London Culture Shock

Culture Shock: noun, the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.


This week I’m going to talk about the “culture shock” and the bits of British culture that truly surprised me.  I do not think that I was ever flabbergasted at the way things are here at any certain point.  However, after living in London for more than a month and a half I have accumulated a list of all of the things that are a bit different from American culture.
Here are the items that made the list.

  1. Dogs. I think that by far dogs are the most different.  Here, dogs are very well behaved.  They are allowed to roam around Hyde Park off the leash.  They do not bother other free roaming dogs or pedestrians.  Dog owners will also leave their dogs tied up outside of stores while they go in and shop.  Some dogs are so well trained that they just sit outside a store not even tied up!  I cannot believe that the dogs can be this calm on London’s crowded streets.  All I think about is how crazy my own chocolate labrador retriever would be acting if he were here.  London dogs are cool.  The end.
  2. Trash Cans. Another thing I found strange while walking on the London streets is that there are very few trash cans, yet the streets are still very clean.  Apparently, the Irish terrorists used to put bombs in trash cans years ago.  This is why there are so few today.
  3. Elevators. Elevators are called lifts in Britain.  However, this is not what I find surprising.  Lifts here operate as soon as you press a button.  They are not like American elevators that wait for long amounts of time before they jump into action.  It is very nice being able to press a button for a floor and to be taken there quickly.
  4. Office Space. Cubicles are not a thing in the UK.  Many office spaces consist of long tables and a BYOL policy: bring your own laptop.  This is a nice change from the American: work hard to get the corner office mind set.  Everyone is treated as an equal.
  5. Fire Doors. Fire safety is a big concern in London.  Every building has fire doors that need to remain closed at all times.  Fire drills and inspections of alarms happen very frequently.  Maybe the city is paranoid that another great fire will break out.  The city has a lot of fire related incidents in its history.  However, the city’s preparation and prevention should be applauded.
  6. Roads. Obviously people here drive on the opposite side of the road.  Do you know why though?  Back in the day, when everyone rode in horse drawn carriages people would stop in the roads and shake their passing friend’s hand using their right hand.  Or, if a person’s mortal enemy was approaching, they would draw their sword with their right hand.  Driving on the left side of the allowed this behaviour to occur.  The only reason why other countries that were not British territories drive on the right side is because Napoleon Bonaparte was left handed.  He conducted all of these behaviours the opposite way and then changed the way people drove their horses on the road for himself.  This is why our roads are different.
  7. Reading. It is so nice to see a culture here that is not as obsessed with technology as the American counterpart.  When I look around the tube I see more people reading the free papers provided outside the tube stations in the morning and evening than I see people using electronic devices.  I love to read, and I love that the city provides free newspapers as a public service.  The Metro and Evening Standard are not the best papers; however, a paper is a paper.  I find it very refreshing that the culture reads newspapers for their news.

These are the things that I believe are the most surprising about British culture.  I did not expect to witness some of these events first hand, but I am very glad that I have.  I love London.  The culture here is amazing. I am still very thankful to my parents who allowed me to go on this amazing journey which allows me to experience a brand new culture by living in it.


Jennifer Saporito


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