What I Learned {About Living in London} in May

by | Jun 1, 2015 | What I Learned

I attempted to share what I’ve learned since living in London in March and then again in April and well, here we are on the first day of June and it still feels overwhelming to make a list. Honestly, if I shared all the things I’ve learned about living in another culture, I could possibly have the beginning of a book.

But you don’t want to know ALL the things, like my son’s horrible first hair cut here or that time I bought too many groceries and my hot-out-of-the-oven baguette rolled into the busy street while trying to balance bags and pull a trolley behind me.

Oh, you do? Okay then, let’s get to it.


1)  Not having a car isn’t as inconvenient as I assumed because public transportation is plentiful and relatively cheap. Unless you need to go to IKEA, Costco or buy potting soil and plants. Then you need a giant back seat. A car isn’t necessary in the city but handy if you overfill your grocery cart, realize you forgot your phone and can’t call your son to help carry the bags for you. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

2)  All that money you save by not having to insure or park a car goes to fund Zip Car.

3)  Ordering groceries on-line delivered for less than two dollars to your house. Do I really need to say more about this?


4)  I learned to meet people for tea or lunch in strategic places on the path where H walks home. Why you ask? His debit card. I didn’t have one of my own until last week. Two months sharing one bank card makes me realize how much I take the ability to purchase for granted.  Yes, it takes like FOREVER to get a bank account here.

5)  Phone numbers are long and illogical. I finally have mine memorized but if I need to call someone and my phone dies, I’m in trouble.

6)  Tea isn’t just something you drink; it is the cultural common denominator that removes awkwardness in meetings. Tea brings people together in homes and restaurants, a lot.

7)  My favorite tea is Yorkshire Gold but I admit to missing Red Rose from Canada.


8)  The water pouring out of the tap frightens me just a little if I’m honest. The sediment (commonly referred to as scale) hard water leaves on dishes and the shower makes me feel as if I am somehow corrupting my health. And then there is faith and trust in Jesus. And denial.

9)  People in the United States are much more enamored with the Royals than the Brits. That’s just my opinion; you don’t have to agree with it.

10)  While we are having things fixed in the house, I learned that what I would call hardware in a handle, lock and mail slot for the door is actually called door furniture in England. And a painter is referred to as a decorator in this culture. When people kept telling us that they would have to hire a decorator for the house, I kept thinking, “No, I can do that myself, I don’t need one.”

11)  People actually drive by the house to see the color we painted the door after I wrote about it.

12)  Every single time the mail pushes through the slot, the sound frightens me as it hits the floor. I’m sure I’ll get used to it. Next year.

13)  I learned that the sounds, smells and tastes that I once considered insignificant in my life were actually providing a level of comfort somehow. The Today Show in the morning, the hum of a lawn mower, the smell of Tide on clean sheets, salt – on anything, singing to music turned up when driving by myself (okay that should probably go in #1 but whatevs) and falling asleep to Jimmy Fallon. Miss all those things like a boss.

14)  But not as much as I miss my daughter being with us.


15)  I’m head-over-heels in love with Voxer, Facebook, email and blogging. Because I’ve learned that no matter where you live in the world, if you can’t pick up a phone and talk, meaningful conversation is possible with the people who love you and you love back.

16)  Rain, train delays, and crowded buses at 5pm won’t keep you from getting where you need to go but they are predictable components of life in London. Success in navigating obstacles is determined by your outlook. And an umbrella is always a staple in your purse.

17)  God is often a stranger on a bus.

Is there anything that surprises you on my list? What have you learned lately?

Linking with Emily at Chatting at the Sky.

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  1. Linda@Creekside

    I haven’t been to Great Britain since I was 14, and your musings brought back sweet memories, Shelly! Let’s hear it for endless pots of tea, piping hot scones, and the decadent cream cookies!


    • Shelly Miller

      I’m glad this post caused you to reminisce Linda. Thanks for stopping by, I’m holding up my tea cup to you!!

  2. Mary Gemmill

    So many adjustments for you Shelly~! I wonder if the fat package in the mail will come through your mail hole or whether you might have to go somewhere to collect it…I pray I have not sent a huge inconvenience !! I know mail order shopping is convenient…but I would miss browsing for things i might want to try….:) May God be with you in and through all these adjustments ! AND…you can order tea online…my son orders up huge amounts from ebay and it’s cheap!! Love and prayers for blessings. xxx

    • Shelly Miller

      Nothing you do for me could ever be an inconvenience Mary! So grateful for all those yummy packages of nuts that came in the mail yesterday. I love getting mail and yours was truly a gift to receive with gratitude and wonder. God loves us so, yes?

  3. Jennifer Camp

    Shelly, I love how you appreciate the new, good things, as well as the challenges. I am so grateful for your perceptiveness and willingness to be vulnerable. You are such a blessing. Beautiful post. Thank you.

    • Shelly Miller

      Your words truly bless me Jennifer, thank you so much. I hope you are well, think of you often. Keep in touch!!

  4. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly, with England being in my blood and heart, of course, I love reading about all your impressions of it, and of course, I love reading anything YOU write–period! I just love YOU! And I would agree: Praise God for email, blogs, FB (ha–I am finally doing FB and even thanking God for it)! These universal means of communications are wonderful means of connection, and when used well, can all be to God’s glory. Wow, Yorkshire Gold. How I love that tea, and especially drinking it in York. You’ve been there, right? You haven’t mentioned the awe-inspiring cathedrals, and the chance to hear magnificent classical music at every turn–from something as glorious as a huge concert to as simply stunning as an evensong with a boys choir in a parish church. And art. Oh, ART….the National Gallery and Tate Musuem in London and of course, the Ashmolean in Oxford, which you recently visited. And the gardens….the ubiquitous gardens! I believe you did write about your own. Obviously you love all this stuff, and as you say, you can’t write about it all here. These are just some of my favorite things. I really enjoyed reading about the “decorator,” especially since we are having tons of necessary work done in our master bathroom. I thnk the guys would laugh were I to call them decorators (or think I was being my usual pretentious self! 🙂 ) But it might be fun sometime for you to compare language differences . . . such as john or loo, funeral parlor or restroom, trunk or boot, baby buggy or perambulator (pram for short), just to name a few. The first time I was in London and asked to use the restroom in the Tate Museum, the attendant looked at me like I was from another planet. He thought I was looking for a corpse! You are having the opportunity of a lifetime, and I know you know this. I am soooooooooooooo happy for you. But I do know you miss your precious daughter. That’s the one thing I am sure that grips your heart. But she will graduate soon, and I hope she will be able to join you all. Sending so much love and thanksgiving for the wonderful way in which God is using you, H, and Harrison across the pond.

    • Shelly Miller

      I love the way you love England as much as I do Lynn. Your exuberance shows in this post! I will never be without something to write about while living here, you can be sure of that. We are making our way around parks, museums and new places. So much to see in this little country it is truly astounding.

  5. Nancy Ruegg

    I’ve been missing these monthly “What I’ve Learned” posts! Thought perhaps you’d grown tired of the topic or of keeping the list. Right now I’m learning to keep some potted flowers alive! 🙂

  6. Jean Wise

    i love all this sharing and insights you are giving us and how you write them up makes me smile too. Thank you for the gift of YOU!!

  7. MsLorretty

    Love! Very much love.

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