this way. I absolutely love discovering gems like that, and it certainly makes a walk through the city more exciting.

picture of a book store

Barter Books in Alnwick


I’ve been annoying my friends with my complaints about the lack of decent bread pretty much since I got here. It’s not that you can’t find any good bread in England, but the bread I’m used to is basically impossible to get a hold of. What’s especially baffling to me is all the soft, white bread. We do have this in Germany, but it’s called toast, because we pretty much only eat it toasted, whereas here it’s just called bread. I’m not a fan, but I did find some better alternatives in the freshly baked sections of supermarkets, so I can’t complain too much mostly because someone will eventually murder me if I mention it again.I did try to make my own bread rolls yesterday. Let’s say it made me appreciate the ones I can buy here more.

Bread GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
a recording of me trying to figure out what to do with this kind of bread

The People

Geordies (people from Newcastle) have a reputation for being nice, and I can confirm that this is true. Obviously there are exceptions, but generally people are extremely polite and decent. Obviously, I don’t know how deep this goes, but even just interactions at the store, or with university staff are often quite pleasant just because people go out of their way to be nice. It definitely makes life easier! I’ve also met a lot of genuinely and effortlessly funny people, and I’m not sure if it’s coincidence or if my sense of humour is especially suited to English humour, but I’m not complaining.

Nice GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

There’s a lot more, but I’ll stop here. What kinds of things did you notice while travelling/living in another country?

12 Responses to “Experiences In England”

  1. Inge

    I loved reading this post! I totally expect this stuff to happen to me if I ever move there as well, especially the language thing – I was never taught any particular type of English either, so I tend to mix terms and phrases. Can I please come visit this Wonderland café and cat lovers’ store?

    • Vlora


      Glad you enjoyed! It’s a struggle haha, but at least the word mix up thing doesn’t happen toooo often. You would have loved that café! And there are two cat cafés and a dog café just in the city I live too. :D
      Vlora recently posted…Experiences In EnglandMy Profile

  2. Simi

    I live in England, so I always love to here other people’s thoughts! I use public transport a lot and, if you’re not used to it, it can be soooo confusing, especially the London Underground.

    Even being a Brit, I sometimes struggle with different accents across the country, which probably isn’t a great sign…

    Also haha I didn’t know that ‘flapjacks’ in Germany are like pancakes ;)

    I’ve lived in a few European countries and just hate that moment in a shop when the shopkeeper says something other than the price of what you’re buying and you just have to try and decode what they’re saying!! Very awkward :/

    Simi :)

    • Vlora


      Surprisingly, I didn’t struggle much with the London Underground haha! At least it was just one company. :D We don’t have the word flapjacks in Germany, but I think in the US it’s something like pancakes? I’m pretty sure that’s where I got it from, I’d never heard of the English ones! Those are muesli bars in Germany, I think. Haha yes, it can be quite awkward at the store. Luckily over time it gets easier!
      Vlora recently posted…Wanderlost – A Trip Around EuropeMy Profile

  3. Greg

    I love traveling and am very curious what living in the UK would be like, so this is an awesomesauce post lol. Love the bits about transportation, and especially the weather! That is super interesting. Had no idea it was that cool there in summer. The quirkiness of the stores sounds great too.

  4. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    So, I have heard you speak English, and I think this is a British problem, not a Vlora problem. I never once had trouble understanding you. Plus, people in England have such weird names for shit. The bus sounds like a hot fucking mess. I mean, better than here where public transportation is basically non-existent, I guess? But still, no picnic. DUDE. When I was in England in late June, I wore hoodies. And this comes from someone who wears flip flops in the winter, so.

    But okay, I need to know- what is YOUR bread? Because I think American bread is the same thing as English bread? Maybe? I mean, our bread is that shit on the cat, so if that’s what it is… yeah. But we have other types of bread too. England is just… strange. Charming, and strange haha.
    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted…A Car Crash Stole My Memories: A Dual ReviewMy Profile

    • Vlora


      Thank you hahaha I’m glad you don’t think it’s my English. :D Yeah, I’ve heard pretty much everyone in the US has a car?? I mean obviously a lot of people have cars in Europe, but it’s also not really a big deal if you don’t, unless you live somewhere deep in the countryside. Like, aren’t there people who don’t want to drive? I can’t imagine not having public transportation, I shouldn’t complain about the one here! :D Haha yeah, I definitely walk around in my hoodie when it gets too cold here. Errr… it’s mostly sourdough bread, I think? And it’s not as soft and floppy. :D And there are rye and wholewheat options and generally more variety. So you’ll be full for longer and they’re usually a bit healthier, I think.
      Vlora recently posted…Wanderlost – A Trip Around EuropeMy Profile

      • Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

        Oh yeah, you straight up can’t function without a car in the US. When I meet someone who doesn’t drive, I can’t even fathom it- the exceptions of course are the biggest cities, but outside of those, you can’t live. You’d never be able to have a job or get to school or anything. Like, my mom was basically “here, please, take this car the second you turn 16 so I don’t have to drive your ass to 5am swim practice ever again” hahahha.

        Also, sourdough is my fave, so that means I probably need to go live there ;) Our “regular” bread is the floppy white kind. But whole wheat is popular now too, except I think it tastes like actual garbage because I grew up on the white floppy stuff!
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        • Vlora


          Yeah, that’s really different. I would like a car, but I’d feel bad about the environment if I drove everywhere haha Also, it’s really expensive?? Like, most students for example don’t have a car just for that reason. And obviously because you can get anywhere by public transport, it’s just a bit more annoying for the most part. :D I do borrow my grandparents car sometimes. OMG I would so be your mum in that scenario. I mean I would probably tell them to do another sport that doesn’t make me get up early haha

          Yes, you do! Or at least visit. :D But is it wholewheat toast or wholewheat bread? Because wholewheat toast does indeed taste like actual garbage. :D Yeah, I guess it comes down to what you’re used to!
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  5. Olivia Roach

    As I am English through and through, I kinda loved this post! It’s actually kind of inconvenient the way we do buses ahaha. I didn’t realise how nice it is to have your stops announced until we moved to the Netherlands. And ehehe, that miscommunication can happen a lot with people who speak American English!
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    • Vlora


      It is SO inconvenient, Olivia! :D And they’re late often too. Well, at least I live somewhere where they’re quite frequent so I’m usually fine. Yeah, what’s up with the stops?? I mean obviously you know you’re standard routes after a bit, but people go to new places and different cities – do they just always ask the driver? What if they forget? I’m not laid back enough for this life haha. But at least there IS public transportation, so can’t complain really!
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