So… Am I British Yet? Tips on Living Cheaply in London
Living Like a Local in London requires just a little savvy and know-how.
By Emma White, Syracuse University
In one of the classes I am taking entitled “Traveler’s Tales” (which one would think would be talking about our experience, but no, I somehow got roped into having to read The Odyssey, yes I’m bitter), one girl in my class brought up an interesting point. She asked “How long would it take me being here to be considered a quote-un-quote Londoner?”. We then went into a class discussion on what being a Londoner actually meant. Did it mean having an EU passport and getting to skip all the lines at customs? Did it mean walking out into the street and confidently knowing which direction the cars are coming from? Did it mean not staring at the pile of change in your hand when trying to pay for something? If being a Londoner requires any of those things then I am definitely not a Londoner. However, I believe I had a true Londoner experience this past weekend.
I spent this past weekend visiting Dublin, Ireland with friends. I loved the countryside of Ireland more than I thought I ever would. It is hard to even put into words (or even pictures) because neither would do it justice.
Although I loved being in Dublin, I felt that by the end as if I just wanted to go home. And when I meant home… I meant London! To me, this made me feel as if I was actually a part of the city I have been living in for the past month. And this past month I’ve picked up a few tips from people who have that whole crossing the street thing down..
The first thing that people will tell you about London is that it’s expensive. Between the exchange rate, going out and if you’re like me and can’t walk by a gelato shop without walking in, get ready to spend some serious money. What people don’t know is that there are easy ways to get discounts that you wouldn’t necessarily think of! Showing a student card can get you discounts at retail stores, restaurants and clubs. In terms of going out in London, most places have a cover charge but there are ways around it! For a lot of places, something as simple as adding your email address to a mailing list will get you free entry! Also, many bars and clubs have free cover if you go earlier before it gets crowded. You might be the first ones there but after seeing the cover charge add up over the weeks you won’t mind after a while.
One of the best student discounts London offers is the oyster card. It is a discounted card for the London Underground System. I thought that I would hate taking the tube to class everyday but it is essential to getting around London. A student rate for a monthly unlimited pass is about £80 and it will pay for itself in about a week. Almost everywhere is accessible by the tube so this card will become your new best friend.
You’ll find that by going to the “top” places in London like the big clubs the less likely you are to have any real interactions with locals. Instead, you tend to stick with your group of friends or other Americans you may have found. If you want to meet local British people it is much better to go to the quintessential London pub. You will see people out drinking at pubs at noon and all throughout the day. With the lack of open containers laws at night people will linger outside of pubs spilling onto sidewalks and the street. Throughout the week, pubs are the place to be. Also, by going to bars and pubs by local British universities you can ensure you will meet British people your own age. We have met students from University College of London, London School of Economics and Queen Mary who go out right around their school (aka Syracuse’s DJs and Chucks). They best way to find out about going out in London is to get the advice of people who live and go to school around the area. That way since they want to avoid the touristy places, you will too.
We also often go to the local pub right across the street from us, The Prince Edward. What is nice about having a local pub right near us is that we have gotten to know the people who work there and other regulars. We can text the manager, tell him we’re coming in and he will have a table with drinks ready for us! And I thought they weren’t into customer service over here?!