So you’re about to (or thinking about) making the move from Canada to London. It’s a super exciting time, not only because you’re heading to a completely new continent, but it’s highly likely that your new life is going to be wildly different to the one you’re used to.
From the wide open spaces of the prairies, the craggy peaks of the Rockies, and the multitude of freshwater lakes you’re used to, get ready to be mind-blown as you live, move, and breathe around some of the world’s most famous historical buildings and monuments: St Pauls’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, The Tower of London…
They’ll soon all be right in your back yard!
So, with such monumental differences to look forward to, here are our top 10 tips for Canadians making the move from their wilderness playground to “the Big Smoke” (as London is affectionately known).
1. Learn how Canadian English and British English differs
Or don’t… Because sometimes messing up with words is a great ice-breaker.
Just be aware that, for instance, talking about your “pants” in London means you’re referring to your underwear – as are “thongs.” And if you ask for a “double-double” in a coffee shop in London, you’ll get a very odd look because it doesn’t exist.
You simply need to ask for extra cream/milk and sugar.
2. Don’t be offended if people assume you’re American
Because this is going to happen – a lot!
It’s not that us Brits mean to be offensive, we simply don’t recognise the difference between a Canadian and American accent. Heck, many of us have trouble distinguishing between an Irish and Scottish accent, so there’s not a lot of hope for us, really…
3. You’re going to be cold
Okay, so Canadians know about cold! After all, you come from a country where it’s necessary to plug your car in overnight in order to be able to start it again the next day.
Plus you have multi-winter days where it feels like your breath is freezing inside your nose – but what you don’t have experience of is the British damp.
Sure, it might be a “balmy” zero degrees – but combine this with dampness, and the peculiar combination is something that seeps inside your bones.
But hey, you’ve got some of the best clothing in the world to protect against the cold, so remember to bring your warmest boots, coat, and jumpers for the winter months.
Putting a dehumidifier in your house is also a great way to combat damp.
4. Learn to love public transport – and the “unwritten rules”
London’s public transport system is brilliant – and one that’s envied in cities around the world. But it’s going to be a bit of a shock to the system at first – especially if you travel during rush hour.
The trains and underground stations are busy, busy, busy during the hours of 07:30-09:30 and 16:30-19:00 during the week, but with a little bit of “London savvy,” you can learn to ride the swarms of people with finesse!
Firstly, always stand on the right on the escalators – leaving the left side free for people to walk past. Top tip – move down the platform to the very end (where the front of the train will stop).
The first couple of carriages are always quieter than the rest, even during rush hour. Once inside, move down inside the carriage, as the worst crush of people occurs in the area around the doors.
5. Make friends from home…
But don’t forget to make friends with Londoners and all other nationalities that live here too.
Of course, we all gravitate towards familiarity, and sometimes you just need a fellow Cannuck to discuss ice hockey or bemoan the fact that there’s no Tim Horton’s here (you have to put up with Costa or Caffe Nero instead…).
Meet Up is a great website that puts you in touch with others from home, including a regular Canadian London Expat group with nearly 2,500 members (as of October 2015).
6. Never pay full price for a meal in a restaurant
7. Experience the London markets
You can purchase just about anything at London’s many markets. From antiques to flowers, fish to meat, it’s all available at prices far cheaper than the high street shops.
Plus they’re great fun to browse and while away a few hours experiencing authentic London at its best.
8. Ditch the guidebook
Sometimes the best way to explore is to simply follow your nose, and London is one of the best places in the world to do this.
There are things to discover down every side street and cobbled alley – and the great thing is that however much you twist and turn, you’re never going to be that far away from a main road where you can get your bearings once again.
9. Walk the parks
London has an amazing amount of green areas for such a crowded city.
And these wonderful oases mean that no matter how frazzled your day might have been, you can always get away from the masses and enjoy a bit of “you” time.
10. Get out of London
And if you’re craving a little bit of wilderness, be sure to head north to the wonderful Lake District or Peak District national parks, with atmosphere’s sure to wash away even the most ingrained of city stress…