Money can’t buy you love
As I reached for my wallet to pay for my three pound cup of coffee I heard the voices of friends and family saying, “You’ll have fun, but London is very expensive.” So it turns out that these people, whom I had taken as pessimists trying to ruin my excitement of studying abroad, were very right. I knew upon coming to London, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, that things would be pricey but I never thought that I would be afraid to check my bank account.
Granted, I am devoting a lot of my time to traveling, site seeing and getting to know this enormous and beautiful city, but I would still appreciate not having to spend three pounds on a coffee. For those reading, this would be equivalent to roughly five American dollars. What?
For me it turns out that my downfall lies in this conversion. Having the U.S. currency so deeply engrained into my mind when I hear, “three pounds please” I think to myself, that isn’t half bad. Until I do the math. It didn’t take me long to switch over to instant coffee from the local supermarket. As I instantly made my cup of Joe, I instantly added 20 pounds to my pocket after one week. This was the first of many realizations I had helping me to not go bankrupt overseas.
A girl’s got to eat, so I thought it would be fun to scope out some cool pubs and bars where I could get a nice bite of food. This proved more challenging than I thought. As I spent pound after pound on meals, I realized that the missing factor was always the same — flavor. Seasoning and spice are apparently not important to the British. The tastiest meal I’ve gotten from England so far came from the McDonald’s “pound menu.” And if I’m being honest, my burger from Mickey D’s left my stomach feeling far less grease-filled than the fish n chips I got while in England’s sea shore capital of Brighton. The lesson I have learned: Unless you’re going to splurge and eat at a high-end restaurant (or McDonald’s), you are better off saving the money and cooking a meal at home.
I have to admit that I am a real fashion buff and nothing attracts me more than a window filled with shoes. I found my personal nirvana on Oxford Street, which stretches for one and a half miles, and is occupied by almost solely shopping destinations. Luckily for me, my little piece of paradise is a couple of tube transfers away from where I’m staying, making it a little more difficult to escape to and suck me dry of all my money. Between Harrods, London’s most luxurious and expensive department store and Topshop — which also has locations in New York City but is much more popular here — if you have money to spend you’ll have a place to do so. In the meantime, while I work on meeting a millionaire, most of the girls have been doing their shopping at Primark, which is kind of equivalent to a Target or an upscale Walmart. It isn’t the best of stores, but hey. Nothing beats a sweater for 10 pounds.
My most well spent five pounds since I’ve been here was on a ticket to see Mark Rylance, one of England’s most well-known and respected actors, perform in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at The Globe Theatre. I’ve never been to a production of Shakespeare where the audience roared with laughter as loud as they did during this performance. Now money can’t buy you love or very much of anything else here in London, but for five pounds, it can buy you the opportunity to see some of the best theatre in the whole world.
This is what is so great and redeeming about London. Although there are places where you may have to sell your soul for a cup of coffee, the city is booming with free museums, culture and experiences that you don’t have to spend a penny on. And for the brilliant theater: skip out on coffee for two days and spend the five pounds on that instead.
Katie Bryck is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies.