Culture Shock: US to UK

The moment you make the decision to study abroad the process begins. Filling out your application, gaining a passport, figuring out the complications of a VISA and signing up for courses. The process only continues throughout my time here in London – I learn something new everyday. 

Considering my feet never touched anything other than the United States soil I did not know what to expect abroad. My only perception of London was connected to the adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world of Harry Potter. Both magnificent reads, I might add!

New World

The moment my roommate and I arrived we were welcomed by England’s famous public transportation. Many places in the US have successful transportation. However, being raised as a midwestern girl I cannot say I have experienced what to expect from these so called underground trains (read more My Top Five Cultural London Experiences (Part 1): Public Transport)

Hauling our luggage from the main International Student House (ISH) building to our sleeping quarters was an experience in itself. Two women + three bags each for three months = struggle. Thankfully we had two men with us to help. 

Being from Michigan and going to college in Wisconsin, you can say I was feeling pretty awkward dragging my bags alongside the main roads. Back home everyone almost always owns a car from the moment they gain their license at the age of 16. I’ve soon come to realize it’s almost expected to see a couple people walking around with luggage. London is a tourist area after all.


New World – Double Decker Bus


London Sidewalk Dance

After successfully using all my strength to carry my luggage up the stairs and settling into my room we were off to see the city for the first time. Venturing outside was a totally different experience without my heavy luggage. 

The dance of people walking eagerly to their destination was performed on all sides of the sidewalk. Some zig zag through people while looking at their watch like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, who constantly reminds the reader he’s late. While others walk smoothly taking in their surroundings of the city. 

You can say I was overwhelmed. My initial thought was to not be labeled as a tourist that holds up traffic. Leading to my mind doing its own dance of figuring things out: keep moving forward, GPS rerouting, wait for the green guy to give the signal to cross the street..? No, look left before right then cross and pray you don’t get hit by a car.

After walking for 10 minutes I began to get the hang of the London sidewalk dance, just in time to step foot on Baker Street. Ahh the famous street where London’s notorious fictional detective lives, Sherlock Holmes. My mind switched from performing the sidewalk dance with other Londoners to taking in the people around me. A women with children, a man late for work, a woman headed to brunch. Did I know these were the exact locations these people were headed? Of course not, I could only infer by their clothing and performance on the sidewalk. I like to think I learned a thing or two from Doyle’s books. 


Sidewalk Dance


Oxford Street

At last we hit our destination. Oxford Street. Filled with stores on each side, some affordable, some out of its mind and some you don’t even dare to step inside in fear of the price tag. Regardless, a fun location to experience shopping. As for my roommate and I? Our first purchase was a sims card for our phones. We didn’t last long after that – we took one step in Primark and one step out, gathering that was an adventure for another day. 

Exhausted from jet lag, walking and overwhelmed from the city we decided it was time to lay in bed before dinner. It wasn’t long after our first experience in the city of London that we began to gather the culture of the city.

Read my next blogs to learn more about my cultural experience with London terms, food and public transportation.