five lessons for an american expat in london, as told in MIC gifs

theromanticWell, hi! Hello. In case you haven’t noticed (and, let’s be honest, you probably haven’t), posting has been a bit light around LT land, thanks to big changes for both the wino and myself. This doesn’t, however, mean that things have been light behind the scenes. Things have been ca-razy behind the scenes.

I won’t bore you with the details, but basically, we both moved at almost the same exact time, and it’s been a reeeaaaal process. Throw in the wino’s wedding planning and a lot of new side projects for the two of us, and, well, here we are! Or, I guess, here we are not.

But, don’t you worry, it’s not all hanging curtains and poofing pillows. There’s been plenty of time for me to absorb that fact that I live in London now, and things are decidedly different than when we lived in France. Three months ago. Three months! That’s all that’s passed since life in the countryside was our reality.

Obviously, three months does not an expert make. But even so, here’s what I’ve learned so far, with a little help from my new friends from Made in Chelsea.

LESSON #1: Your wifi will not work, and no, you most certainly cannot have a cell phone // I don’t know what the deal is, but we were warned well in advance that telecom in the UK is not so good. Friends who moved here and settled in before us told us tales of horror about missed appointments, cut phone lines, and weeks and weeks without access to the outside world. Naturally, I didn’t believe them.

made in chelsea - mentalIt just didn’t seem plausible. I had wifi in the middle of the jungle in Chiang Mai, how hard could it be to set up a cell and get some signal in an apartment in Central London?

HAHAHAHAHA. Idiot. It’s damn near impossible. It was easier to set up an international bank account than it was to get Vodafone to sell me a cellie, and I’m pretty sure my interactions with Sky Broadband peaked yesterday when I asked the equally frustrated operator, “Are you a fucking NUN?”

Clearly, that’s a long story for a different day (and a lot of wine), but know this: if you’re moving to London from the US, do not expect to be FaceTiming your besties for the first few weeks/months, let alone blogging about anything.

LESSON #2 : British customer service is… not. It’s just not. // After France, I just assumed that any customer service experience would be a delight. I was wrong. Vodafone and Sky aside, here’s what it’s like to buy an air mattress at John Lewis:

  1. Find the air mattresses, look at the three options, and choose the one you want.
  2. Pick up the box from the display, and take it to the till.
  3. Try to be patient as the extremely bubbly salesgirl giggles and tells you you can’t just take that air mattress, you have to pay here and then pick it up in customer collection on your way out.
  4. You find this weird, but ok, fine! Ring us up!
  5. She tells you, “We’re all out of stock.”
  6. You ask, “…can we just have the one we’re holding?”
  7. Blink blink.
  8. No.

awkwardThis was indicative of a long line of weird retail experiences, involving missed delivery windows (hey, I get it, it’s hard to drive across London in SEVEN HOURS) and broken furniture, and we just realized… customer service in the UK isn’t the same as back home.

My very favorite was when we ordered a cabinet from Ikea. As the, once again, excessively chipper deliverymen were leaving, one said, “oh, yeah! Two pieces are missing, but we don’t know what they do… cheers!” And off they went. When the hubs called them back (because I’m not supposed to call anyone anymore), and said, uhhh, what?, they said, “Hey, mate! Don’t worry about it, the warehouse’ll get you sorted. We had a delivery today where 38 out of 40 items were missing, so two ain’t all that bad! … CHEERS.”blink

Because they always say cheers when they’re screwing you over here, and that’s lesson 2 1/2.

LESSON #3 : We have a lot of crap // You know, in hindsight, maybe all our weird shopping experiences are nature’s way of telling us we don’t need more things anyway? Because after the JL dramz, our stuff from home arrived. And holy crap, after 18 months of living without it, I really do not know how we ever lived with it. 27 boxes showed up, and I think about 10 were unpacked, packed right back up, and donated.

It was nice to realize that 18 months of a semi-nomadic life did teach us a few lessons, and one is that we don’t need so. much. stuff. Unfortunately, the fun of decorating a new space is mildly taking over, but, if I may say myself — and this is my post, so I will — I’m getting much, much better at being a thoughtful shopper and trying to only buy things that serve a purpose.

I say try, because I’m really obsessed with Graham & Green and I’m not sure the owl bookends I just bought are actually that useful.

oh okLESSON #4: British humor slays me // I appreciate nothing more than a dry sense of humor, and British people are the DRIEST. It’s the very best, except, because their humor is so understated, so, too, are the responses. And I am pretty much anything but understated.

At parties, while the rest of the group lets out a little giggle when someone cracks a joke, I seriously sometimes have trouble regaining composure. Because once I’ve realized I’ve laughed too hard at a joke, well, then, I can’t stop laughing.

made in chelsea - awkwardClearly, this is something I need to work on.

