Tag Archives: downtown

The Expat Experience: UK First Impressions

Last week, my husband and I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, where I’ll be studying for the next year. While I’ve visited Scotland twice before (and loved it), I knew that living abroad would present itself with very different experiences and its own set of challenges. Here are some of the things that will take some getting used to:

Shopping

  • Instead of a magnetic stripe, the standard credit card in the UK contains a chip. Since our card doesn’t have a chip, cashiers have to ask to see our signature on the back. Instead of a signature, however, “SEE ID” is written across the back. This has confused nearly everyone. We then have to show the signature that is on our driver’s licenses, but it is quite a process even to make a simple purchase.
  • Clothing sizes are different from the US. Further, some brands have European sizes, while others have UK sizes. I’m sure this will be a fairly painless adjustment once I memorize the conversions, but it’s a very intimidating problem at first! 

Food

  • It’s very time-consuming to go out to eat here. The service is very slow, and even a casual meal at a sit-down restaurant can take up to two hours. You also have to factor in the time that it takes to get there, whether it’s by walking or via public transportation. That usually tacks on an additional 30-60 minutes.
  • Foods from home are not as readily available here in the UK. This seems like such an obvious one, but I didn’t realize the extent to which this was true. I initially had a difficult time finding all of the ingredients for my favorite recipes while on a recent trip to the store (And while there are many “express” food stores, I did go to a superstore for these items). I had to find substitutes for black beans and chicken broth, as they were not in stock. The total grocery bill was also twice the amount I pay for the same meals in the US. I’ll have to start finding new recipes that are tailored to the UK, although I guess this is not the worst thing in the world 🙂
  • It’s very difficult to stock up on food in advance. Since the food is fresh and without as many preservatives, things expire quickly. I’m finding that shelf life is typically only a day or two. Perhaps this is why refrigerators are so small here!

Fuel

  • Going to the gas station is quite an affair. Filling up can take quite a while since there is usually a line of cars waiting for the pump. This is because there are no credit card machines outside, so you must go inside to pay. And there is usually a line in there, too!

Health

  • In the US, I wash my face with an over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide cleanser. I couldn’t find any face washes with benzoyl peroxide here, and was told that I have to go to a chemist for it. The chemist explained to me that all benzoyl peroxide is out of stock until further notice and recommended an “antibacterial” face wash as a substitute. So far, it works, but if anyone has suggestions on where I can find benzoyl peroxide face wash here in the UK, please advise!

City Living

  • If there’s one thing I learned this week, it’s that I’m unapologetically suburban by nature. This isn’t something unique to the UK, but since this is something I’m not accustomed to, I’ll include it on this list. In particular, the crowds of people, public transportation, and the smell of car exhaust and cigarette smoke are a big adjustment for me. I feel like I have to carry around hand sanitizer with me at all times to stay healthy!
  • On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy living in a small space. While I wish that we had a backyard, I don’t mind living in a small flat. We have 1/3 of the square footage that we had in the US, but I don’t miss it much yet. Our “cozy” flat is definitely manageable for two people.

Culture & Misc.

  • I haven’t learned how to get people to move out of the way when I am trying to get past them. I’ve tried “excuse me”, “pardon me”, and “sorry”, but nothing seems to work! When I am going down a path with only one point of access, I simply have to stand and wait for the person to move on their own accord. Am I missing something? AWKWARD.
  • Everything simply takes longer. For example, doing laundry takes a long time because the washer cycle is approximately 90 minutes. The clothes also have to air dry, since we don’t have a dryer. Also (as mentioned above), eating and shopping takes a long time, since you typically have to take public transportation to get there. I didn’t realize how many conveniences we have in the US, and I won’t lie- I miss them! But these things will definitely help me to live a more active and healthy lifestyle overall.

That’s it for now. I look forward to the upcoming month ahead, as we get ourselves adjusted to life here in Scotland. There will be more updates to come!

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Tokyo Day Tour: Imperial Palace

The second half of our day tour began with a delicious teppanyaki lunch. I will cover that later in a post about Japanese food.

After lunch, we headed to the Imperial Palace. It is located in downtown Tokyo, near the Tokyo Station. The Palace grounds are surrounded by a moat. We were not allowed to go inside the Palace itself, and it is closed to the public most of the year.

DSC05086The Moat

You can’t really tell by the picture below, however, the buildings here are only allowed to have views of the Palace up to a certain floor. After that, the windows are blacked out so that there are no views which would allow someone to see inside the Palace grounds.

DSC05090Buildings in Downtown Tokyo

DSC05092Pretty Trees

DSC05097Entrance Gate

DSC05101View of the Palace and Bridge

DSC05104Groundskeepers

DSC05105The Moat

DSC05106Trees Outside the Palace

 

Downtown Lund

I would describe Lund as a large town. It definitely doesn’t have a “city” feel, but it’s a busy and bustling town with many shops and restaurants. As far as transportation, we walked everywhere. I really enjoyed not being in a car because it allowed us to really explore the streets and experience this adorable town. I have to say that I felt incredibly comfortable and safe walking around Lund by myself, which I did on a few different occasions. Both JJ and I also were pleased to find that most people speak English in Sweden and are really nice.

Lund has a few “main” squares, where you can find a market that sells fresh produce, and a shopping district that has H&M, a shopping mall, and the visitor’s center. JJ and I went to the visitor’s center on a number of occasions. They have free computers for you to use, and also sell traditional Swedish souvenirs.

Lund Cathedral is one of the major landmarks in town. It’s near the shopping area and is a really pretty church. I can’t tell you much about it’s history or anything since we didn’t go inside, but it kept us from getting lost on a number of occasions by serving as a marker to get our bearings straight.

Lund University is right in town, and is a pretty large campus. JJ and I walked from one end to the other so that we could meet up with a friend, and it seems like it took about 30 minutes or so. The library is gorgeous, and is reminiscent of an Ivy League campus.

We spent one of the days walking aimlessly around town. We discovered City Park, which is really green and beautiful. It’s a decent sized park and is frequented by a lot of families. A lot of people are just walking around or relaxing on benches to enjoy the scenery.

Inside the park, we found what I thought was a synagogue. It turns out that it is an observatory. There aren’t any signs (at least in English) that say what exactly it is, 0ther than one that says it is private property.

Overall, this is a beautiful town and I would highly recommend exploring it all on foot. This is easily manageable. If for some reason you have mobility issues or need to get somewhere quickly, there is a public bus system that is incredibly easy to navigate. You can buy a bus pass at the Pressbyrån convenience store.  Either way, I became very familiar with central Lund by day 4, and felt “at home” and comfortable with the area very quickly. I hope I get a chance to go back one day!