Since I’ve stayed in Scotland and England for two months, I’m now all-knowing about anything Great Britain. So I decided to give you tips and tricks to make your life easier because I’m such an expert in this subject area.
Sarcasm aside, my stay may have not made me an ambassadress to the UK but it has definitely given me a glimpse of the British culture, their quirks and twists, their cheers mate and sorry’s, their sparkling water and obsession to fizzy drinks, and most importantly, how they pronounce vase. Without further ado, these are things that may or may not make your visit easier:
United Kingdom = Great Britain + Northern Ireland
Great Britain = England, Scotland, Wales
British Isles = United Kingdom + Republic of Ireland + Isle of Man + Channel Islands
So even though I’m using the UK flag, I’m basically talking about Scotland + England only as I haven’t been to Wales nor Norther Ireland. Therefore, I’ve only visited 2/3 of Great Britain, so hopefully the blog title is more appropriate than United Kingdom. Starting strong with a little geography refresher, huh?
I’ve said more hello’s, thank you’s and sorry’s within that two months than the rest of my entire life. Greet the cashiers, the servers, the waiters and waitresses, the bus drivers, the homeless man who keeps shouting hubba hubba. They always start their conversation with a hello and hi or asking you how you are.
A typical conversation would go like this:
Person 1: Hello!
Person 2: Hi!
Person 1: How are you doing?
Person 2: I’m alright, thanks! How are you?
Person 1: I’m good, thanks!
A less formal version would be:
Person 1: You alright mate?
Person 2: Yeah man, you?
Person 1: I’m good thanks.
Here in the Philippines, you won’t and shouldn’t expect personal space in public. We bump each other’s shoulder in a mall and wouldn’t think twice about it. But my typical scenario when shopping in the UK would be 60% eyeing the good stuff and 40% saying sorry to anyone I’ve brushed my shoulders with or someone I’ve blocked the way for 5 seconds. And people say it back to me as well, it’s not just me being overly polite, there is really a need to apologise for everything. However, this shouldn’t be for UK only, even everywhere around the world, being polite and conscious of your surroundings will take you a long way.
Know Your Postal Code and the Town/City Centre
The one thing I’m pretty impressed about the UK is the fact that they have such accurate addresses and postal codes which would result to an easier navigation. Just know the postal code of any establishment and it will definitely take you to where you want to go. You can order a taxi and just give them the street name and postal code and they’ll be there within minutes. Same goes with packages and deliveries.
Knowing where the centre is will definitely help you since that’s where all the shops are. One of my favourite things about them because it definitely saves time just walking around a certain area, although I know that some centres are massive, but at least everything is just a walking distance. You’d always know that whatever you need is nearby if you’re in a centre. Also, almost all shops close at 5pm, so do your shopping before that.
Use Mobile Apps
Buses are more complicated and I’m obsessed with trains so that’s usually my go-to transportation and therefore have used the Trainline mobile app countless times. I always plan my visits to the other cities in Scotland ahead and would always check the train times to through this app. If you decide to go for buses though, you can always Google bus times and it will usually give you live updates of buses and their route, stops, stations and bus numbers.
If you are travelling far, Mega Bus is such a good bargain. You can travel from Scotland to London for £1 if you’re lucky! Although they take longer, the price is significantly lower than any other mode of transportation. Booking ahead will always give you a cheaper price for both buses/coaches and trains but train tickets tend to be ridiculously expensive when bought on the date of travel, in fact, plane tickets from Scotland to London will be cheaper than that.
You can also use the Cineworld app to see which movies are on. They’re quite famous and have several branches all over the UK so it wouldn’t be a surprise if there’s one near you. Other movie houses with their respective apps (click links) would be Odeon and Vue. I’m fairly sure there are still other movie houses so Google ahead and see which one’s nearest.
This is only for London but it’s basically what it says, the London Underground map. The underground is a maze and it’s helpful to have the app rather than to carry around a big tangible map of a maze.
