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Finding the subway in London: An Expat Moment

Finding the subway in London: An Expat Moment

Most weekends I am in London I enjoy being home. With the amount of travel I do for work, I miss my sofa and staying in or going for a run in the park is how I like to decompress sometimes. Then there are weekends when friends come to visit. These are great excuses to explore the city some more. I have a feeling I can live in London for a decade and still find places to explore, the size of this city is bigger than anything I could have ever imagined. Of course I’ve been to other massive cities: Tokyo, Sao Paulo, you name it. It is however the first time I live in one this big. Toronto felt big with its 4 million or so for the Greater Toronto Area. It is nothing compared to London. The way I notice it most is that for Toronto pretty much everything was in walking distance for me. I could get anywhere in the downtown core in about a one hour walk. London is much different, I am lucky to get from home to work in less than an hour and that does not even begin to cover central London.

On my quest of exploring my new city more, I save many of these adventures for when I have company. After a long walk by the river Thames, going to Borough market and walking across Tower Bridge, our brains were frozen and our feet tired. Looking for the tube to go home, Google maps showed we were roughly close to Tower Hill station, and when I spotted a sign with “Subway” on it I was beyond excited. For a moment I thought it was weird and even said to my friend; “I’ve never seen it called anything but Tube or underground here!”

Expat moment in London

We did not give it any more thought and went down the stairs, under the road, and then we saw some more stairs. We went upstairs thinking we were about to hit the turn stiles to go to the trains. Instead, we were back on the road and it slowly dawned on us we had just had an expat moment: in England a “subway” is a pedestrian underpass, not a Tube stop. As it would be in America or in Canada. For a few moments, we felt incredibly silly and embarrassed about our mistake. Nonetheless, it made for a good laugh and made me feel ever more like the expat I will always be.

expat moment in London


Christine Buske is a former academic who left science at the bench, and now considers herself a woman in tech. She is a frequently invited speaker, and enjoys talking about career transformation (particularly leaving academia for the business world), tech, issues around women in tech, product management, agile, and outreach. She is a proud Canadian resident, and qualifies as a "serial expat".

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