Things to remember on landing in England

Look right!! Traffic is coming from the other direction, dummy! This one seems to have become automatic for me by now, at least as far as cars. Unfortunately, bicycles are another story, as they can come from either direction and seem to come far faster than bicyclists in the US — even SF’s crazy cyclists!

(And I can’t always tell which way car traffic will be coming from, as it’s legal to park on either side of the street.)

Drains and mains always give me the biggest problem (water and power). Here are some tips…

How to flush a toilet. From previous trips, I’ve got the whole “push, pull, yank, twist” — keep trying as something will work. What I’d forgotten is that you have to keep pushing/pulling/etc. until the whole cycle is done.

Oh, and just call it a toilet… they think we’re being unnecessarily coy by calling it a bathroom or restroom.

How to run the bath. I give up on this one. I thought I had it (never try to take a shower without testing how things work WITH your glasses on). In the flat I’m in now, I tried everything… except going to the closet across the hall where the water heater (aka boiler) lives and pushing a button marked “Boost”.

I did figure out how to turn on the towel warmer (mark of a great civilization, in my mind, the towel warmer)… reach up high on the wall of the bathroom and flip on the unmarked switch. Still haven’t figured out the fan…

Which brings me to mains (electricity). No, the different voltage isn’t the most important thing (well, it’s important, but I think most travelers are aware of this by now). What you might not be aware of (and what I never remember at first) is that the British are very wary of electricity, and have multiple safeguards set in place lest plugging in your phone charger result in death. So that each wall plug will have a switch to turn it on. And in some cases, this is in addition to something at the entrance to the room that turns on power to that outlet.

So to plug in that phone, you need to plug the phone into a plug adaptor, plug the adaptor into the wall outlet, switch on the outlet itself and if that doesn’t work, look for a switch on the wall that will turn on the outlet switch.

Oh, and you can’t have an electric outlet in a bathroom, which explains why the hair dryer is stored in a cabinet in the hallway….

(In my ‘dorm’ room at Christ Church College in Oxford, one plug was turned off when the room lights were turned off, but one stayed on regardless. THAT took a day or two to figure out!)

Once you’ve got all this down, you’re good to go!


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