While we were in London, I have noticed a lot of differences between the United Kingdom and America. One thing I have noticed with the biggest of differences is eating out. It may seem weird that eating out is so much different from one country to another, but it is.
One thing about eating out that is different is ordering food. In a lot of places you will be seated, then you look at the menu at the table, and then you go up to the counter and order your food and drink. This is very different from what we are used to in America.
You also aren’t required to tip the waiters and waitresses. When you order your food a tip is already calculated into the bill. This is nice in some ways because you don’t have to worry about how much you are going to tip, but it also sucks because sometimes it is way more than you would normally tip or the waiter or waitress doesn’t deserve the tip.
The waiters and waitresses are also different than what you are used to in America. When you are out eating in the States, the waiters will come to your table and take your order and then bring you your drinks and your food. They will also come around to the table and ask you if you need anything else or ask how everything tastes. In London the waitresses will still bring you you’re drink and food, but I have only been to one or two places since being here where they will come back to ask me how my food tastes or if I need anything else. They also don’t normally come back and refill your drink, so you can go most of your meal without a drink.
Another big thing is the amount of ice we use in our drinks in America. In the States we will fill the glasses completely full with ice and then add the drink of choice. Well in London, they may or may not add ice to your drinks.
In America, we generally don’t have to ask the waiters to bring us our checks because they will bring them to us when most of the people are getting down with their food. In London they will not bring you your ticket until you ask for it, they think it is rude and feel like they are rushing you to leave if they bring the ticket to you before you are ready for it. They also don’t ask you if the ticket is all together or separate and they assume that if you are all eating together that it is all together. When you ask them to split the ticket for you, they don’t split it just for one single person they just split the ticket evenly. This has been a hassle for us as sometimes one person has to pay more or less than what they are supposed to pay and then the person that pays less has to reimburse the person that had to pay more than what they paid.
In America, it is custom for us to be able to take our food that we did not eat home with us. We are given a box to fit put it in and carry that out and put the food in our fridge and then reheat it in the microwave the next day. In London, they do not take their leftover food home with them. It is very weird and I think it is very wasteful. Some of the places we ate served a lot more food than what I can eat and I ended up having to leave. I feel like it is rude to the cook to throw their food away, and it may make the cook feel like something was wrong with the meal.
Eating out isn’t the only big difference I have noticed though. Another thing that is different for me is that to use a public bathroom you have to actually pay to use it, and some restaurants don’t even have restrooms for you to use. One night when we went to the clubs we even saw outdoor urinals for guys to use that were just on the corners. They were like port-a-potties but open with four different slots.
Street signs are also different here. Instead of having signs on metal rods on the corner of the sidewalk they have the street signs on the corner building instead. Their stoplights are also a little bit different from Americas. When a stoplight is getting ready to turn green, the yellow light will come on while the red light stays on, to warn a driver that the light is turning to green very soon.
Currency is also really different as well. London uses Great Britain Pounds, and they use a lot more coins than we do. The exchange rate is also shockingly high to convert from dollars to pounds. One pound here is equivalent to approximately $1.60. So things are also quite a bit more expensive than what I am used to. For example a bottle of coke here is £1.70, which is equivalent to $2.72.
There are obviously a lot more differences between America and London, but these are just a few things that were a big culture shock for me. It has been nice to expand my cultural views these past two weeks, and it makes me appreciate America a lot more. London is a very nice place to live but it has way to many people for me and things are more expensive than what I am used to, so I am ready to go back to the States and afford the things I like to buy on a daily basis. I also have a lot more respective to waiters and waitresses and for everything they do. It will be nice to be back home and part of me will miss London and I know it will take a few days to get used to America again. The jet lag is going to be the worse things, but with the amount I have walked the past two weeks I hope it will help me cut back on the amount I drive and maybe help me start walking more places.