Surprise! England is NOT the same as London.

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I’m about to air a pet peeve of mine – or pet hate, as the English say.  

When I come home from England, my close friends ask me, “So, how was London?”

After I’ve been back for a while, it turns into, “When are you going back to London?”

And after Dave visited me over the summer, everyone — and I mean everyone — asked me, “So, is he back in London now?”

Here’s the thing: every single one of these people knew that I was visiting Dave in Chester.  I told them all about Chester; I told them it was a few hours from London, close to Liverpool, and right on the Welsh border; I told them that I didn’t spend time in London because it was too far away.

And yet the next time the subject is brought up in conversation, “England” has turned into “London.”

It’s not just people from home.  Whenever I mention that I’m back in the lovely town of Chester, England, one of my readers inevitably says, “Cool!  Go to the Tower of London!” or “I’m staying in SoHo next week – want to meet up?”

While I appreciate the gesture, asking me to meet up in London is akin to asking a Bostonian to meet up in New York City.

Don’t get me wrong — I really like London.  While it’s never been one of my absolute favorite cities, I have always had a great time there.  And with lots of friends and travel events there, as well as cheap flights to destinations all over the world, I visit London fairly often.

But there is SO much more to England than London!

This is the part that I don’t get: people KNOW that there is so much more to England than London.  Even the least geographically aware of us can picture tiny storybook villages in the English countryside; most of us are aware that England has cities like Liverpool and Manchester, small university towns, plenty of coastline, and Stonehenge.

I really don’t understand why that knowledge suddenly goes out the window whenever England is mentioned.

So, dear readers, the next time you meet someone from England, think carefully before you say, “Oh, are you from London?”  Simply say, “Which part of England?”  And if you take the time to familiarize yourself with a map of England and can carry on a conversation a few lines further (“Yorkshire?  That’s in the northeast, isn’t it?”), I guarantee you will have have a delighted new English friend.

On behalf of myself and my lovely English, non-Londoner friends, don’t forget about the rest of England!


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43 thoughts on “Surprise! England is NOT the same as London.”

  1. Good post and reminder to all. This reminds me of how many people think NY is like NYC although they are two completely different worlds. I have a lot of friends from upstate NY and they get so annoyed when people ask them if its bustling like NYC and they have to give the same speech over and over again.

    1. I was about to use this same comparison, being of upstate-NY origins myself. It has to be annoying that so many people use London as the only reference point for the whole country. Enjoy Chester-NOT-London!

    2. You know, I think (like many Brits) I would make that mistake…if I hadn’t been lucky enough to do a post Pow Wow fam trip years ago, up to Buffalo by way of West Point, Mohonk Mountain House :), Corning, etc. Until then New York was just New York.

  2. THANK YOU! My dad’s English, I used to live there, and I go frequently, yet people who’ve known me my entire life STILL will ask how London is or whether my dad’s back in London. For the love of god people, it’s an entire island, not just one city!

  3. To be fair, it’s easy to see why it happens. The greater metropolitan area of London has between 12 and 14million inhabitants- that’s 20-25% of the UK population. Even if you just count “proper” London (a dangerous term in itself!), it has as many inhabitants as the whole of Scotland.

    I think you need to pick your battles here and work on people who think Scotland or Wales are part of England before we introduce the concept of “England is not London” 😉 But yes, it is super annoying, although luckily I’ve always lived close enough to London that it doesn’t irk me too much to nod when someone thinks I live there.

      1. Obviously it’s not London. But the next biggest city after London has a seventh (or a fourteenth depending on your definition of London) of the population, so on an already tiny island (/island and a half) it’s easy to see why people would assume you’d be visiting London, or assume that London had the most to see/do. Especially when the vast majority of tourists DO only spend their time in London.

        A lot of English people outside of London have the worst persecution complex I’ve ever seen. People who think London is England need to do more research, but there’s no need to take it quite as personally as people do.

          1. This was the story of my life when I was doing my Masters in Oxford! Every single person would ask me what it was like to go to school in London! No matter how many times I gently… then not-so-gently… reminded them that it may not be a huge country, but it has an incredible variety of locations

  4. On behalf of the entire UK, thank you for this post. Now let’s work on those people who think we all take afternoon tea with the Queen and are well acquainted with Colin Firth…

  5. I think this happens with a lot of countries, people tend to just think of the the largest city or most popular area. I’m sure with stories, and photos people will see there’s more to England than London.

  6. I so know the feeling. As a Frenchman who has ties to Japan, I’m sick and tired of people confusing France and Paris, and confusing Japan and Tokyo. It happens pretty much constantly, and I think it’s just laziness of the mind (the worst laziness in my eyes), especially because those same people would get offended if one reduced their country to its capital city.

