Being an overseas student in London offers an incredible opportunity for cultural immersion and personal growth. However, navigating a new country and academic environment can be challenging. As an American student interning in London this summer, I'm here to give you the best perspective on London from a real overseas student. To help you make the most of your time in this vibrant city, I’ve compiled essential tips tailored specifically for foreigners planning to live in or travel to London...
Embrace the Public Transportation System
Public transportation is essential in London. Whether you need to get a few blocks away, or on the other side of the city, it can get tricky understanding the transportation. One thing you will be doing A TON in London is walking. You will need to walk everywhere.
It is important to familiarise yourself with the London Underground (Tube) and buses. When I first arrived in the UK, the whole idea of using the tube, trains and buses was a little confusing to navigate. You might think it is easier to walk or take taxis everywhere but the tubes and buses are definitely the better option. They are efficient, cost-effective, and can take you anywhere in the city. You can use contactless payment (such as Apple Pay) and do not need to worry about carrying around a tube or bus pass.
The thing that helped me the most with navigating this huge city was downloading and using the free Citymapper App. It tells you which routes are the best and the length and price of each. It definitely took me a while to understand, and although it may be scary, it was fun learning how to use the London transportation system .
Immerse Yourself in British Culture
Although it seems so simple, visiting a place that has a different type of culture than you can be a bit nerve wracking and weird. One thing that I think is the most different from America and most other countries is the side of the road everyone drives and walks on. The United Kingdom (and a few other countries) drive on the left side of the road and the driver’s seat in the vehicle is on the right. I have still been walking into people and looking the wrong way when crossing the street!
Going for a walk around the area, as simple as it sounds, is a great way to learn more about the locals and lifestyle of where you are studying, working, visiting, etc.
Another way to embrace British culture is by visiting the iconic landmarks, like the Tower of London , Buckingham Palace , Westminster Abbey , and the British Museum . These places are great to learn about the country’s history and heritage. Also, by attending cultural events, musical festivals, theatre shows, and exhibitions, you can experience London’s vibrant arts scene. There are so many things to do for free too!
Although it may be out of your comfort zone, experiencing different cultures helps you realise that life has a lot more to offer than what you’re used to. Learning about a new culture can help you see the world from a completely different perspective, and you may even return as a different person than you were before you left for London.
Experience Local Cuisine
Trying local foods and drinks is another authentic and fun way of immersing yourself in UK culture, whether this be fish and chips or a classic cup of tea. When you are in London, you obviously must try these traditional British dishes like fish and chips, Sunday roast, afternoon tea, and shepherd’s pie, but it is also good to indulge in the city’s diverse international food scene. British cuisine has distinctive national varieties in the form of English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish cuisines. Some traditional British desserts include trifle, scones, apple pie and Victoria sponge cake.
British pubs are very popular and these are the places where all of the British cuisine will be, so I definitely suggest stopping by one for a beer and fish and chips!
London has so many different outdoor markets. I have never seen so many markets with great options before coming to London. I would definitely recommend visiting local markets like Borough Market, Camden Market, Broadway Market, or Maltby Street Market in order to taste a wide range of culinary delights. My favourite thing so far has been the chocolate covered strawberries at Borough Market.
Get to Know Your Neighborhood
In every single borough of London, there are so many different things to familiarise with. Every area of London has its own restaurants, shops, and parks.
Acquainting yourself with your neighbourhood will allow you to feel like a local and find all of the best stores and pubs, and even some hidden gems!
Explore Beyond Central London
While the centre of the city is exciting, I would definitely plan on venturing out to different neighbourhoods like Camden , Shoreditch, or Greenwich for a taste of local culture, vibrant markets, and diverse food scenes.
London is a great city to explore – but it also serves as an excellent base if you want to discover other parts of the UK and Europe while you are here. Scotland , Ireland, Netherlands , Belgium , France , Denmark , and Spain are all places to easily take quick trips to from London.
Wondering where to go for your adventures? Check out our hostels around the UK and Europe.
Most importantly, enjoy your time in this vibrant and culturally rich city!