8 Strange Things about Life in Edinburgh

Every country is unique and will take time to get used to. Since moving to the UK in 2016, I’ve had to adjust to a few aspects of UK life. This selection of strange things comes from the experience of a Greek coming to live in the UK (in Edinburgh). I’m sure these are similar to those experienced by you if you are from another country.

1 Cafes closing early!

Imagine its 5pm, you’ve just finished a tiring day at work and you fancy sitting in a cafe. You try to go into a cafe and are greeted either by a shut door or a barista telling you they are just closing… how frustrating!!

Drinking coffee at 5pm is surely not a strange activity! Generally the only places which open later than that are the chains like Costa and Starbucks, where the coffee is usually not the best. If I want a good cup of coffee after about 4:30 I’m struggling!

Something else you need to be aware of is the different style of coffee served in the UK…but that is only important if you can find a cafe that’s open!

2 Hundreds of charity shops!

Both as a concept and in the number this was something unfamiliar to me when I arrived. It is the number of them in Edinburgh which is hard to process. There are well over 100 in the city and certain areas (Southside, Leith Walk, Morningside Road, Stockbridge, Tollcross) are full of them. Many people make special visits to these areas just to browse in charity shops. I can see why as they are often like little museums containing a unique range of things: cards, vintage jewellery, tea cups etc. It took some time to discover that they are excellent places to pick up inexpensive things for the house.

You soon begin to appreciate the quality and range of the stuff on offer but it does take time to get used to. When you do, you might find your flat filling up with an excessive number of vintage items!

3 Museums are free but not all of the parks are!

Discovering that most museums and galleries in the UK are free to enter was great news when I arrived. However, one surprising thing you’ll find is that many large ‘public’ gardens in the city centre are in fact…strictly private! It’s very frustrating to see beautiful gardens like Queen Street Gardens and Dean Gardens over a fence or wall but not be able to go inside, apart from on special occasions such as Doors Open Day. Generally access is limited to those who live next to the garden or who pay a fairly high subscription to use it.

Luckily Edinburgh does have a number excellent of public parks which are actually public! Inverleith Park is my favourite.

4 The addiction to supermarkets


Back home I would regularly visit supermarkets but this was to pick up basics items. Here in the UK it seems like most shopping is done at supermarkets!

I would never think of of buying bread, flowers or birthday cakes in supermarkets back home. And certainly the habit of going in and buying something for lunch (a sandwich or salad ‘meal deal’) in a supermarket seemed very strange to me. Similarly, why is there so much plastic packaging for fresh fruit and veg?

5 Going for a walk through a cemetery

It took time for me to adjust to the idea of visiting a cemetery as a leisure activity. Back home cemeteries are solemn places generally only visited by the relatives or friends of those buried. In contrast, cemeteries seems to be a common place for British people to go for relaxing weekend walk. Certainly some of those in Edinburgh are particularly beautiful, such as Dean Cemetery, while Warriston Cemetery is one of the most interesting ‘hidden’ places in Edinburgh. There are still times when I find the suggestion of a walk through a cemetery an odd one.

6 The lack of mixer taps!

I’m aware that many visitors to the UK find the taps in older buildings in the UK a bit of a puzzle. My first attempts to use the taps in the UK was something like a comedy sketch? It was a real puzzle. Am I missing something? What was I supposed to do in order to wash my hands in warm water?

i. One hand under each tap – one hot and one cold?
ii. Try to frantically combine both streams of water?
iii. Switching rapidly from one to the other..

Now that people have now explained why the taps tend to be separate in the older buildings (because the water came from separate sources), it does make some sense. But it still seems strange.

7 Dogs…. Everywhere!


During my first month here I was very surprised to see a dog sitting on one of the seats in a bus!
Seeing dogs on public transport is something I wouldn’t see back home. I’ve also been surprised to see so many dogs in pubs and cafes. I recalled visiting one local cafe which had about 10 people in… and about 15 dogs!

So yes, the number of dogs you see in public places is certainly something that is different from back home.

8 What on earth is Boots?

A Boots Story | By Ardfern – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25936019

When I first visited a Boots store I expected to find a pharmacy. However, I discovered a store offering a slightly odd selection of services. You could get eye tests, your lunch, your photographs developed. What exactly is Boots?

by Eva Vaporidi & Charlie Ellis

Related Posts