Just over a year ago I wrote my first instalment to this series comparing my life in Toronto to my life in London. Then, I had been in London for only two months. Currently, I've been living here for 14 months, so I figured it was about time I write a part 2. Most of the things I mention are pertinent to not just London and Toronto, but also the United Kingdom and Canada as entire countries, as I've travelled across both (apart from Eastern Canada).
1. The UK absolutely LOVES Harry Potter
This isn't exactly an entire UK thing, but England and Scotland absolutely milk the fact that Harry Potter is British. In London, its the massive amount of Harry Potter filming location tours, and all the HP paraphernalia at literally any Primark. Then, of course, you have the Cursed Child on the West End, Kings Cross Platform 9 3/4, and the Leavesden Studio Tour (which is in Watford.. so technically not in London).
Furthermore, I spent a day in Oxford where they filmed the Great Hall and other areas of Hogwarts and there were TWO Harry Potter stores. There's also two Harry Potter stores in Edinburgh where the Queen herself, J.K. Rowling, lives. You can also have tea at the Elephant House where she wrote the first book. Lastly, up in the Scottish Highlands you have the Glenfinnan Viaduct railway, famous for being the tracks that takes the students to Hogwarts.
If you're a Harry Potter fan, you NEED to come to Britain. The whole country (minus Northern Ireland and Wales) is a HP museum.
Toronto, of course, has no relation to Harry Potter. However, We do have the Lockhart which has some amazing HP inspired cocktails. Also, lets not forget about Curiosa, which, legally can't say they're a Harry Potter store for copyright purposes, but has some awesome HP inspired goods.
2. "You alright?"
This is a Brit's way of saying "what's up?" They don't really care if you're alright. This was a huge learning curve for me after actually trying to answer honestly the first few times. It's just a formality over here.
3. Reality TV
I will never understand the UK's obsession with reality TV. If you're here when Love Island or the Great British Bakeoff is on, they will literally be ALL you hear them talking about it. I actually attempted watching Love Island once and barely made it through the first episode. There's also the X Factor, the Voice, the Circle, Naked Attraction, First Dates... the list goes on.
We have reality TV in Canada, however I'd argue the only show that really matters is Hockey Night in Canada. We prefer our comedy shows, such as Just for Laughs, the Rick Mercer Report, and This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
4. Free From
Now, this is something that the UK is definitely doing right. "Free From" is a section in every supermarket that has food specifically meant for dietary restrictions. Each item is clearly labelled whether it's gluten free, dairy free, vegan, etc. As a vegan myself, this is a life saver. Canada doesn't have anything comparable. I really hope that changes soon.
If you thought coming to London involves buying expensive alcohol, you'd be absolutely right... If you're not at a Weatherspoons. Weatherspoons (Spoons, for short) is a chain of pubs that has the cheapest booze and food you will ever have in the UK. Their menu is the same wherever you go, and they have an app just in case you don't feel like queueing at the bar and want to order directly from your phone. They have locations all over the UK, so you're never far away from cheap beer.
Sadly, we have nothing that compares to this in Canada. If you want cheap alcohol, just don't go to the Toronto downtown core. It's as as simple as that.
6. Lack of bugs/ no screens
Yes, the UK still has bugs. No, they don't nearly have them as bad as we have them in Canada. In London, no house has a screen on their window. That's because big blood sucking mosquitos don't really exist over here. The most I've seen are small flies and ants. It's bloody amazing.
7. Rolling Cigarettes
I'm not a cigarette smoker, so I'm not an expert by far on this subject, but I've never seen anyone roll their cigarettes in Toronto. If they do, it's not common. Over here, you're more likely to see someone roll their cigarette than take a pre rolled one out of a package. It's cheaper, so most people choose that option. People roll at work, on the train, while walking...it's as normal as rain in London.
8. So many Bank Holidays
I'm not sure who decided to give this country so many Bank Holidays, but it's absolutely amazing. I feel I work less days of the year over here than I did in Canada. It's awesome.
9. Snow= Panic
The UK simply doesn't know how to deal with snow. Trains are delayed the moment a sprinkle of snow falls, and everyone makes a fuss. That, and people complain how utterly cold it is. I try telling them that's nothing compared to -40 degree weather with snow up to your knees, but they'll never fully understand. I will be honest, I do miss a proper snow fall, but I also love not needing wear full on snow boots with thermal socks every time I go outside.
10. Each country in the UK is distinct
Do you want to know the easiest way to get a Northern Irishman, a Scotsman, or a Welshman to hate you? Lump them in with the rest of the UK. Specifically, England. England has a bad reputation for taking things that aren't their's, and Welsh, Scottish, and Northern Irish independence are all examples of that. I understand historically, it's a lot more complex than that. As someone who has travelled all over the UK, the one thing all countries have in common is that they are all proud of their culture. (Northern Ireland is REALLY complicated.. let's not go there.) The Welsh language is still fluently spoken in rural areas, as well as Gaelic in parts of the Scottish Highlands. They are proud of their history and are absolutely stubborn when it comes to lumping them in with the English.
Canada also has it's own unique cultures and traditions. Eastern Canada is very different from Western Canada. However, the most comparable issue we have is obviously with Quebec. French Canada is very proud of their heritage and culture, so much so that they've been struggling for independence for years.