Etc European Adventure

8 Things About London Life

Today, the girls and I fly back to the United States.

Feel free to pray for me as I tackle 14 hours of flying with two small children by myself (plus a 30 week belly with a lap child. I’ll also accept prayers for empty flights with extra seats). It’s going to be a super fun day, I can tell.

As we wing our way back to North America, here are a few thoughts about life in London.

I would never say I’m some sort of expert on living in the UK. We were there for a really short amount of time, and we definitely fell somewhere between the resident and tourist ends of the spectrum.

That said, here are a few things I’ve noticed about life here that surprised or delighted (or both) me since we arrived in September.

  1. Paid Playgroups. I’m used to free playgroups or kids classes at home, but here practically all of them charge and it’s come as a shock to me. Also, some are held in the library’s children section, which makes it awkward if you come and aren’t attending because the room is small. (We happened in on a French music class one time which was 30 minutes long and £7 per child, with no sibling discount). And on the local mum’s group on Facebook, people were always saying things like “I’m planning to start a toddler craft group in my home if anyone wants to join. I’m thinking £8 per child.” Um, I’m thinking I’m not going. 
  2. Teeny washer and dryers. We’re lucky to have a washer and dryer in our apartment, but holy cow, that washer is teeny. At home, I do all the laundry in one day and then don’t think about it again for a week. Here, the loads take FOREVER (no exaggeration, the washer is a nearly 2 hour cycle) so I did a load of laundry almost every day. Also, they’re often spread out. Our washer was in the bathroom and the dryer is in the kitchen. 
  3. Food Shelf Life. Food here generally has way less preservatives than American food which means it tastes better, but it also goes bad super fast. Like cheese? You have about two days of it once it’s been opened before it’s moldy. Even the jam says to consume it within about 6 weeks of opening it. 
  4. Everyone Dresses Warmly. One Sunday we were walking home from church and it was sunny and pretty warm, so I ditched my jacket in the bottom of the stroller. My dress had short sleeves and I wasn’t wearing any tights with my shoes, and I felt like I was practically naked since everyone else was wearing tights, boots, scarves and thick coats. Everywhere we went, we were the least warmly dressed people around. 
  5. If you have kids, the bus is better than the tube. I didn’t use the bus a single time when I was on study abroad – we all had unlimited Oyster cards so we took the tube everywhere. But if you have a stroller, it’s extremely difficult to get around on the tube since very few of the stations have elevators and almost all of them have multiple flights of stairs. The bus is cheaper (almost half the price of a tube fare) and it’s so much easier to get on and off with a stroller. Also, the girls strongly preferred taking the bus since they liked looking out the windows, and usually it was easier to find a direct bus route than a direct tube line to wherever we were going. 
  6. Postal Delivery. Amazon Prime here is usually one day shipping, rather than two, and they often deliver on the weekends, including Sunday. The week we got here, I ordered a laundry basket late on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday it showed up while we were eating lunch. And sending things through the post just doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal. After I wrote this post about sweet shops in London, one of them sent me over a box of fresh baked goods. I can’t really imagine that happening in the U.S. 
  7. People walking everywhere on the sidewalk. In the US, I feel like people mainly walk like they drive (on the right side of the road). Here, though, it’s kind of a madhouse because the Brits want to walk on the left side, while the Europeans and Americans want to walk on the right side and so everyone is just careening around each other constantly. 
  8. Library request fees. It costs £2 to request an item (although you can request children’s items for free on a child’s library card), so I never requested anything for myself because, no, I won’t pay to get a library book. That said, it meant that popular things were often readily available on the shelf, which I didn’t mind. And it probably saved the staff tons of time (considering I’ve already maxed out the holds on both my North Carolina cards with holds to come up as soon as we return next month). 
What a crazy adventure this fall has been. Now back to a car and remembering how to drive (and look the correct way for oncoming traffic). Also, Target. 

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  • Reply Elaine December 4, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Wishing you a safe and relaxing trip!

  • Reply runtspickins December 4, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    "Also, Target."

    That cracked me up. :]

    (If responding, please email or comment a blog post of mine.)

  • Reply Michelle December 4, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    I definitely said a prayer for you this morning, for safe travels and sanity! I've never flown while pregnant and having kids but I have flown with a lap child and when the stewardess tells you that there are extra seats and you can put your lap baby in the seat and does your baby need a blanket? OMG, you can just feel God's blessings all over that! So I am especially praying for that for you 🙂

  • Reply Abby December 4, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    I have so enjoyed reading about your London adventure! Hoping for safe travels for you and the littles.

