A year in London: expectation vs reality

In Reona's latest blog she reflects on the expectations vs the realities of living in London as an exchange student 

January 30 2018
Coffee cups overlooking St Pauls, London

At the beginning of my fourth month in London, I would like to reflect on some of the expectations and realities of my exchange. Here’s a breakdown of the expectations I had before coming to London and what the reality has been.

Expectation: The weather being rainy, foggy, and not really much else. 

Reality: It has mostly been sunny, except for this one time when I was caught in the pouring rain in my smart-casual office look. That was infuriating. But other than that, most days have been lovely sunshine. Regarding the foggy image, the only “fog” I seem to experience is from cigarette smoke. (Which, by the way I despise, for the smell instantly sticks to my hair.)

Expectation: Hearing the ever-so-envious British accent everywhere.

Reality: London is a huge melting pot of people from all over the world, so you are just as likely to hear French or Chinese in the streets, as well as snippets of the British accent.

More from Reona's journey here

A year in London: a bittersweet departure
A year in London: ‘One of the best decisions I ever made’

Expectation: I honestly don’t mean to offend anyone, but that the food wouldn't be very good. It was all my friends talked about when I decided to stay in London.

Reality: I live in student accommodation and breakfast and dinner are catered every day of the week and the food I receive is of an unexpectedly high quality. Who would’ve thought that a typical Japanese like me would become accustomed to starting off her day with a cappuccino, a croissant and sometimes an apple?

If I miss dinner on some occasions, I receive a late-dinner pack and I usually opt for a salad or a baguette. But if I am not feeling up for the hall food, I can get something delicious and exotic within a 10 minute walk of my student halls. One thing to note, however, is that quality can come at a high price, but you can get some pretty good meals on a budget in London. 

Expectation: Everyone you meet will be your friend.

Reality: This naivety is now quite laughable. One trap an exchange student tends to fall into is assuming that every person that is also from your home country will be your friend. Let’s be real. Quite often it's unlikely you would be friends with them if you were in your home country, so why assume it will be any different while you're abroad?

And this could be applied to the non-Japanese people too. You will like some people, but there will be people that you probably won't get on with, regardless of their nationality. Fortunately, I have met some wonderful people, and I will keep mum about the other half.

Recovering from these realities and surprising discoveries, I'm looking forward to discovering more about London in the next few months. As someone once said, a bad day in London is still better than a good day anywhere else.

Read more: Best universities in London


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