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What to Know Before You Go to England

Updated on August 8, 2017
Lindsay Langstaff profile image

Lindsay studies global business and Spanish at the University of Evansville while traveling in her free time.

Harlaxton College

This is located in Grantham, England and you can get tours of this historical building built in the 1800s.
This is located in Grantham, England and you can get tours of this historical building built in the 1800s.

I spent a semester in England in the spring of 2017, and I must say I was very impressed with the beautiful history and culture there. I was expecting it to be very similar to America, but the longer I was there, the more wrong I realized I was. While some parallels can be drawn, England has its own identity and culture that differs from mine in many ways. This is a guide to some of the surprises you may have, as well as some tips for when you're traveling.

Tower Bridge

Many people believe this is the London Bridge, but it's actually the Tower Bridge.  Located next to it is the Tower of London, which I strongly believe is worth the admission price.
Many people believe this is the London Bridge, but it's actually the Tower Bridge. Located next to it is the Tower of London, which I strongly believe is worth the admission price.

Differences Between England and America

1. English in England is not the same as it is in America. It's similar, but don't be surprised if you hear some new terminology including words and phrases such as "wanker," "bloody," and "taking the piss."

2. The English are very open and honest. They're far less sensitive than Americans and aren't afraid to speak their mind. If you find something that somebody said to be offensive, it likely wasn't intended to be that way.

3. Going along with number two, don't be afraid to start up a conversation with anyone at any time, and also don't be surprised when other people do the same with you. I found that in England, people were far open to conversations with strangers than they would be in America. They're far less likely to keep to themselves.

4. The drinking culture is far more extreme than it is in America. Many college students will party four nights a week and even older adults may do this on weekends. It's not uncommon for coworkers to go out for a pint or two each day after work. While this isn't very common in America, in England it is embraced and something you should accept when you go there.

This little shop is located in Lincoln.  They had an impressive array of whiskey; the perfect place for whiskey connoisseurs.
This little shop is located in Lincoln. They had an impressive array of whiskey; the perfect place for whiskey connoisseurs.

5. There is much more diversity in England than in America. This is because anyone from a country that used to be an English colony is allowed automatic citizenship there if they wish. England also has very open borders and takes in large numbers of refugees and immigrants.

6. Americans are very loud and the English are not. Try to be aware of your speaking volume and don't have loud conversations out in public unless you want to bother everyone around you.

7. They drive on the left side of the road in England. Please don't rent a car unless you feel comfortable with that.

8. The train system in England is very advanced and efficient, far more so than in America. Trains are actually a much better method of transportation than cars anyways.

House of Minalima

Calling all Harry Potter fans!  House of Minalima is a small museum dedicated to Harry Potter artwork from the movies.  It's one of London's many free museums.
Calling all Harry Potter fans! House of Minalima is a small museum dedicated to Harry Potter artwork from the movies. It's one of London's many free museums.

Travel Tips

1. Lets start off by talking about trains: trains are by and far the easiest and most reliable method of transportation in England. If you plan on using a train more than 3 or 4 times, I would strongly recommend buying a railcard. Not everyone qualifies, but if you do, you can save 30% on every single ticket you buy! You can also book trains very easily at trainline.com or download the trainline app.

2. London is an extremely expensive city, so I wouldn't recommend doing any shopping or drinking there unless you have lots of money to spare.

3. Though London is expensive, it does have numerous free museums! I went to the British Museum, V&A Museum, National Gallery, and Imperial War Museum in London all for free. Click here for some of the most popular ones.

4. You can see many different musicals, plays, and operas at a fairly low cost that are still of high quality.

Lincoln

I visited the Lincoln Cathedral in Lincoln on a rather foggy day.  This is one site that I would recommend seeing while in England.
I visited the Lincoln Cathedral in Lincoln on a rather foggy day. This is one site that I would recommend seeing while in England.

Popular English Cities

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A markerLondon -
London, UK
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The capital of England and the biggest city.

B markerBirmingham UK -
Birmingham, UK
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A less crowded and more modern version of London

C markerStratford-upon-Avon -
Stratford-upon-Avon CV37, UK
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The birthplace of Shakespeare.

D markerManchester -
Manchester, UK
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The birthplace of the first railroad in England

E markerLiverpool, UK -
Liverpool, UK
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Famous for The Beatles

F markerLincoln, UK -
Lincoln, UK
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Location of the Lincoln Cathedral

G markerNottingham -
Nottingham, UK
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Modern city with several universities and nice shopping centers. Also home to the oldest pub in England

Stratford-Upon-Avon

This is the birthplace of Shakespeare.  It's a charming little town, but if you're short on time, don't feel like you need to visit.
This is the birthplace of Shakespeare. It's a charming little town, but if you're short on time, don't feel like you need to visit.

Poll

What city in England do you want to visit the most?

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Birmingham

Birmingham is like a smaller and less crowded version of London.  It has a more modern and hip feel to it.
Birmingham is like a smaller and less crowded version of London. It has a more modern and hip feel to it.

5. Try to avoid Piccadilly Square in London in the evenings on Fridays and Saturdays if you don't like large crowds of people. I have never been somewhere so crowded in my entire life.

6. There's more to England than just London! Make sure you visit Stratford-upon-Avon, Birmingham, Lincoln, Liverpool, Manchester, Bath, and many more. England has incredible historical buildings and landmarks everywhere you turn. If you only visit London, you will be missing out on quite a bit.

7. I would recommend not bringing up Brexit unless you are genuinely interested in learning about it and other people's opinions on it. It gets tiresome very quickly to repeatedly answer the same question over and over again. With that being said, be prepared to get asked about Trump a lot when you're abroad. You'll learn very quickly just how tiresome it is.

8. London has many different districts including Shoreditch, Lewisham, and Greenwich. If you're looking for something else free to do, you can explore all the different districts London has to offer. Each area is unique.

Map of London Districts

Source

9. The weather in England is very similar to what you would find in the pacific northwest of America. It rains a lot and it won't get hotter than about 70 degrees Fahrenheit typically. Bring an umbrella, rain jacket, and rain boots for your trip.

10. Pub food in England is the best food. If you're looking for a good meal, go to a pub. They're usually very inviting and friendly environments.

11. Visit as many cathedrals and historical sites as you can, despite the price. These were the best things that I spent my money on in England. Being able to walk on the same ground that Henry the VIII walked on or be among the tombs of famous composers is priceless.

Westminster Cathedral

This is one cathedral that I firmly believe is worth the splurge.  Located in London, it contains the tombs of many famous rulers.
This is one cathedral that I firmly believe is worth the splurge. Located in London, it contains the tombs of many famous rulers.

The British Museum

The British Museum is free and contains thousands of fascinating artifacts.  A must-see if you want to learn more about British history.
The British Museum is free and contains thousands of fascinating artifacts. A must-see if you want to learn more about British history.

Final Thoughts

After a full semester in England, it definitely wasn't what I expected it to be, but in a good way. The culture, people, and food were all phenomenal and there was so much to see and do, despite the small size of the country. I would recommend spending a couple days in each of the major cities to get a better feel of the culture and history that England has to offer. Every city is different and unique in it's own way.

Let me know if you have any thoughts questions regarding what I've said in the comments below!

© 2017 Lindsay Langstaff

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