The United Kingdom as any other country has some differences to other countries in the world and if you are planning on visiting or moving here permanently, there are some things which you will have to get used to.
If you are coming to the UK, you will need to get an adapter for your appliances you bring over. The UK plugs have three pins – one horizontal and two verticals. The horizontal pin is required to push open a shutter in the socket to allow other two pins to be inserted. It is a really good security feature against children who like to put tweezers into little socket holes, however, not so good if you attempt you put european plug into UK socket. I do not recommend, but if you really need to force European plug into UK socket, you can just insert a pen into the top hole to force open the security shutters. Do not rush buying adapter in airports for £4-5 just go to Poundland and get one for £1.
This is just one old and horrible tradition to have separate hot and cold taps in the bathroom as well as the kitchen. When you need to wash your hands, you either can use boiling or freezing cold water. I have read that mixing cold and hot water is good for your skin, but I have never felt any positive effect by pouring a boiling hot water onto my hands and always ended up using the cold one. There are mixers in some modern flats and tourist targeted places, but if you go to the toilet in a traditional pub, prepare to say hello to double taps. You can get warm water if you jam the sink hole and turn both taps on. I am sure this saves water, but why all this inconvenience if in most cases you will pay a fixed water bill for the whole year anyway?
You can never ever know what’s the weather going to be in the UK for more than the next 4 hours in advance. The standard day especially in Northern areas is: sunny, raining, cloudy, sunny, sunny and raining during the same day. In winter you can also add snow and blizzard to the list. It might look very warm and sunny outside but the wind can literally blow you away. I have many summer clothes and just can’t wait for that sunny day when I could just go out and demonstrate them to the public. The problem is that the next day you start feeling your sore throat. Also don’t get fooled by looking through your window and checking what British people are wearing outside. Believe me I have seen girls in their strapless dresses and sandals when it was snowing outside!
Never ending Sales, BOGOF and 3-4-2 offers
There are a few massive sales during every year in the UK. The biggest ones are Summer (Starts around 30th of June and lasts for around 2-4 weeks) and Winter (Starts just before Christmas and ends mid January). You can buy almost anything with 50% discount during the sale period. Make the most of it: do not buy anything if you know that sale is approaching and do not buy too much just because it is cheap!
Buy One – Get One Free (BOGOF) and three for the price of two (3-4-2) are very common offers amongst the UK supermarkets. Products on those offers are full price and you are technically forced to buy more than one in order to save. If you have spare money and man-power to carry stuff, stock up with the things you would buy in the future anyway and you will save some money. Look for new products with introductionary prices as those tend to be high quality and underpriced for a limited time.
Shopping online in the UK is a big thing. You can get things cheaper and delivered to your door for your convenience. If you find something nice in the shop and your size was sold-out, almost definitely you can get it at online store version. Amazon and eBay are the largest trading platforms, but I need to warn you: beware of fakes and of e-mail scam! I will be covering those in the separate article, but for now follow this advice:
- Never – Ever think that you can get something what is genuine very cheap. 90% of things online are fakes (cheaper product version made from cheaper parts) and it takes time to identify those.
- Never – Ever post your stuff outside the UK if you are selling something, especially to Nigeria. You can even get confirmation e-mails from PayPal telling you that someone paid for your item, but never trust those, always check your account!
- Never – Ever enter any of your login or bank card details after a clicking a link you gave received to your e-mail! No bank will ever ask you confirm your login details (they know your details already if it is a real bank) or ever lock your online account.
The UK does not have many real national dishes, except for Fish and Chips and Haggis which is famous in Scotland. What they do have is a huge variety of frozen food. You can just put anything into the microwave and in 5 minutes your dinner is ready. I was so disguised by the fact you can by pre-made lasagne or baked chicken, mashed potatoes and peas in a frozen form! If you do not want to put up an extra 5 kilos in a month or so – avoid all fast/frozen food as much as you can. Cook more and try resist your local takeaway. I know those Kebab’s, Big-Mac’s and Pizza’s do taste good, but you will regret it later.
On the positive note, since not all British are so keen on their national food, there is a huge selection of international restaurants in the UK. You can easily find a nice Chinese, Indian or Italian restaurant. The only thing here is the price you pay in the restaurants (tends to vary between £15 to £50 for dinner per person), but just keep checking out daily deals and you will be able to get some nice meal at least couple of times a month.
- Forget kilometres and get used to miles. 1 mile is around 1.6KM.
- Forget kilograms when buying your food and get used to pounds (lb.). One pound is around 0.45kg, to make things easy I always presume that one kilo is 2lb.
- If you know your body weight in kilograms it would be nice to know it in stones. One stone is 6.35KG.
- In Europe people are used to measure the fuel efficiency by l/100KM, in UK it is Miles per Gallon (MPG). One gallon is around 4.54 litres. If you car can do 40MPG or more, you can call it economical.
Driving on the left side
The UK is one of the countries (amongst Australia, India and Japan) where all the traffic goes on the left side on the road. It is important to look RIGHT first and then LEFT when you are crossing the road. I recommend always looking both ways, so that you will be safe no matter which country you are visiting.
Overall, British are very polite drivers and they respect pedestrians a lot. Well, the main reason for this “respect” is that the pedestrians are always right (yes, exactly as customers are right in this country). What I mean is that wherever you hit a person with your car you will pay huge fines and might even be prosecuted. It does not really matter if a person just ran out into the street or he was crossing the street under a red traffic light, you hit him – you will be the one to blame.