  • Reply Shelly December 4, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    Good luck with your travels, I have loved reading about your time in London. It sounded like so much fun that I've convinced my husband to let me celebrate my 30th with a week long trip there next year.

  • Reply Lauren December 4, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    This was a fun read! We spent a couple years living in Tel Aviv and I feel like many of the things you mentioned are similar to there (tiny laundry that takes forever, cheese that goes bad quickly, people walking everywhere on the sidewalk, yearning for a car and Target!) maybe it's just that us Americans are so…spoiled? I've really enjoyed reading about your adventures and I wish you the best of luck on your flight back…I just did a 1.5 hour flight with my 1 year old and it wasn't terrible but I can't imagine it being too much longer than that…Good luck!

  • Reply Paige Flamm December 4, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    When Derek was on his mission in France he said that one of his apartments had a washer dryer combo, where it would wash and then the same machine would dry, but he said it took about 4 hours a load… laundry would never get done in our house that way! Which reminds me I have whites sitting in my washer from this morning… whoops!

  • Reply Emmaco December 4, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    I'm now wondering why I never send baked good through the post here in Aus. Sure it would probably take two days but cookies last that long. But when I lived in the UK I did just that – think you're right on point 6 that the post is just more used there (and runs more days).

    I've always paid for library requests (in my library here it's 80 cents which is still way cheaper than buying a book) but love the idea of it being free as generally I'm too cheap to spend that on picture books for my son 🙂 Your library in the US must be better funded with more staff!

    And my front loader here in Australia takes a long time for a load but it's a good size and has a time delay so I stick it on the night before for the first load, and lots of my British friends have a similar machine. What surprised me was how many British friends didn't have a dryer. Lots of people don't have them here in Brisbane but we are in the sub-tropics where clothes dry quickly on a line – in the rainy weather in the UK I wouldn't have ever been able to wash things that didn't fit in front of the radiator (e.g. sheets or towels) without a dryer!

  • Reply Ruth Maldonado December 5, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Love your post! I can't imagine paid playgroups?!? I'd have to go back to work just to go to a playgroup with my little girls! Also that bright chartreuse door is amazing.

  • Reply Helen December 5, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    I've thoroughly enjoyed reading about your European adventures. Sounds like your family had a wonderful time! Here's to a safe (and hopefully quiet and non-eventful) trip home!

  • Reply Ruth Thomas December 5, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Safe journey back and glad you have enjoyed your time in the UK. Can I just say that things are waaay more expensive in London than elsewhere in the UK. We have some paid toddler groups in Edinburgh but they are £1-2 max and never in a library where other people might be just browsing (also never paid to reserve a book!). In Scotland we do dress warmly but you will still see the odd crazy person in shorts when there's ice on the pavements! Enjoy the warmth of home and do visit again (Edinburgh is great!)

  • Reply Monica Packer December 5, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    #7 made me laugh out loud. That would be so hard for me, as I already have anger management problems with the people who are on the "wrong side" of our running paths.

  • Reply Rebecca December 6, 2014 at 2:10 am

    All good points that I noticed when I lived there too (except the paid playgroups because I had no comparison, I had my daughter in London). The bus vs tube is *spot* on and so is the walking all over haha.
    The small washers always aggravated me – but you seriously lucked out in having a dryer – that's pretty rare!!
    I hope that your flight went incredibly smooth and you all survived with minimal traumatisation! 🙂

  • Reply Jodi December 7, 2014 at 4:46 am

    Oh man, I remember our tiny washer in china. And tiny fridge. We didn't have a dryer, which sounds like a lot or most people don't around the world- I'd miss it at least for towels! And I hated paying $1 to request books in Santa Barbara- which was EVERY book because they never had any books available.

  • Reply JoJo December 7, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Oh I related to these so much! Except I've never had to pay for a play group? You were living in a pretty posh part of town though, right? And it's only 50p at our library to request.

    But other than that- spot on! The tube is a nightmare with a buggy and toddlers, I get anxiety about them falling on the tracks. And it's so hot down there. I was cracking up about the walking on both sides of the sidewalk. I felt so confused about that, now I've just given up. 🙂

    Oh and dressing warmly. Totally! In the late summer when it was still really nice outside I was always self-conscious because in the mornings everyone had their coats on and my kids never did because it was really unnecessary and a pain to carry a jacket all day long for just a few cool minutes.

    Thanks for the laughs!

  • Reply JoJo December 7, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    AND the laundry! When people ask what I miss most from back home the first thing I say is "my dryer!" You were lucky to have one, but you're right, the washing and drying takes so much longer anyway, with much smaller loads. Laundry is the bane of my existence here.

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