10 things to know before travelling to the UK
We might share the same language, sense of humour and love for beer and cricket, Australia and the UK still have their differences. They may be small differences but differences none the less. So before you book your UK holiday and waltz on over thinking you know everything there is to know about the UK, think again with these 10 things to know.
When it comes to weather, expect the unexpected
Chances are your visit to the UK will be cold, rainy and windy – but it could also be sunny, humid and hot. As Australians, we tend to scoff at the thought of the UK being hotter than our stinking 40 degree summers but believe it. What’s even worse is that their buildings and tube aren’t built for summer either (what’s air conditioning?), and can be very warm in winter. So the key to preparing for the unexpected? Researching your seasons and packing lots of different layers.
You don’t need a visa, but you will need an address
If you’re an Australian citizen with an Australian passport, then you don’t need a visa if you’re just going to be holidaying in the UK for less than six months. No visa though doesn’t mean you can just rock up and expect to get in. Many ‘chill bro’ backpackers make the mistake of flying in to London without any booked accommodation and are often reduced to tears by immigration. Like any international destination, you’ll need to list an address you’ll be staying at in the UK. Even if it’s just for the first night, get it sorted before you fly.
They take their escalator etiquette seriously
The Brits are famed for their politeness and niceties but disobey some unspoken etiquette and you’ll be the victim of some serious stink eye. Nothing pisses off a Brit more than standing on the wrong side of the escalator. Particularly in London where there is plenty of people traffic and over 400 escalators on the London Underground to navigate, blocking the path is a serious etiquette misdemeanour. If you wish to simply ride the escalator, stand to the right, and if you wish to walk, keep to the left (think of it as your driving side).
If you push in a queue, you’ll get in trouble
Another polite public practice, the Brits are big on queuing as well. Push in and expect to face the wrath of everyone else who is waiting patiently as they should. Patience is also considered to be a valuable quality in the UK so complain obnoxiously and you’ll fail to really garner any sympathy.
There is more to the UK than London
It might be the easiest way to get there in terms of flights, but to fully experience London you’ve got to get away from London. Don’t get me wrong, the capital of the UK does have plenty to offer (so much in fact that few ever find the time to leave), but it’s very much an international city. For the UK of green fields, castles and quaint pubs, hire a car or catch the train to the English countryside, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast.
You should tip at restaurants
Tipping in the UK isn’t really expected like it is in the US. You don’t really need to tip taxi drivers of door men, but in restaurants and cafes it tends to be common practice, mainly because hospitably wages are quite low. Generally, most patrons will leave a 10% tip. However much you do decide to leave though, be discreet about it. It’s considered quite rude and arrogant to point out the tip.
Avoid starting a war by knowing the difference between North Ireland and Ireland
North Ireland and Ireland are very much separate from each other, a result of a long history of conflict and partition that dates back to the 19th century. Today, North Ireland is a region of the UK while Ireland (officially known as the Republic of Ireland) is a part of Europe. While the conflict - known at The Troubles – is officially over, the topic can still be contentious for locals. Don’t make the mistake of mixing up the two (or assuming there the same country) or you may end up unintentionally starting a war, or at the very least a heated pub argument.
There are a lot of accents
For such a small region (compared to Europe and the US) the UK has an amazing range of accents and dialects. For starters theirs the stark differences between English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish. Then there are the regional accents like John Lennon’s scouse accent, David Beckham’s cockney accent and the ‘mortal’ and ‘pullin birds’ dialect of the Geordie Shore gang. If you think Charlotte and Gary are hard to understand, wait till you hear the Shetlantdic accents in Scotland or the Wenglish accents of South West Wales.
Expect to spend a lot of time in the pub
Heading to the pub is pretty much a way of life in the UK. In fact in most towns, especially regional ones, the pubs is less a place to drink pints and more a meeting place – like a Town Hall that conveniently serves hearty food and has beer on tap. As a result, wherever you end up in the UK, the pub is always a good idea; breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Don’t eat Haggis
Just take my word for it – don’t eat it. I’m all for eating weird and wacky things (bring forth the deep fried insects), but I think I’ve got to draw the line when it comes to this Scottish delicacy. Unless the sound of pudding featuring sheep’s heart, liver, lungs, onion, spices, oatmeal and stock encased in an animal’s stomach sounds appealing to you, I’d be giving it a miss.