I’m just over a month into my life in London and feel like I’m finally settled in. I’ve found my favorite coffee spots, cafes for lunch and my favorite pub in town. Over the past month, I’ve embraced the little nook of London I call home and immersed myself into as many British activities as possible. If you’re planning a trip or study abroad to the UK, these are things I recommend you take notice of while you’re here.
– TEA –
I’m a coffee drinker, always have been. I prefer my days to start with an almond milk latte, followed by two more if I’m tired. In college, everyday started with at least two cups of coffee. My tea drinking was limited to the occasional green tea when I wasn’t feeling great. When I first arrived to London, I went to afternoon tea with my mother, which forever changed my life. From the little sandwiches to the warm scones topped with clotted cream and jam, I was hooked instantly. If you’re only in the UK for a short trip, this is my absolute must do.
I loved the tea so much that I went out and bought loose leaf tea, a steeper, and little sugar cubes. Prior to my move, my diet consisted of coffee in the morning, lunch around noon followed by starving until it was socially acceptable to eat dinner. Aside from my elementary school days when I required an after school snack, I really never considered having tea – let alone a biscuit or scone – as an afternoon pick me up. Maybe its the gray English weather, maybe its the superb quality of tea, either way, I find myself craving a cuppa each afternoon. Is there anything more British than having a cup of tea while complaining about the weather? I don’t think so.
– COUNTRY WALKS –
The idea of walking – for fun – in America is fairly restricted to the middle aged parents and grandparents trying to stay in shape. I grew up with a massive hundred acre field behind my house and only ever ventured into it to take my dog for an occasional walk. Even then, those walks maybe lasted an hour at the most. More recently, I started going on hour long walks with my father on a paved trail as he joined the “middle aged staying in shape club” that I mentioned above. Aside from those two instances, I drove everywhere I needed to go in the US and fulfilled my daily exercise at a gym.
Country walks are an important part of British culture, and something I was a tad skeptical about. Why are you walking in the muddy country for fun? For those who don’t know, there are absolutely stunning parks in Southwest London (where I’m located) where one second you’re watching the sun over the River Thames, another you’re surrounded by a herd of deer, and suddenly you’ve stumbled upon King Henry VIII’s castle with each view more beautiful than the last. I find myself spending any rain-free moment wandering down a new path and any moment where there is rain, looking for hiking boots that can handle the muddy walks.
– PUBS –
If you know me, you probably thought that pubs would be at the top of this post. At home, I’ve always appreciated a bar where you could sit, eat and actually talk to the people you’re with. Pubs provide all of this wrapped in the coziest of environments. Let me tell you that there is no better feeling that sitting down at a pub with a pint and warm meal after a long chilly walk. To make matters better, pubs typically serve the comfort food that you’re craving, think America’s version of Southern cooking but British. The food always comes out rather quickly and you’re welcome to sit and relax as long as you want. Most pubs also have a pub quiz night (read: trivia night) where teams gather to compete for prizes (usually cash or bar tab). If you have been to a trivia night in the States, then I can assure you that you will love the weekly quiz.
– CIDER –
I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever had an Angry Orchard, other than just tasting. Personally, I always thought they were too sweet for my tastes. Locally-sourced cider has become my drink of choice as there’s a wonderful cider house just five minutes from my house. It’s hard to compare the quality of cider here to the mass-produced Angry Orchards at home, so I recommend thinking of the love you have for your favorite microbrewery and then imagine having a bud light (no offense bud light). My love for cider has grown to such proportions that I’ve planned a trip to go cider tasting in Somerset.
– SPECIALTY SHOPS –
This is something that isn’t necessarily ‘English,’ but it is something that has become integral to my life since my move here. At home, I can buy 95% of the things I need at Wal*Mart/Target. They have everything from groceries to medicine to homewares to clothing. Theoretically, I could buy everything I need at one store, and often due to the convenience factor, I buy a lot of my everyday items there. With the emergence of Amazon, the same idea applies. Now, I buy my tea from a tea store, my bread from the local bread guy, my medicine at a pharmacy, and my notebooks from a stationary store. This may seem like a hassle to those at home: why go to four stores when you can buy everything at one? You try the rosemary loaf from the bread guy and tell me that you’re going to continue buying Wonder brand from Walmart. When you buy from a specialty store, you’re buying a higher quality product made with a lot more love than the mass-produced things you buy at a supermarket. I know that this is just a minor change, and not attributed solely to England (I’d say more European in general), but give it a go at home and let me know how shopping like this changes you’re day-to-day.
Looking for the best afternoon teas, coziest pubs or most scenic walks around London? I’m happy to give recommendations!