LESSON #5 : British people love to drink // I mean, no shit, but seriously. They love it. It’s raining? Ugh, let’s have a pint. It’s sunny! Let’s have a pint! Monday? PINTS. Friday? PIIIIIIIIINTS.

I don’t know if it’s because last call is so early at the pubs (most close by midnight, even on the weekends), or what, but they will take literally any excuse to have an afternoon pint… and then not stop until they can’t see straight. Our neighborhood is borderline insane by 9 PM on a Friday, and we’re mostly surrounded by families! PINTS

All of this is to say that obviously, we approve.

BONUS LESSON : London is the best // It is. It’s the very, very best. I mean, I’ve only been here for three months, but still! I’m smitten. I obviously had reached my cap on country living in la forêt, but before we knew where we were heading, I was concerned we might land in a city that wasn’t the best fit. I love that we have a social life that doesn’t exclusively revolve around château bonfires in the middle of a field, I love that we have a neighborhood coffee shop that knows our order, I love that the hubs’s daily commute involves a morning walk through Hyde Park, and I love that burgers are having a real moment here.

Yeah, no gif for this one, so instead, a question: Londoners — favorite burger spot? We’ve tried an embarrassing amount of places, but we’re clearly not done yet. So far, Honest, BOBO, and Burger & Lobster are in the lead, with BOOM as the surprising recent fave. Help a meat eater out, because I have a wino to impress in one month and counting.

And there we have it! Three months really isn’t all that long, so I’m sure there will be loads of lessons to regale you with in the very near future.

And until then, pip pip cheerio. Or whatever.


the romantic



  1. October 28, 2014 / 11:10

    Haha love this post! Very funny and enjoyable to read 🙂 Looking forward to my first visit to London next month! Definitely foresee myself being the girl who laughs too much at jokes and may need to rethink signing off on all my emails with “cheers!”


  2. October 30, 2014 / 09:20

    quite the experiences! But now that you’ve conquered them all, you can have a pint.

  3. October 30, 2014 / 19:41

    So this post made me laugh out loud on a bus. And yes, it was one of the louder American laughs. The “not being able to get a subscription to things before you have credit” in this country drove me mental. I had to get my work to give me a cellphone contract. Internet was pretty easy so I think I was lucky (Plusnet and there was already a line installed.) That said, I am so glad to hear you are loving London. It really does kinda grab you by the heartstrings.
    Jess (Jess-On-Thames) recently posted..Re: French Food & Wine Pairing MasterclassMy Profile

    • November 11, 2014 / 03:56

      omg i’m literally STILL having internet problems. but yes, london is worth the headache, i think. (though if sky keeps up this mess, ask me again in 6 weeks if i still feel that way.)
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..laws to travel by – #63My Profile

  4. November 4, 2014 / 17:07

    As someone who lives in France with a Brit (things are sooooo much better in UK!!) I was spit and smug at reading what actually DIDN’T work. Just a brief moment of selfish glee or irrational joy, a loud irretrievable hee-hee. Enjoyed this hugely!

    • November 11, 2014 / 03:58

      to be fair, my post on what doesn’t work in france would be, like, 8 times as long. but you don’t have to tell your brit 😉
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..laws to travel by – #63My Profile

  5. November 11, 2014 / 03:00

    #4 — bloody brilliant! LOL, this post had me in near tears. haha. And, 27 boxes? Holy crap you guys! But I’m so glad to hear you are still smitten with London. I’d probably be too living there. 🙂
    Kieu recently posted..Don’t judge me – the Asian things I packMy Profile

  6. Brittney
    November 17, 2014 / 10:43

    Love this post! So, after the lazy travelers, the Londoner is my favorite blog! when we went to London, I almost exclusively went to raves and recommendations she shared. And OH SO MANY burger spots. I would check it out! 🙂

  7. sarah
    April 8, 2015 / 16:48

    question for you: as an american student in london, i wonder…how did you find a visa sponsorship in order to legally stay in the uk? it seems challenging from the research i’ve done 🙁

    • April 9, 2015 / 05:17

      hi there! i’m not actually a student… i just got really lucky and am able to be here legally because my husband (also american) got a job in london. i’m not sure what you’re looking to do professionally, but there a few residence visas that appeal to creatives & entrepreneurs that might be a good match! they involve a lot of leg work, but if you have the qualifications, i’ve heard more success stories than not. feel free to email if you have more questions!! info at the lazy travelers dot com. xo!
      Lazy Travelers recently posted..jetsetters: michael & hilda of @newkidzprojectsMy Profile

  8. Valerie
    April 16, 2015 / 16:37

    Great post – I really relate! I think living in the UK for so many years I get numb to it – then a long visit back to the states and my return to the UK is traumatic all over again!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge