Explain to me: How to adapt to London as an American?

Are you an American planning to visit or relocate to London? One of your big questions right now is probably how to adapt to the local culture.

Luckily for you, we’re here to help. We talked to the Americans on our staff as well as friends who crossed the pond, seeking their tips on how to make the transition to London life easier – check them out below!

Adapt to the Chip vs. Crisp vs. Fries dilemma

The age-old debate of chips, crisps, and fries. It’s a subject that would leave even the Bard scratching his head and wondering, “To chip or to crisp, that is the question.”

We all know that Americans have their beloved French fries, which are golden, salty, and oh-so-delicious sticks of happiness. These bites are paired with everything from burgers to lobster. 

But, as you cross the Atlantic and step onto the cobbled streets of London, you’ll need to adapt to the local vernacular. Here, our fries are known as “chips”. 

So what do we call our “chips” (as in the flat, often-fried potato slices that come in a bag)? Those are called “crisps”.

Why does this matter? You see, we British take our love for chips as seriously as we do our love for tea and scones… and we know you’re a complete outsider if you call them “fries”, not “chips”. 

So, as you stroll the streets of London, soaking in the sights and sounds of this historic city, remember that mastering the language of potatoes is a rite of passage for every American visitor.  

Embrace the Tube life: hot, cramped, and smelly

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The Tube life is a great equaliser that brings together Londoners from all walks of life – in a hot, cramped, and smelly embrace. 

So if you’re an American venturing into the depths of London’s iconic Underground, you might wonder why on Earth you’d willingly subject yourself to this subterranean sauna.

While the Tube may be hot, cramped, and smelly, it’s also the most reliable and efficient way to navigate this sprawling metropolis. Forget sitting in a black cab watching your pounds disappear while you crawl through the city’s infamous traffic. The Tube is where the action is! 

Embracing the Tube life also provides you with endless conversation starters. You’ll soon find that complaining about the Tube is a beloved British pastime. 

There’s nothing quite like bonding with your fellow passengers over a shared eye-roll as the train is delayed – again – or commiserating about the lack of air conditioning. 

This is your chance to truly immerse yourself in London culture and emerge as a seasoned underground aficionado.

Master the art of queuing like a pro

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In the land of tea and crumpets, queuing is not just a way to maintain order. It’s an intricate dance, a delicate ballet of personal space, patience, and the occasional passive-aggressive stare. 

Picture this: you’re in London, eager to explore the city’s myriad attractions. You arrive at the London Eye, only to be met with a line that stretches as far as the eye can see. 

But this is no ordinary line, oh no. 

This is a British queue – a masterclass in civility, poise, and unspoken rules. Do not be daunted, dear American, for this is your chance to blend with us and truly become one with London’s culture.

The British queue is a sacred space for quiet contemplation and passive people-watching. A true Londoner never complains, never fidgets, and most importantly, never, ever tries to cut the line

To do so would be tantamount to treason – and we all know how that worked out for Guy Fawkes.

Convert your cash and get used to paying in pounds

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As you traverse the bustling streets of London, you’ll soon discover that “pounds” take on a whole new meaning. Here, “pounds” have nothing to do with weight and everything to do with money. 

By getting used to paying in pounds (or quid, as we call it), you’ll not only save yourself the embarrassment of attempting to pay in dollars, but you’ll also start getting used to calculating change in our currency ASAP.

Learn the cheeky slang

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Learning our cheeky slang is like discovering a treasure trove of linguistic gems, each more precious and amusing than the last. And goodness, do we have a lot of these!

Delve into the riches of “knackered” and “gobsmacked”, the musical lilt of “blimey” and “crikey”, and the sheer joy of referring to television as “the telly”. 

Mastering these delightful phrases will not only enrich your vocabulary but will also endear you to Londoners, who will no doubt be tickled pink by your newfound linguistic prowess. We ourselves love it when our American friends use our lingo!

Adjust to driving and walking on the left

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As an American, you may have spent your entire life ensconced in the cosy familiarity of right-side driving and walking. By adjusting to the left-side way of life, you’ll embark on a daring journey into uncharted territory, a veritable Lewis and Clark of the asphalt jungle.

Ponder the camaraderie that comes with joining the ranks of left-side loyalists. As you sidle up to your fellow pedestrians on the left, you’ll be welcomed into a secret society of sorts, a band of brothers and sisters bound together by their commitment to the left-side cause. 

Seriously, though: adjusting to driving and walking on the left is more than just a rite of passage. It’s a practical necessity here unless you want to get into a lot of accidents. 

Get into local pubs and ale culture

The pub is the very heartbeat of our city’s social life. Where else can you find yourself rubbing shoulders with a motley crew of characters, each with their own unique story to share? 

In the warm glow of the pub, friendships are forged, rivalries are reconciled, and even the most nervous of Americans can find themselves transformed into gregarious, pint-clutching raconteurs.

Also, let’s not overlook the sheer majesty of the British brewing tradition. With a history steeped in centuries of craftsmanship, the ales, lagers, and stouts that adorn the polished wooden bars of London’s pubs are truly a sight to behold.

So, grab a pint, pull up a stool, and prepare to embark on a journey of laughter, camaraderie, and delicious libations. You’ll be as sloshed as the rest of us before you know it!

Don’t be too quick to turn your nose up at the local cuisine

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There may be a lot of jokes about English food being woeful – and being across the channel from the French probably doesn’t help with comparisons – but believe it or not, we have some very nice dishes most people like. 

So, try out our food and don’t judge it before you have. London cuisine has a rich and diverse history, and each dish tells a story about the city’s cultural heritage. 

By embracing local cuisine, you’re immersing yourself in the heart of London’s traditions and values. And you can prove to us that you don’t think you’re too good for our fare!

There you have it! That was our starter guide for Americans hoping to transition to London life smoothly.

Are you a Londoner with American friends or an American who’s recently moved to London, yourself? If you have more tips to add to our guide, let us know! We’d love to put them in here and credit you!

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