You Know You’re an American in London When…Part 2

The adventures of foreign service life adjustment continue…

1.  Look left. Look right. Look everywhere?
The Brits have been so kind as to paint on the street at most intersections which way to look for cars speeding towards you. See below.
Thanks guys. But even with that, I’m still not used to the whole driving on the left side of the road thing. M actually wanted us to bike ride home the other day from somewhere. I just laughed (you’re supposed to ride in the street…).
Anyway, in an attempt to make it through the next 2 years in one piece, I’m still looking both ways at pretty much every intersection. I’m a little braver at some of them – i.e. the ones that I pass through everyday – but still tend to look somewhat exorcist-like at all of the other crosswalks, head swiveling every which way.
2. Where is that darn twenty pence?
Getting used to a new currency is always fun. The coins tend to all look the same, and it seems impossible to ever find the one you want. No different here. If I’ve managed to avoid speaking and look like I semi-belong and know what I’m doing, the jig is up once I spend 5 minutes rummaging in my wallet for coins to pay that 2 pound 45 pence charge. Darn.
3. The Pound vs. The Dollar
Someone gave us advice before we left to not think about our money in dollars, and to instead think only in pounds. Very good advice, especially when it’s about 1.5 U.S. Dollars to every British Pound. Doing the conversions just hurts your heart.
Exhibit A: We went to the movies the other day (The Dark Night Rises scared the crap out of me and I LOVED it. Go see it!), and the total bill was £28. I’m sure you’re already doing the calculation, and no, you’re not multiplying wrong – we paid approximately $42 for two movie tickets. FOURTY-TWO DOLLARS. After the movie, I immediately emailed my parents to tell them that they needed to see it, and that they were not allowed to complain or use the price of movie tickets as an excuse to not go. I got my verification later in an email from my dad:
“Great movie. $14.”
Thanks, Dad.
4. There will be no identity theft here!
During our last day in the States, our credit card number got cloned. Someone started buying a bunch of fast food in New Orleans – immediate tipoff, because M was at the airport, and I haven’t eaten Taco Bell since 5thgrade. Needless to say, it seems like that will be impossible here. They are unbelievably strict with checking signatures on credit cards. British (and possibly other European?) credit/debit cards have a chip in them that they use for security purposes. American cards – or at least ours – do not have that, and so every time we go shopping and want to use one of our American cards, we have to tell the cashier that it’s a “swipe” card, instead of the normal British card that gets put into a slot/reader, and obviously not swiped. After that declaration, the cashiers proceed to keep the card, give us the death stare, wait for us to sign, and then study the signature to make sure it matches. No joking around here.
As if that weren’t enough, one of my purchases online got stopped the other day. I received a call from the security department of the (British) store the next day asking to verify my information. The woman apologized for keeping me on the phone for so long, to which I replied, “Are you kidding me? Thank you!” Not really, but that’s what I wanted to say. Cheers to no more stolen credit card numbers. *Knock on wood*

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