Check out these tips about how to to best acclimate to a new city while you’re abroad for a summer or semester!
Experience new cultures in the Borough Market
From Japanese ramen to Colombian coffee, the Borough Market is home to several food stalls where you can truly appreciate the diversity of those in London. It offers you the ability to embrace new cultures and grow closer to others through a shared love of food. If you’re not careful, you could spend the whole day meandering through the many alleys of the market!
But eating food is just one example of what you can do to catch a glimpse of the many people residing in this vast city. True appreciation of London’s distinction as a melting pot of people starts with acknowledging that those you encounter come from different backgrounds with a life’s worth of lived experiences that may differ from your own. Equally important is familiarizing yourself with the cultural and social norms of the city. My curiosity and desire to learn about others led me to do just this in my brief time in London. By sharing my experiences encountering people in London, I hope to make the process of learning about London—and its inhabitants—seem less daunting to do.
Using London’s public transportation (P.S. don’t be too loud!)
My first experience on the tube—the equivalent of a subway in New York City—started off with continued side-glances by other passengers. Confused as to why this was happening, I chose to ignore them and continued my conversation with my classmates until we reached our destination.
I thought nothing of this encounter until a similar occurrence happened just one day later. In this instance, a passenger chose to switch cars after my classmates and I had boarded the tube. We would later come to learn, however, that the problem lied with our speaking volume while on the tube. Those in London prefer to sit in silence or in quiet spaces, and my classmates and I—not knowing this—unintentionally challenged this social norm. The next time we boarded public transportation, we were cognizant of this new information and to respect those around us, we lowered the volume at which we spoke at.
A penny—worthless or a valuable treasure?
When I first exchanged dollars for British pounds, I was fascinated by the texture and appearance of this currency. It differed greatly from the standard dollar bills and coins that I was so accustomed to seeing, that every little detail in the currency sparked interest in me. When I first paid at a gift shop using British currency, I shared this interest of mine with the store clerk. She chuckled and claimed that there was nothing special about their bills and coins.
Yet, when a penny fell out of my wallet onto the counter, she was astounded at the sight of it. She rejoiced that she had always wanted to see what a penny looked like, and within a minute, our roles had reversed. She, who had no interest in her own currency was suddenly intrigued by a penny—something I do not regard highly. This interaction with the store clerk highlighted the fact that learning about others can not only bring joy to yourself but to the other party as well.
In short, you will inevitably make mistakes when first arriving in the city, but it’s important to make an effort to address this and appreciate London for what it is—an amalgamation of people from around the world. Even though you may think an interaction as mundane as paying for your souvenir can offer no value to you, think twice as it might make someone’s day and fulfill their lifelong wish.
Nicole Pulido ’23
London Summer Session ’22