Hi everyone. Firstly, Merry Christmas and happy new year to all:) I don’t actually celebrate Christmas myself, but with all the Christmas vibes and that happy, festive mood going around, it’s a bit sad that I’m spending the winter hols alone (T_T) Well, I guess it means that I get some studying done so it’s not all bad.
Anyway, even without the cheer and fairy lights decorating the streets, London is still an amazing place and I’m truly grateful that I get to study here for 3-years-and-2-terms more to come. Yes, the weather is colder compared to Malaysia (and sort off hard to get used to; I’m not sure I’m actually used to it yet), and I do miss Malaysian food sometimes (I’m starting to get sick of eating bread all the time), and the fact that I’m kinda disappointed about the lack of snow here; but the sights, and the views, and culture and people, and even the weather sometimes, still takes my breath away even though it’s been (almost?) 4 months since I got here.
So I decided to do this list of what I learned since I got here. Hope you guys like it 😀
- ~10°C is warm for winter in London
I know this might seem obvious especially for you Londoners out there, but I never really noticed this until one of my floormates, Gordon pointed it out during our floor Christmas dinner ~two weeks ago. I don’t make it a habit to check the temperature and the weather beforehand; I usually just go out and face it. Yet, it seemed impressive to me that I managed to survive that ’cause back in Malaysia, I was already shivering when someone turned the AC to the lower -teens. The fact that I’m not already an ice block; albeit the impossibility of that situation (it is a hiperbole, after all); still astounds me… especially since I tend not to wrap up properly (I hate doing laundry, so other than changing my jacket to a thicker winter coat, I try not to add any more layers than I need).
2. If you walk down a path in central London, you’ll find either a tube or bus stop approximately every 5-10 minutes
I’m not exactly positive this is true but, so far it works for me. If I don’t know where I’m going, I just walk in any direction along a road and usually I’ll be able to find a means of getting back home. There’s still no guarantee that the bus you need to take will stop there, but it’s a little reassuring to know that you can always find a bus or a tube when you’re hopelessly lost. This works well in places like Covent Garden and Chinatown but not so much in parks or residential areas (although there often are access to public transport outside the borders of those places).
3. Tesco is cheaper than Sainsbury and Tesco/ Tesco Superstore is cheaper than Tesco Express
Frankly, I still go to Sainsbury as it’s closer than the nearest big Tesco (the smaller ones don’t sell halal meat and besides, if you add transportation costs, the difference will probably balance out), but I do avoid going to the 2 Tesco Express that are close by. It’s not that big of a difference but when you’re a student, every cent counts (although that may just be ’cause it’s me and I’m quite thrifty when it comes to those things). Plus, they do add up to quite significant amounts if you buy more than 5 or so things. Of course, the smaller branches can be quite convenient when you have to do a quick run or when you need something urgently late at night but other than that, personally I don’t really care for them.
4. When you can, take the bus
Taking the bus is a lot cheaper than taking the tube, especially if you’re changing zones. Tube prices can get crazy expensive during peak hours, but there are flat fares on buses even if you go to the end of the route. Plus there are other advantages like free fare if you take another bus within an hour of touching on the first, a daily cap of £4.50 for Oyster users, etc. True, it’s going to take longer to get there, and it can be hard to understand which bus to take and at which bus stop (at least it was for me), but it’s a nice way to travel as you get to see parts of London you don’t usually see and since buses go pretty much everywhere, you end up walking far less than if you had taken the tube in the end.