Know The Establishments
Groceries and/or General Merchandise
There are four main supermarket chains in the UK; Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s. However, in my stay in Dundee, I’ve only been to multiple Tesco’s and one Asda but mostly Tesco because Tesco just pops out everywhere. Every few blocks will have a Tesco and different types such as Tesco Express, Tesco Metro and Tesco Extra. They’re basically the same and I didn’t notice any price difference but Tesco is where I mostly shopped for food. Smaller Tesco’s are usually 24 hours while the bigger ones are open until 10 in the evening.
Boots is the only pharmacy and health shop I’ve ever encountered or maybe the others were just forgettable. Boots is a pharmacy chain and is everywhere around the UK but they’re not as many as Tesco. FYI, they call their pharmacist, chemist.
Shopping (Clothes, etc)
UK is a first-world country, so expect a lot of high end stores and even regular stores with a £50 (PHP 3655) dress. TopShop and River Island is their go to decent-clothing shops but I prefer Primark and New Look. Primark is probably the cheapest but they’re styles are definitely up to date, quality is not out of the question either. The only con really is that they mass produce their products so don’t expect to be unique (and that’s why the boyfriend forbade me to worship Primark, it’s apparently not a proud moment to carry around a big Primark bag because society tells you to be proud of the high end ones, but screw society, yes to cheap and chic clothes even if there’s five of you wearing it in the same room haha). New Look is about a few pounds higher than Primark but I still consider them a bargain and they also have a very good fashion line so if you can’t find it in Primark, check New Look. For shoes, you have Office, Schuh, and other individual brand stores like Dr. Martens.
Nando’s. End of story. Sike! They have your typical American fast food chains such as McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, Subway, restaurants such as TGI Friday’s and many others in every town and city centre. For British chains (though not British cuisine, I don’t even know what British cuisine is, maybe tea and biscuits?), Wagamama’s, Frankie & Bennys, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Yo Sushi, Pret a Manger, Whetherspoons/Counting House and Nando’s. You can always find a decent one in their centre anyways so it’s not really a problem. The country is so diverse and multi-cultural that it’s not a problem whether you crave curry or sushi because they’ll always have a place for that.
One thing I’ve noticed in every restaurant I’ve been to is that they almost always serve fizzy drinks only (with the exception of water, of course). I rarely drink soda or any fizzy drink so I usually opt for juices or just plain water. Lemonade is usually an option other than the sodas so, naturally, I go for that. They serve it and guess what, it’s also fizzy. They don’t have non-fizzy lemonade and it makes me sad. UK is missing out. They also have fizzy water, commonly known as sparkling water. Sparkling water alone is horrible but mix it with cranberry juice and you’ll have a nice drink. Bottomline: they’re into fizzy and I’m not.
Terminologies and Slangs
My “common knowledge” vs UK
Cash Registers – Till
Vase /veyz/ – Vase /vaz/
Favorite – Favourite
Color – Colour
Apologize – Apologise
Center – Centre
Like/Desire – Fancy
Thank you, goodbye – Cheers
Traveling – Travelling
Hello there – Hiya
Tired – Knackered
Raining hard – Proper pissing/Pissing it down
Pleased about something – Chuffed
Naughty – Cheeky
Learned – Learnt
Calling – Ringing
ATM – Cash Machine
Right? – Yeah? (e.g. So the chicken crossed the road, right? vs So the chicken crossed the road, yeah? And he got hit by a car, yeah.)
And that’s it. This may not be a very visual post but I hope you didn’t doze off and actually learnt something. Cheers, mate!
***Disclaimer: My How To Survive blog series is intended for quick visits only. I will not be discussing any visa processing or any immigration matters. Please be reminded that these tips are suggestions proven by me and my preferences only; what may work for me, may not work for you. This is not a declaration of musts and needs but merely a guide and hopefully give you an idea where to start. If you are from the future, please consider the date this post was written and verify if any of the mentioned tips are still applicable. Change is inevitable and this post may not be significant years from now. Enjoy surviving <insert place name>!