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So having recently been in Europe, there were a few interesting facts about England (and London specifically) that surprised me. Although I am not an uber world traveler, I realized that things to be exactly the same as I was used to – after all, part of the fun of traveling is experiencing new cultures and new ways of doing things. So for example, I already knew that I’d need a chip and pin card to use some ticket kiosks, and of course I knew basic things like Londoners drive on the left and use pounds sterling instead of dollars. But there were also some interesting facts about London that I did NOT know and was surprised by as we spent a few days in London, England and the rest of Europe
1. Public drinking water is scarce
Living in the United States, public drinking water is very prevalent. Just about any set of bathrooms will have a drinking fountain right next to them. In Europe that was not the case – I found very few public drinking fountains.
2. Lack of (free) public toilets
Again, perhaps this is just lack of exposure to other countries / cultures. Though actually doing some research, public toilets in the US used to cost something until the late 1970s – they were ended in part due to the grass-roots work of the Committee to End Pay Toilets in America (CEPTIA). When walking around London, there were often NO public toilets while walking around, and those that were were often pay toilets. And of course being the cheapskate I am, I thought there is NO way I’m paying 50 pence to use the bathroom! (In hindsight, I probably should have just paid)
3. You WALK on the left too
I knew that in London and the UK that cars DROVE on the right. It must have caused enough accidents from visitors from the US and other right-driving countries that most of the crosswalks we came to actually had signs telling people which direction to look for cars
What I didn’t realize is that for the most part, pedestrians also WALK on the left. In the US, if two people are on the sidewalk approaching each other, typically you will pass on the right (or perhaps engage in some shuggleftulation). But in the UK, we found that you would typically PASS on the left.
4. There seemed to be a lot of people smoking
It felt like everywhere I went in central London that there were a large number of people outside buildings smoking. It FELT more prevalent compared to what I’m used to, though I did look up the per capita statistics and it is 18% in the USA compared to 19% in the UK, so no real appreciable difference. Perhaps it was just where I went (compared to the types of places I normally frequent at home)
5. Where did all the street signs go?
In the US, street signs are typically on poles at the corners of intersections (or sometimes hanging suspended at an intersection). In the UK and Ireland and I think the majority of Europe, the street signs are ON the building. Here’s a picture of Abbey Road in London
Again, nothing wrong with this; just a different way of doing things. It was just one of the interesting facts about England I didn’t realize before I got there. When we first arrived in Dublin, Ireland (after our flight was canceled), it was dark and we were a little lost after getting from Dublin Airport into Dublin City. I kept trying to find a street sign to figure out where we were and eventually gave up. Once the sun came out, we figured out where we needed to look for street signs.
6. London Bridge is actually TOWER Bridge
What most people think of as “London Bridge” is actually called Tower Bridge
The original London Bridge was dismantled in 1967 and now is in (wait for it)… Lake Havasu City, Arizona, USA (no, really)
7. There’s a daily cap for rides on the London Tube and buses
We didn’t have a car while we .Another one of the interesting facts about England (and a very useful one!) that we found while we were in London was that there’s a daily cap on charges to ride the London Underground and buses. If you’re staying inside Zone 1 (Central London), no matter how much you ride the bus or tube, you’ll only be charged £6.50. London has a great public transit system, and we used that to great advantage on the days that we stayed in the city.
What are some of the interesting facts about England that you’ve run into?