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British Pound

Lessons from the British Isles

1. The Pound

In England, they love their pound. The pound is the base unit of British currency, equivalent to the U.S. dollar. Unlike the dollar, however, the pound is a coin. Pounds are used to secure a shopping cart (trolley) at stores (You place them in a slot in the handle to release one. Unlike just about everywhere else, shopping carts in England are not free for the taking. You do get the coin back when you return the cart.), parking meters (They normally only except coins, no paper or cards.), many toilets, and other places. I recommend you always have a few pounds on you when you travel through England. Remember, the U.K. is the only European Union country not on the Euro.

2. Driving

England also loves cameras. Cameras are ubiquitous in the U.K. Some are marked, some are not. They even have mobile cameras in vans just to keep you on your toes. Bottom line: you will get caught speeding or breaking other traffic violations. You may not know it when you have had your picture taken, but a ticket with a courtesy copy of the picture will show up in the mail to whoever the vehicle is registered to. In case you think that you can quietly leave the country without paying, rental car companies charge you a heavy premium on tickets accrued on rented vehicles (remember, they have your credit card too). When you see locals slow down, you are best advised to follow (they probably know something you don’t).

3. Food

You will be hard pressed to find anything cheaper and healthier for the price than “pub grub.” Pubs are all over England (maybe even more than cameras). Every village has at least  one. The food is made on site fresh (not frozen). They are children friendly too. In addition, the ambiance is far better than the obnoxious brightly colored plastic motif of most fast-food chain restaurants. So, dare to try something new and leave the familiar places behind.

4. More on driving…

Road signs in England (and most of Europe) tend to give directions to the next nearest major city or town, not compass points or major highways. This is fine if you know the area and can navigate by hoping from one town to another to reach your final destination. For foreigners, it can be very confusing. Use a satnav or other device.

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