  7. I feel you.
    “What’s living in England like, then?”
    I don’t know, I’m Scottish. London=/= England. England=/= he entire UK. And then I feel guilty for being such a pedant…

  8. I literally JUST mentioned this on my blog! I’m studying abroad in Worcester, and people from home always ask me, how’s London? Hahah.

  9. Oh my goodness, I’m so glad someone else understands! I’m from England but I’m in Australia at the moment and I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve been asked “Oh, what part of London are you from?”


    There is so much more to England and I’m so glad you’re enjoying the beeeaaaautiful Chester Kate!

  10. Yes! I had this when I was living in Manchester. American friends (bless their little cotton socks) would ask me what it was like living in London. London is spectacular but there is SO much to enjoy in this little country.

  11. I never noted the ‘how was London?’ issue, but that’s probably because I lived in London. I had a Related issue though, that culturally London and England are different. Should have been obvious, but London is a subculture of England, just as NYC is a subculture of America. A trip to Devon set me straight.
    My pet peeve was having others think that New Yorkers were typical Americans. I used the London and England comparison to illustrate.

  12. Agreed! I just tell everyone that I am from London now. So much easier than trying to explain where I actually live!

    …And the amount of times I get asked if I know the queen is ridiculous!

  13. England is not the only such geographical victim… whenever I talk about my past travels to France, everyone always asks about Paris… and I didn’t even go to Paris!!! I really think that in some people’s minds, one city is an entire country.

  14. Can so relate. Spent a semester at UMass-Amherst and all my friends back home in LA kept asking how “Boston” was. I actually went to NYC more times then Beantown!

  15. Haha. This is so right. Londoners are a breed of their own, just like people from Cardiff and the rest of Wales.

    What makes me giggle too is that there’s such a sort of ‘friendly’ fued between the Northerners and people from the South & London because they’re so different.

    The same goes for North and South Wales.

    Glad to hear you enjoy Chester though – my birthplace! Woop! 😀

  16. Thank you, my pet hate as well! I was living in Bath temporarily and even my house sitter said “How are things in London!” I should have said “That’s a great question, I only ever get to see the airport in London!”

  17. Thank you so much for this post! My brother had so much trouble in America trying to explain that not only is he not from London, he’s WELSH. I might be able to overlook the London thing, but don’t confuse England, Wales and Scotland. We’re different countries! There’s waaay more to the UK than London, let’s hope others catch on!

  18. Years ago in Arles I was chatting with the gal who worked at the cafe I frequented, and our conversation got around to how people view other people. She observed: “Everyone hates the French, and the French hate the Parisians”. A little harsh, of course, but with a kernel of truth.

    I don’t have any trouble with the London/England thing, though. I have enjoyed travel in England, but I detest London.

  19. If one to see the real England (stereo typical chocolate box image) you don’t go to London. You go as far away as possible. For example the Cotswolds which is a beautiful area spanning several counties mostly of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.

    My wife is American and has only been to London once (and that was Camden) in 9 years since she moved here. There is so much to this lovely country

  20. I can imagine just how frustrating this us. I’m like Siriol on this one. I’m from Wales and whenever I travel, I get asked where I’m from and I’ll always say Wales rather than the UK and far too often i’ll get a reply like ‘oh you’re from England!’. England and Wales share a border but that’s about all we have in common. We have our own language, our own culture, our own cities and tiny villages and our own people. Don’t get me wrong, I love England but when people mistake me for being English when I’ve already told them the country that I’m from, it really makes bugs me. It’s just laziness. Xxx p.s I’m setting off on a 3 month adventure in just over 2 weeks and am loving your blog! Thanks x

  21. Yes! This drives me mad! I am Warwickshire but live in New Zealand and when I tell people where I’m from generally one of the first things they say is “Is that in London?” It gets very tiring after a while having to explain that England is a LOT bigger than just London!

  22. I anm Indian and I went to university in the Yorkshire region. Every single person back home would ask me – So how is London? After explaining a couple of times that I live in a different city, I just gave up! When the 15th person asked me the same question, I said London is Great! 😀

  23. This is so true. Growing up in London – and then the US – sometimes in the US when someone asks me “where are you from?” I reply England and I can see a mild recognition on their face. Then if I say London their face will often light up and the questions begin (ie have you ever had tea with the Queen? yea..seriously?).

    It’s weird. But on the reverse, I get that when I am in England. When I mention America, most times there is a vagueness. But say New York and the reaction is different. And New York isn’t even the capital. Go figure.

  24. I agree! That’s why next year when I’m going over to england, to visit my sisters in London, I will
    Travel the whole of England. From Dover, to Isle of Wight to Stone hedge. What other MUST see’s will you recommend?

  25. Love this! you totally get it. Love it when travellers get outside of London, there really is so much more to the UK. Love your blogs on England and Scotland!

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