A few pointers for the visiting South Canadians (and anyone else from the scary lands known as “overseas”).
You picked a great time to visit. Half of our currency is currently being changed. We’ve recently replaced the £1 coin and £5 notes. £10 notes are currently being swapped out.
It is unlikely that you will be given tender that’s no longer legal, but just in case someone tries:
New pound coin on the left with two types of metal. Old pound coin on the right. Old pound coin is no longer legal tender.
Old vs new £5 note – old on top, new on bottom. The new £5 note is plastic, has holograms, a transparent window and Winston Churchill on the back. Old £5 note is paper and no longer legal tender.
New £10 on top, old £10 on the bottom. Again, the new one is plastic, has holograms and a transparent window. Old one is paper. The old one will still be legal tender when you visit, but we are in the midst of phasing them out so you may not see one and you should certainly make sure you’ve spent or exchanged any by the end of your trip.
There are no new £20 notes yet, but they’ll probably show up and replace the current paper £20 notes before you next visit. In addition to this, the pound is likely to plummet further over the next couple of years as the economy goes to shit. Don’t be tempted to hold onto any paper notes you have left over at the end…
If someone does give you one of the old pound coins or £5 notes, banks will still change them for you even if you can’t spend them in shops. I’m sure they’d prefer you were an existing customer, but I’m sure you’ll have no problems if you just walk in, explain you’re a tourist and ask if they’ll change it for you.
You may encounter the rare and mysterious currency known as “Scottish banknotes”.
They’re legal, but some places in England can be a bit iffy about accepting these, but don’t worry. The moment there’s any hesitation whatsoever about accepting a Scottish banknote then an angry Scotsman will immediately jump in and proclaim “I think you’ll find that’s legal tender!”. Every. Single. Time.
Pubs, bars and restaurants
Expect to pay between £2.50 and £3.50 for a pint, depending on how far north you are and how classy your establishment is pretending to be. If you enter the shithole that is London, expect to get ripped off. And then get charged £5 for a pint.
You don’t tip bar staff. Many South Canadians aren’t aware of this, so you’ll often see bar staff immediately serve you when they hear your accents, hoping that you’ll tip. But don’t. You’ve already gotten served faster.
Tip around 10% in a restaurant where the service was acceptable (note: the UK has notoriously bad customer service – “acceptable” means that the server didn’t stick two fingers up at you and didn’t wait for you to look away before spitting in your soup).
ATMs are everywhere in the street. There are also some ATMs in pubs. This is in stark contrast to my experience of the US.
The ATMs on the street will almost always be free to use (asides from whatever fees your bank charges). Ones in pubs will usually charge you an extra £2-£3 to withdraw money. If they’re going to charge you, they must explicitly say before you withdraw the money.
Chip & pin
We don’t sign receipts. We use chip and pin. Know your pin or you may not be able to pay at a restaurant…
UK cities are horrendous for driving. If you’re going anywhere in the city centre, walk. It will take you longer to order and wait for a taxi than just walking there in the first place. You can walk from one end of Leeds centre to the other in under 15 minutes.
If you’re getting the train, buy your ticket before getting on. Unless your ticket gives a specific time or is specifically off-peak, you can get on any train going to that station (or to a station where you can get a connection). Off peak allows you to get on any train after 9am on a weekday, or all day at the weekend. A train conductor will occasionally come up and down the carriage asking to check tickets.
Depending on how you bought your ticket, you may get a seat reservation. You don’t have to sit there, you can sit in any unoccupied seat.
Where possible, buy any snacks or refreshments before getting on the train. You don’t want to be subject to Virgin trains’ sandwiches…
Side note: drinking is a-ok on trains at all times and is almost encouraged (if just to put up with how horrendous they are). Elsewhere, morning drinking is heavily frowned upon and you are not allowed to have open alcohol containers in many public spaces.
The further north you are, the more acceptable it is for you to start up a conversation with a stranger. I know you South Canadians are a fan of it.
Do not ever, under any circumstances, start a conversation with a stranger in London. You will start a riot.
On every escalator there is a walking lane and a standing lane. Usually you stand on the right, walk up on the left. Do not mix these up and do not block both sides of the escalator. Someone may glare at the back of your head if you do. In extreme circumstances, they may go so far as to say “Excuse me, can I get past please?”
If there are multiple people trying to do something, such as get served in a pub or get on a train, then there is a queue. There may not be a visible line but there is a queue. Look at who was there when you arrived “in line”. You’re next after they’ve all finished.
Break this rule and the social repercussions can be severe. Someone may even tut at you.
|“I didn’t vote for Trump”||I am a sane individual|
|“That’s a nice growler you have there”||This is nice beer|
On the countries…
The UK is made up of four separate countries. I know this is a bit confusing, so always refer to them all as England. The locals will truly appreciate it.