Saturday, February 4, 2012

Adjusting to London: Part Two

As I said in Adjusting to London: Part One, there were, and are, a few challenges that I needed to overcome after I made the big move to London. As time goes on, I am figuring out how to overcome them, and make my experience in London the best it can be! I tried a different format, so let me know how you like it. First, I put my initial notion (and what may be a common notion), then whether it is fact or myth and how I overcame the challenge! Here we go!

Notion: Europe is expensive. 
Fact: Unfortunately, if you are coming from NYC, this is a true. This covers a few different aspects of life in London. Food is more expensive, whether you eat out or cook. If I eat out, a meal costs around 10 pounds, which is about $15. I have found groceries are a bit more expensive as well, which makes cooking a bit more expensive too. I would say it is about the equivalent of going to Whole Foods to buy groceries. This is not atrocious, but it is quite a difference when you're used to buying from Trader Joe's!
What I have done: I have to give credit to my suite mates for the next few findings. The first "secret" to reducing grocery costs is to find a farmers market. I absolutely loved the one in Union Square, and was more than happy to accompany my suite mate to one in a London only a few blocks away from our dorm. It is much less expensive than the grocery store, however it is limited. I purchase vegetables, fruit, cheese and some bread products from there for less. Plus, the farmers are all quite nice! The second action I took to reduce costs was to become a member at The People's Supermarket. TPS is a co-operative grocery store that strives to bring healthy food and social value to the community. If you become a member and volunteer four hours a month, you receive 20% off your groceries. I wanted to volunteer as well, so I was extremely happy to "kill two birds with one stone". The people at TPS are some of the most genuine I have found. It will be an amazing experience.

Notion: I can just ship the items don't fit in my suitcase to London.
Myth: It is very costly to send over even small packages, which I unfortunately found out the hard way. Not only do you pay the expensive cost of the package, but you have to pay duties on it once it gets to you in London. Not the way to go. If I had to redo my packing, I would bring two large suitcases, one carry on and a backpack, instead of a small suitcase and a large suitcase, a carry on and a backpack.

Notion: If I have a converter, I can use my straightener from home. 
Myth: I found that I could not use my straightener/convertor, when I previously thought I could. On my converter there is a high and a low switch. The low switch is for low wattage items, to use with hairdryers, computer chargers etc. The high switch is for items above a certain wattage. The issue with using the high switch is that you can only use it for a few minutes, 10 minutes at most, and they recommend that you consider not even doing that. The high voltage may harm your item (in my case a hair straightener), harm your convertor, or blow a fuse.
What I have done: I purchased a blow dryer and a curling iron from Boots. I might also buy a hair straightener, or I might just rock curls for the next four months. See "Europe is expensive," haha.

Notion: People in the UK drive on the left side of the road.
Fact: Obviously! I just wanted to make an few important point here for potential London students. 1) Cars do drive on the opposite side of the street than the US. Thankfully, London has painted "look right" and "look left" signs on the crosswalks, so you look the correct way and remain safe. However, I have found that it is still confusing. Just pay attention and look both ways multiple times before crossing the street (I'm not joking here). 2) New Yorkers are accustomed to taking a few steps out into the street while cars are passing by, but this is simply not safe in London. The red buses, and cars, drive extremely close to the sidewalk. Stand a few feet back from the curb.

Notion: NYUL is a small community, so everyone knows each other.
Fact: I have not yet met everyone, but I imagine I will by the end of my four months. The best way to make friends is to go to the orientation events before school starts, and be friendly in your classes! Students here are quite friendly because everyone is in the same boat and wants to make new friends.

Notion: People in the UK love tea.
Fact: NYUL provides you with an electric tea kettle. Use it. Tea is wonderful.

Notion: "We only show affection to dogs and horses."
Myth: First off, if you know the movie, then kudos to you! It's one of my favorite chick flicks (the thirteen year old girl in me lives on). As I mentioned in my Part One post, I found people in London to be a bit more stand offish than I was used to in NYC. This is not exactly the case. As I said, I think people in London, and in the UK, are a bit more introverted than people in the US. That said, as I am starting to meet local people, I am finding them to be quite genuine, and I am enjoying getting to know them. The people at TPS are some of the most genuine, dedicated, and caring people I have met and I am very excited to start volunteering.

I hope this was helpful! I quite liked doing it as well, so I might do a few more as the semester goes on. If you want to know more about TPS let me know, and I will do a blog post about it!

Until next time,
Kelsey Elizabeth

Loo, noun, bathroom. I heard someone use it the other day!

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