I often daydream of the friendly city of Winona and the kindness of so many drivers who stop for jaywalking citizens, rarely harassing them with a honk. In London… that’s not so much. We learned very quickly that pedestrians wait for the flashing green man on the walk sign before entering an intersection. Many Americans perceive the British to be proper, prudish and manner-driven people, but they’re also confrontational in their own way. For example, there was one day when a man ran through traffic and just missed being struck by a cab driver. The two then got into a shouting match, even though they were heading in different directions. It was shocking, to say the least. People are not passive bystanders here, which make them very aggressive drivers. We have definitely learned to stay out of the way of any vehicles!

I think one thing that gives our group away as foreigners is that we have to look at the sidewalk to see which way to walk.

Reminder to "Look Right" painted on the sidewalk

This helpful directive is painted right on the sidewalk.

The fact that they drive on the other side of the road hasn’t been the part to throw me off so far, but the fact that you have to look the other way before crossing the street (good thing Mom and Dad always told me to look both ways). It’s such a natural reaction to look one direction and I’ve had to actively train myself to look the opposite way first to avoid the speedy, oncoming vehicles. The other thing to that took me by surprise was when I realized that the driver of a European vehicle is on our passenger side! I’ve done many double takes since being here because I thought a vehicle was empty or that the passenger had some sort of distant control, but realized, to my relief, that there was in fact a driver.

Traffic passing by in the street.

A seemingly driver-less car passes by on the street.

 

The other big difference is the elephant on the road: the double-decker bus.

A double-decker bus in the street.

A double-decker city bus takes up most of the street.

These buses are actually used like regular buses, which was mind-blowing to me! I always thought they were a tourist trap and, while there are ones specifically for tourist tours, we can have more of a real world experience with them.  Since we are living here temporarily, our tram (subway) passes also work on these buses! I have yet to take a trip, but plan to do so before I leave.

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Samantha Schwanke

Samantha graduated with a BA in English and a Mass Communications minor in 2014. She is originally from Owatonna, MN and her hobbies include hanging out with family and friends, playing musical instruments (flute, piccolo, piano and accordion), watching movies, shaving her dog stitching kitchen towels….you know, the normal stuff. ​