Europe is different than the United States. Very different. There were so many things that I was unaccustomed to that I decided to make a list of what was different here in London as opposed to the United States.


Enjoy your nice cheeseburger and side of ranch dressing because this is something that is hard to come by here in London. And if you do by chance find a cheeseburger here, it’s just not the same. I ordered a salad one night at Montague Pyke, a restaurant near the Soho area, and that was the first time I realized food here was very different. The ranch dressing isn’t our creamy deliciousness but instead it is watered down. It’s more acidic and has a tang at the end that I don’t find appetizing. Cafes line the streets and there are cute bakeries everywhere it’s just a matter of finding the one that’s for you. We have stuck to a diet of pizza and I think that’s the way to go! I’m still on the hunt for my go to restaurant.


There is no AC anywhere here. It can get unbearably hot and humid here in London and all you want to do is sit in a place that has air conditioning, but that is very difficult when restaurants, dorm rooms, stores and transportation systems lack AC. Staying hydrated is key especially in the tube where everyone is packed in like sardines in an underground tunnel!


Unfortunately, London is short on ice, especially when it’s hot outside. Most restaurants here are accustomed to serving room temperature beverages, making you appreciate the nice cold soda you can get from the U.S. Once we started asking for ice, we were finally able to get the cold drinks we were searching for. I found it really helpful to freeze a bottle of water before our walking tours and long day of class.

Trash Cans

Surprisingly, there are few trashcans that line the street like we are used to. In London, they don’t call trashcans trashcans, but rather they call it litter. If you go to a Starbucks or any other café for that matter, don’t be surprised if there isn’t a trashcan. You can simply leave your trash where you are siting and the staff will clean and remove the trash for you.


In the U.S. there are designated smoking areas, but as for the U.K. there are not. Many people smoke cigarettes in the street which I found to be an interesting difference from the United States.

Traffic and Transportation

Double decker buses are so cool here! I loved hoping onto a bus and going up to the second floor. The view is very nice from up there, and taking a ride on the bus is very helpful for understanding the streets of London. A double decker bus is the epitome of London. I didn’t think that the buses could get you from point A to point B, and that they were just tourist attractions, but they are very helpful and get you to your destination very quickly. The buses are also cheaper than the tube.

How to pay at a restaurant

It is a little different here than the U.S. If you use an American debit or credit card, which most people in the program did, the waiter/waitress brings out the ATM pin pad and inserts your chipped card to pay the bill. You pay the bill directly at the table, and are not obligated to pay tip. If you eat with a large group then you may see a service fee added to your bill, which is just the same as gratuity in the U.S. If you want to leave a tip you always can, but it is not mandatory nor do the workers expect it. Also after paying, you must sign the receipt in which they check your license or the back of your card to make sure your signature is the same.


Drving and crossing the street

I’m still trying to understand how the rules on the road work here in London.

Cars are on the opposite side of the street, drivers drive on the opposite side of the car, and when you cross a cross a crosswalk you look left, right, left. Cars usually do not stop because it is not pedestrians right of way like how it is in the U.S. Also, stop lights work a little differently. The light changes from red to yellow, which allows the stopped cars to slowly take off. It is important to make sure you clear the crosswalk in time, before the cars start to take off. Because crossing the street can be a little intimidating at first, make sure to find zebra crosswalks which are indicated by the black and white striped poles that have a large yellow bulb at the top. These crosswalks function as our stop signs which allows the pedestrian the right of way. Cars stop for you, but make sure to look both ways before crossing at all times!  


Believe it or not there are two lanes to an escalator! Although it’s a normal escalator the crowd divides into two sides: the right side is used for standing, while the left is used for walking. Because there are a lot of commuters who are rushing to get to their destination, it is important to move to the right side if you want to stand. If you are in a rush to catch a train or the tube, it would be best for you to use the left side and walk down or up the escalators with the rest of the rushing commuters!

Gas Stations

You would think that in a packed city with many cars there would be multiple gas stations, but we found it very interesting when we could barely find any. There is a gas station called BP within the city, and the only one we’ve seen by far. Good thing we take those buses!


In the U.S. you can use public restrooms practically anywhere you’d like. However, in London, not everywhere restaurant or store has a restroom to use. Some public places that do have toilets require you to pay to get in. I suggest to ask a restaurant kindly if they have a restroom, which they actually refer to as toilets, and they will more often than not allow you to use their restroom.

Savannah Shapiro studied abroad in London, England in summer 2017: