After being in England for over a week, I have a few life lessons to get you through an average day in London.
1. Whatever you do, don’t lose your oyster card!
What’s an oyster card? It’s a magical card that allows people to transport from one tube station to the next. To get into the tube station to navigate through London, it is required to scan the oyster card. After the card is scanned, the door will open. In my case, everyone else would usually have his or her card ready to scan whenever we got to the checkpoint. However, I had a different experience; whenever I would get to the gate my card would somehow disappear. So far, I have only lost and had to replace my oyster card once, but I would like to keep it that way. Being trapped in the tube station over night would not be ideal.
2. Learn how to count money
It took me a while to grasp the concept of pence or a pound. It turns out that one pound is fairly close to $1.50. Now, I am at the point where I can convert the numbers in my head, but I find it helpful to know that if I am only spending ten pounds here, I have to remember that I am actually spending around $15. It’s still awkward digging for change when there is a long line of people behind me when I am trying to pay for something. Usually, the cashier says, “ You’re American aren’t you?” Then, they usually try to help me count out the rest.
On one occasion, I actually had a man reach into my coin purse to get the change himself. I’m still learning, but now I think I should learn how to save money instead of spend it.
3. Crossing the street at the right time is a game of life or death
One of the most important lessons is understanding traffic. In Minnesota, the protocol is to try to cross at the crosswalk when the road is clear. Hopefully, if a car is coming, the driver will slow down and smile. Then the pedestrian will give a wave and a head nod and scurry across the road. Then, both groups will move on. Not here. I don’t know who teaches driver’s education classes here, but I think they left out the chapter of watching out for people. If someone is in the middle of the street when the light turns green for the drivers, no matter what, they’ll drive. This usually results in a real life version of the video game Frogger.
I still have over a week here so I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more, but for now, I’m still trying to figure out the British norm.