First Impressions – London

Well it’s been about 2 months for me here in London now! Although at first it was a little tough to adjust, especially coming from Singapore, I am really excited to be here. I love walking around and exploring new areas of the city. There is so much history and culture everywhere from the countless iconic signs like Big Ben and Red double decker buses to the fact that the Tube has been running since the early 1800’s and things that I’ve seen all over the world like ‘Somerset’ (area in Singapore), the ‘Look Right/Left’ signs on the road in Hong Kong, ‘The Strand’ (hotel in Myanmar) and ‘bourbon cookies’ we used to eat in India. Of course I realize all of these were originally English colonies but still cool to see them abroad first, then make that connection here. I’m also loving the Christmas spirit everywhere! From the festive lights and singing carolers in the tube stations to the Christmas markets and seasonal foods. And of course lots and lots of shopping!

The first few weeks went to finding an apartment which was a lot harder than I expected… the prices are comparable to Singapore but the apartments/buildings in central London are not as in good condition since most of them are fairly old. Some of the buildings I saw were over 100 years old! But I finally found a place and am figuring out things like

  • Paying ‘Council Tax’ which is like a city tax (Around £100 per month!).
  • Paying for a TV license to watch TV (the money goes to BBC as it is not funded by advertising) But ironically I can’t access bbc.com here since that is a commercially owned subsidiary!
  • How expensive (and inefficient) London Transport is! Each journey costs a set amount of money and is based on single journeys rather than distance which can add up very quickly.
  • Dryers are not common to every household.
  • Most homes/businesses have slots in the door to slide the mail through (vs. a box structure on the street).

Since I’ve been to London before and been to most of the main tourist attractions, I’ve been focusing on the less touristy things and soaking up London life. There is so much to do in London that I’m sure I will never be bored and I’m excited to explore it all! Fun things so far:

  • Shopping at the Christmas markets at London Eye
  • Seeing St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Grabbing some Dim Sum in China Town
  • Eating Fish n’ chips
  • Catching a show in the West End
  • Figuring out the difference between Underground, Overground and National Rail
  • Getting lost on the trains (multiple times)
  • Shopping in Covent Garden (so many cool and unique shops)
  • Seeing all the window displays for Christmas. Harrods is my favorite so far
  • Figuring out why I have to keep topping up my transport card balance
  • Eating scotch eggs – probably one of the few British foods I’ve actually liked
  • Checking out the weekend markets – so far I’ve been to Portobello and Borough Markets
  • Going to Fortune and Mason – a famous tea shop near Piccadilly
  • Finding Drury Lane (you know… where the muffin man lives!)
  • Finding a great Singaporean restaurant to satisfy my cravings for delicious food

And of course re-learning the English language with all the new words I’m hearing!

  • Adverts = commercials
  • Tele = television
  • Baubles = ornaments
  • Knackered = exhausted/tired
  • Fiver/Tenner = five or ten pounds (Great British pound)
  • Quid = pounds (Great British pound)
  • To let = for rent
London Eye during Christmas time
London Eye during Christmas time
Christmas Markets
Christmas Markets
Seven Dials in Convent Garden
Seven Dials in Convent Garden
St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Going to the theatre in the West End!
Going to the theatre in the West End!
Cute houses near Portobello Road
Cute houses near Portobello Road
Fresh seafood paella at Portobello street market in Notting Hill
Fresh seafood paella at Portobello street market in Notting Hill
These phone booths really are everywhere!
These phone booths really are everywhere!
Westminster Cathedral (not to be confused with Westminster Abbey) – this is the view from my office in London
Westminster Cathedral (not to be confused with Westminster Abbey) – this is the view from my office in London
Crowded Carnaby street during the holiday season
Crowded Carnaby street during the holiday season
Regent Street Christmas Lights
Regent Street Christmas Lights
Last but not least, my new street!
Last but not least, my new street!
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