Also, I found out about the big Sainsbury branch on Ladbroke Grove while taking the bus to Crescent Supplementary School (I’m a Pimlico Connections volunteer tutor there). Anyway, since then I’ve started shopping there after my tutoring sessions on my way back home on Sundays so I don’t have to worry about finding time to go grocery-shopping. Of course, I try to shop quickly so I can make use of the free fare (see, two birds with one stone 😛 )
5. Poundland is AWESOME (and Hammersmith’s Kings Mall got 2 of them)
Seriously, I love Poundland. I mean, everything is £1 (with the occasional £2 and £5). They sell pretty much a bit of everything from kitchenware, to makeup and toiletries, to electronic accessories, and necessities like chocolates (yes, this is a necessity 😛 ), eggs, etc. I usually go to the ones in Hammersmith as I’m quite familiar with the place (I stayed there with my family before moving-in day) but they have branches all over the UK (and in Europe). The products aren’t too shoddy (and some are actually quite decent) plus you can get popular brands like Cadbury and Colgate at lower prices than normal supermarkets so it’s very attractive for students like me who (normally) aren’t working and need to spend (in-a-way-that’s-sorta-but-not-really) wisely. The bad thing is that some things get sold out quickly and you won’t be able to find everything there (I tried searching for a plunger but didn’t find it… although the weird thing is that Sainsbury and Tesco didn’t sell it too), but they still sell a wide range of products there.
6. London is not an ideal place for stargazing
When I was in Malaysia, I used to go stargazing with my friends (and on my own) in our school field almost every week. Here, I tried to keep up the tradition? (can I call it that? It almost is one for me anyway) by joining the Astronomy Club (one of many that I joined), and sometimes going to Hyde Park at night if I have time, but I have to be lucky to see anything much. The club members try our best too, but it’s still a tough battle. One, London is waaay too bright to see much (*cough* light pollution *cough*) and secondly, London nights are cloudy… it’s rather hard to stargaze when all the stars (and sometimes the moon) are obscured by the clouds. Well, there’s not much we can do about the clouds, but I’ve always had strong opinions regarding light pollution… one day I hope to organise a stargazing evening activity for the public to demonstrate the effect light pollution has on our night sky. Fortunately, events like that are gaining support thanks to increasing awareness on the damaging effects of light pollution, so maybe (hopefully) I’ll get to make this dream come true soon.
7. London weather is unpredictable
It seems sunny at first, and 15 minutes later it starts raining… then it stops, and after awhile, it’s already raining again. That is how London weather is… it changes almost as fast as a girl’s moods during her period. Every once in a while, we’re blessed with one whole day without any gloomy grey clouds or rain and you’ll see people going for walks or just sitting in parks; glad for a nice, warm day at last… I guess I can understand why the stereotype for British people is that they like talking about the weather and are thrilled to have a bright sunny day. The good thing is, you rarely need an umbrella when it rains here. I used to carry an umbrella everywhere, but London rain is so fine that you don’t actually get wet so I don’t bother anymore. However, it does rain heavily sometimes but it’s nowhere as heavy as it does in Malaysia where you”ll probably be soaked within the first 10 minutes outside.
8. Save your work on your laptops!!!
Seems obvious and trivial, I know, but please REMEMBER THIS!!! Do not repeat my mistake and rely on autosave. I have this really bad habit of always relying on autosave and twice it had cost me :’) Once, when I was writing up the last draft of my Extended Essay, and once, just now. To be honest, I had written another blog post on a completely different topic (it was about my HOST visit to Harpenden) but I lost everything except the intro. I still plan to write about my stay there, but maybe in the next one… after losing all my progress (2 days’ worth of it), I’ve lost heart (and my motivation) to do it for now. I know, it’s my fault for not saving it, but I have a tendency to not close files once I’ve opened them until I finish themIt’s mostly to remind me that I still have unfinished work, but there’s also that sense of accomplishment when you finally close it… never cease to make me feel just a tiny bit better.
So, that’s all I can think off right now but I’m sure there’s much, much more than that. Learning to cope and adapt to such a foreign place (especially since this is my first time in the UK, and first time travelling abroad without my family) is incredibly hard but everyone’s support; namely friends, lecturers, family; makes it somewhat easier (sounds cliché but it’s true) so thank you and please continue to encourage me (and please continue reading my blogs :3 ) Peace out 🙂 and thanks for reading this