Every country has its own weird and wonderful ways that baffle and confuse visitors. The UK is no exception, of course. London is particularly famous for having many housing quirks, due to the density of the population, prices and British culture. Are you or your students traveling to London for our Teacher Development or the Internship Programme? Here are the top seven oddities that the ADC team want to prepare you for. Our international team shares their favourite pet peeves and funniest stories from the adventure that is London housing.
1. The famous hot and cold water taps
When Winston Churchill visited Stalin during the war, he was most impressed with the modern wonder of technology that was mixed taps. You would think that - over 70 years later - Britain would have joined the rest of the world. But no. Many houses in Britain still have separate taps for hot and cold water.
If you use the public restrooms at ADC you will find that we're wholly traditional and your choices are the following: 1. Use cold water. The Brits say it's character building. 2. Mix the water in the basin - perhaps reserve this option for when you are at your place of residence and you know exactly who’s been using it. 3. Scald your hands.
2. Brits don’t mind if their houses are a bit chilly
Is it a sign of endurance? Unless the temperature is polar, the British don’t force their little ones to wear jackets and mittens. As adults, they can’t wait to change out of their winter clothes into spring attire. So perhaps the reason that they seem to endure the cold better than other nations is due to nurture rather than nature? Extremely high energy prices and poorly insulated houses don’t help either. Whatever the reason, bring sweaters and possibly hot water bottles and slippers when coming to the UK. Because British homes are chilly, whether you're prepared for it or not.
Never mind the fact that double glazed windows are a rarity – inviting the winter into plenty of homes - the Brits also love their health and safety rules. In an ideal world, that would mean fitting all homes with double glazed windows so that people can keep warm. Instead, windows often don’t open fully in case anyone would feel the urge to jump out.
4. Low pressure
When Brits travel abroad, they often discover what true shower pressure is. You know, the kind which actually rinses the shampoo out of your hair in less than a 100 years. So don’t be surprised if the pressure isn’t up to your country's standard when you have your first shower on British soil.
5. Carpets everywhere
British people love a bit of carpet. It's probably because their houses tend to be a bit chilly. The former landlord of one of our Country Managers also said that it decreases the humidity. Fortunately, bathroom carpets have become unfashionable in recent years. So you see, there is progress.
6. Locking the bathroom
Not every private bathroom in the UK has a functioning lock. The Brits expect each other, and visitors, to knock if the door is closed. ADC has had students who feel that their human rights are infringed by not being able to physically lock the door. But please remember, Brits value privacy more than their afternoon tea and would rather die than to walk in on someone. Hence, they will knock!
7. Pull a string
Another thing which has flabbergasted many of the European members of our team is the fact that many British bathroom lights are operated by pulling a string. We don’t have an explanation for this, but we can say that if you struggle to find a switch, try looking for a string to pull instead.
The important thing to remember is that every country expects visitors to respect their customs. British people love a bit of banter and are very good at making fun of themselves, but as guests we should always respect their homes. At the end of the day, London is a huge metropolis with over nine million inhabitants from all over the world. Every house is different. A true Londoner might say that their home has personality and that counts for a whole lot here.