If you are going to the UK soon, whether it’s for a holiday or to move there, there might be a few things that will surprise you. BeeLoved City put together a complete list of things you should know before visiting the UK. Depending on where you are from, some will be normal to you and some will be very odd. Regardless, it’s always good to know!
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There aren’t switches in the bathroom
There are no switches in UK bathrooms. This is a nationwide requirement meant to ensure everyone’s safety. The electric system in the UK is built with a very high voltage which can make it very dangerous. For this very reason, light switches are not allowed in bathrooms as it would represent a risk of electrocution with the humidity naturally present in a bathroom.
To switch the light on, you will either find a switch outside of the bathroom or a string to pull inside.
No plugs in the bathroom
Exactly like for the light switches, putting plugs in bathrooms would represent a hazard. No plugs are allowed in bathroom which means that you will have to find another place to dry your hair or shave.
The UK and Ireland have different plugs than the rest of the world.
It is important to think about bringing an adaptor. Don’t worry if you forget though, adaptors are sold everywhere, even at Primark!
A UK plug has three holes. The top one is actually only a long piece of plastic meant to unlock the safety security. The two bottom ones are where the electricity goes through.
As a last resort, if you have a European device, you will be able to plug it if you manage to stick a piece of plastic long enough in the top one (careful with that though!)
Unlike the rest of Europe, in the UK, you will find little plug switches above each plug. These sockets are there to turn on and off the plug. Think about turning it on as otherwise, electricity won’t go through. If it’s on, the top of the socket will be red. If you can’t see the top of the socket, the plug is off.
Toilets are always in the bathroom
In the UK, toilets are always in the bathroom. There is no separate room for the toilet. Nothing to be too worried about but always good to know!
Washing machines are very often in the kitchen
As a general thing, houses in the UK tend to be quite small. It’s a small island with a lot of people to fit in, therefore the living space has to be optimized. For this reason, it’s very common for the washing machine and dryer to be in the kitchen.
If this would not come as a shock for other Europeans, it will definitely surprise a few Americans!
There aren’t shutters on the windows
This one is a controversial one as some people will find it completely normal and some others will be extremely shocked by it.
Due to the fact that the UK is a protestant country, There are no shutters on windows. Traditionally, Protestants believed that putting shutters on like Catholics do means you have something to hide in your house. Therefore, no shutters.
Instead, you will get either blinds or curtains which means that it will never be pitch dark in the room if there is light outside.
British food is very good
It is safe to say that British cuisine doesn’t have the best reputation abroad. This mainly comes from the fact that British food is not as elaborated as others and the range of products used is not wide as it could be.
That having been said, in the past 10 years, Britain had a culinary revolution. This is mainly due to the fact that some British chefs like Jaimie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay became massively famous and some foreign chefs such as Gino D’accampo moved to the UK and brought new things to the British food scene.
Nowadays, British food is very good! You won’t be disappointed with the food! We recommend you to try: Sunday roast, lamb in mint sauce, scones, English breakfast, fish and chips…
They don’t kid with tea
The Brits love their tea. This is not just a stereotype! No matter where you go it will be everywhere! In supermarkets, you will find massive boxes with hundreds of tea bags. They also drink their tea with milk too!
Sandwiches are the Brits favourite lunch
Being French I was used to my 3 or 4-course meals every day. For a French person, a sandwich is not considered as a proper meal, just a snack you get when you’re in a rush. In the UK, most people have sandwiches for lunch. You will find all sorts! Everything you can think of they will put it in a sandwich. Corn, tuna, mayo or bacon, cheese, mushroom… you name it!
The Brits dress in their own way
British fashion is a rather difficult concept to explain. In the UK, you will find a bit of everything. The Brits don’t tend to follow fashion, they just wear whatever they want and feel comfortable wearing. It’s not unusual to see people shopping in a onesie for example.
When you go to the UK, you will see so many different styles.
Although it can be a bit disturbing at times because all these styles are mixed and clearly don’t always fit together, I always thought it was a great thing. You can just be yourself.
We drive on the left-hand side in the UK
In the UK, we drive on the left-hand side. If you are from Australia or South East Asia, it will be only normal to you. If you are from the rest of Europe or America, it will require a bit of getting used to.
There is nothing to be overly worried about, however you will have to be careful. Whether you are driving or walking, bear in mind everything is the opposite way. We drive on the left-hand side, on a roundabout priority is on your right, when you cross a road you have to look right first.
That having been said, the UK is very much aware of the fact that it’s a difficult thing to keep in mind and in most places you will find signs on the ground to remind you which way to look at.
British drivers are very polite
The brits are very polite people as a general thing but when it comes to driving, they go the extra mile! They are very organized in the way they drive and there is this common understanding that you will let people go or change lane.
If you are driving on the motorway for example and there is an insertion lane on the left, generally cars will move onto the right lane to let people insert themselves on the road. If there is traffic and an intersection, cars will go one by one in turns. That way nobody is blocked and each lane go forward equally.
Even though there is no proper rule that says you have to let people go, it is a common understanding and it will come across very rude if you don’t let them go.
The rules are the rules
British people are extremely disciplined and follow the rules thoroughly. This applies to driving as well. In the UK, you have to follow the rules. Don’t try to change lane abruptly for example. You put your indicator on first, someone will let you go (either by doing a sign or leaving more than enough space for you to go) and then you can go. In roundabouts, you have to be on the good lane otherwise you won’t be able to take the good exit.
Even though this seems like a very straightforward recommendation, it can be quite hard to follow when we are used to fewer rules or to just get on with it. In the UK, drivers won’t get on with it. If you are in the wrong lane they won’t understand why you’re trying to exit. That’s how accidents happen.
It’s something to be very careful of, check your GPS often and which lanes it’s indicating you to take as otherwise you will get it wrong.
Unfortunately, the roads in the UK are in very poor condition. There are potholes everywhere. It’s something you should be very careful about as it’s not unusual to blow up a tyre or damage your car. As a matter of fact, a claim is being raised every 7 minutes because of potholes.
It does rain a lot
This is no legend; it does rain a hell of a lot in the UK. Even though you have a better chance to get nice weather in summer, the weather is very unpredictable so there is no guarantee of anything. Sometimes we get very nice and sunny days in February and cold and rainy days in August. If you come to the UK between May and September it will be more likely to be nice, however, you really can not know. No matter what, always take rain clothes as you will need it at some point.
That having been said, we get heatwaves too and yes, you can get sunburns!
It floods a lot
Oddly enough, even though the UK gets a lot of rain, the infrastructures to deal with that quantity of water are not the best. Sewers get blocked quickly and often and it’s very common to have floods, especially in the north. Something to be aware of when driving as there are massive puddles everywhere.
The Brits are never cold
As a general thing, British people are never cold. They have some kind of superpowers that immunize them from the cold. If you go out on a Saturday night in the UK, you will understand what I mean straight away. They barely have any clothes on. The reason for that is originally to avoid having to pay for a cloakroom however as a general thing you will notice that they are never cold. As soon as there is a ray of sunshine, everyone wears t-shirts and dresses. Superpowers, I’m telling you!
The Brits are very polite
If there is one thing to remember about British people is that they are extremely polite. They are almost obsessed with it. This can be surprising for foreigners.
They love queuing
As previously said, the Brits are very polite and therefore like queuing. Of course, it’s not exactly that they like to wait but they like it being organised. You queue and go one by one. No chaos will be tolerate.
They always give you pet names such as Love, Darling, Honey, Babe…
The Brits love calling the others with these cute pet names. In certain countries such as France that would be particularly offending to have a complete stranger calling you like this. In the UK that’s normal. They are just naturally adorable!