Published on February 15, 2017
“Hi Sugar, my name is Kelsey and I’m a college student from New York. I have recently been accepted to The Intern Group’s program in London for a 6 month finance internship. While I am really excited about going abroad, I feel completely clueless when it comes to preparing for life in the UK. Also, I am hoping to travel around Europe after I have finished my placement. I have only really traveled around the US so I feel out of my depth planning my trip. I was hoping that as you are from the UK, you could give me some practical advice about both living in the UK and traveling around Europe.” – Kelsey
Hi Kelsey, thanks for getting in touch. First of all congratulations on your acceptance into the London program! I completely agree that the prospect of living in a completely new part of the world can make you feel a bit bewildered. I would have loved someone to have given me some insider tips before I moved to South America. It would have made settling in easier and helped me avoid making silly mistakes. So below I have compiled some recommendations for your exciting adventure in London and beyond. It can be pretty different across the pond.
Although this is quite an obvious point, the pound is something to consider when starting life in London. As with any trip, it's always a good idea to ensure that you have some cash for your first week in the country. But past this, it is definitely worth considering prepaid cash cards (such as a Caxton card). It can be risky using your normal bank account when you travel overseas as you can be stung with hidden extra charges. Cash cards are a great way to avoid this.
When you travel around Europe you can handily use the Euro in a lot of countries and your cash card can be used just as it can in the UK. Before you travel, I would also recommend looking into the relative expense of the cities you want to go to. For example, Swiss cities such as Geneva, Bern or Zurich are notoriously pricey. At the other end of the spectrum, you get more for your money in Hungary’s capital Budapest. It is worth considering this when deciding what parts of Europe you’ll explore.
London prides itself on having one of the most efficient public transport systems in the world. With buses, tubes and trains to pick from, it's no surprise that people in London rely on public transport rather than driving. Your oyster card will become your best friend. This travel card can be used on buses, tubes and trains inside London’s 6 travel zones. It saves the extra cost and hassle of buying individual tickets for each journey. Last year the underground also introduced a night service meaning transport has become even more accessible in the capital.
I can imagine that as an American you're used to having to travel significant distances just to get out of state. One of the amazing things about Europe is that, as it is relatively small, you can see numerous different countries in a few weeks. To best take advantage of this, train passes such as the Eurrail pass allow you to travel quite freely around Europe. There are many recommended routes to take that allow you to immerse yourself in countless cultures in no time at all.
Admittedly us Brits and Americans share the same language, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a language barrier. Before you head to London, you may want to brush up on British colloquialisms. That way, if someone offers you a cuppa or calls you their mate, you won’t be taken by surprise.
Obviously it's not realistic to try and learn all the European languages that could be useful on your travels. However learning basic practical phrases in a few languages can be really worthwhile. Although many European citizens speak very good English, people always appreciate the effort you make to speak their language. There are many phrase books that you can buy that will help you with this.
4. General cultural differences
Besides driving on the other side of the road, there are a few distinct cultural differences between the UK and the US. Although it is a stereotype, many people believe that Brits are more reserved than their American counterparts. Particularly in the capital, people often appear quite cold in public. Don’t be alarmed if your morning commute isn’t filled with pleasant small talk. However, I’m sure this isn't too different from New York! The British sense of humour is also unique and often very sarcastic. This can take some getting used to.
On a more practical note, we have different shaped plugs and sockets in England than the rest of the world. A plug adaptor should be at the top of your packing list.
Hopefully now you've got a better idea about life in London. Apply today to combine an internship with the travel adventure of a lifetime.