We came to England to really understand what life is like here in a new market and understand what the needs and wants are here. From our own experience it takes a lot of effort and time to actually learn more about what life is like in a different culture, but the benefits are well worth it. By learning to live like a local, you really get to learn and gain new perspective of not just the new culture around you, but about yourself as well.
We had been inspired by the art around London, learned about the personal connection of entrepreneurial businesses in small English villages and now we wanted to learn what it was like to live here. We wanted to learn about how the locals eat, how they get around and what products they spend their extra money on. Here we break down what we learned about these three things based on our experience of living like a local here in England.
The first place we head to whenever we travel, to stay in our food budget, is the local market. Here in England, one of the cheaper markets we loved was Tesco.
No matter where you live, the best way to eat on a budget is typically by purchasing groceries and cooking at home. Eating out is usually always more expensive, even in developing countries (check out our article about the time when we tried living on $2 a day in Nicaragua and how we felt after).
We scoured the store to find the best deals for a meal one night and ended up with a stellar Indian meal under 5 pounds (4.95 pounds to be exact!) that even included beer and cider! After that, we pretty much only bought our food from Tesco and ate pretty darn good for way less than we expected.
When you live outside of the city, people typically drive cars. However, gas is extremely expensive here, so the cars that most common are either very small or use diesel (more mpg). We were fortunate enough to have our friends lend us their smart car so that we would make our daily runs into town or to a Tesco for food. The only catch for us Americans was that the steering wheel and the driving lane was on the opposite side. Jonathon and I had a lot of scares and laughs as he drove on the highway and the small streets.
The public transportation here in England is pretty awesome as well. There are trains that take you almost anywhere you want to go in England. This makes commuting fairly easy for locals if they work in the city, but for us it was quite expensive. To get from Petersfield into London and back on the tube was about 25 pounds ($35), so for the two of us it would cost us about $70! That was way out of our budget, so luckily we found a third option: the bus.
The bus doesn’t seem to be quite as popular with the young locals, but that’s probably because it takes longer to get to places than the train does or having your own car–so if you need to get somewhere by a certain time, the bus isn’t the most reliable. If you’re not in a time crunch and on a budget like us, then the bus is a great economical option. The bus we took was Eurolines–we took it to Petersfield and to Victoria Station in London for WAY less than it would have cost us on a train.
We saw local businesses thrive in the smaller towns in England, but we also saw the big companies take over downtown London. We walked around Harrods (one of the largest department stores in the world), Zara, Top Shop and other trendy stores and saw consumerism in abundance. It was just like shopping downtown in San Francisco and New York with tons of tourists and people buying bags worth of stuff.
We wanted to see both ends of the spectrum here in England to learn about what people are buying. We were shocked by the level of consumerism in London, but we did appreciate a lot of the high quality and well designed items some of the major stores had.
Bottom line: just like in the States, the appeal of these products being sold has to do with the quality of the item, the perceived value and what the consumer gets out of it.
There is obviously a lot more to life in England than just these things, but we highlighted food and transportation because most of our budget goes towards those things when traveling and the retail market is important to us as our goal is to learn how LOOTB can fit into it here. We love England and all of the people that make the country great. We are grateful that even with a small budget, traveling to this “expensive ” country is still possible for anyone.