Days 3 & 4: “helicopter parent” seems to be American-specific slang

Friday January 13th & Saturday January 14th.

Friday was weird.  On Thursday night, I stayed up super late–partially because of timezones, partially because I locked myself out of my hall around 1 am for an embarrassingly silly reason that I’m not going to share.  On Friday morning, my alarm didn’t go off and I woke up at 12:20, which made my 12:30 meeting a little bit impossible to make.  (It’s a 15 minute walk from Portsburgh Court to the main Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences part of the uni.)  I emailed the teacher I was supposed to meet with (she was very understanding) and then rushed to be ready for the 1:00 welcome lunch for students in Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences.  (“Language Sciences” is what Linguistics falls under.)  I made it there more or less on time, and made a friend or two!

I had been planning to go shopping Friday afternoon, but I was so out of it that I decided to put it off for another day because I didn’t want to wipe myself out.  See, there was a ceilidh (pronounced “kay-lee”, which I only know because I was invited to one in America once) on Friday evening–it’s Scottish folk dancing–and I really wanted to go.  I got there, realized I had to run back to my room to turn off an alarm, and then went back.  But when I got back, the people I was there with were standing in line outside the door and we found out that it was completely full and our chances of getting in were pretty bad.  So we went to a restaurant place and got food (I was starving) and then went to retrieve a fourth person and find a pub.  We got very Goldilocks-y: this one’s too loud, this one’s too full, this one’s too expensive, etc.  We finally found a really nice place that was a bit out of the way, so we settled in there.  And, for the record, no one got weird about the fact that I wasn’t drinking.  (I was vaguely worried that someone who worked there would be like, “Why are you not buying things in a place where you are supposed to buy things?” but it didn’t happen.)

I got fairly lost when I went back, because I decided to be adventurous and not just retrace my steps.  My sense of direction (which is normally really good!) failed me–I think maybe I just mistook which side of the landmark I was navigating from I had seen in the first place.  Luckily, someone noticed me standing under a streetlight with a map, and it turned out he used to work near where I live, so he pointed me in the right direction.  I was only like 3-5 minutes away, though!  And I was on the part of the city that my map showed, so I would’ve figured it out pretty soon.  I would definitely recommend, if you don’t have a phone that works here, or you do but it has limited data, that you carry a paper map.

On Saturday, I decided that I was finally going shopping, for realsies.  Someone I had talked to recommended a place near where we both live called Ali’s Cave.  It was pretty good!  All the stuff I bought was fairly cheap–I got what looks to be a decent hair dryer for the equivalent of about $18–and they have a little bit of everything.  It may not be as convenient for people who don’t live in this building, but I recommend it.  And now I can start organizing my room and getting all my clothes off the floor!  I still didn’t get bedding there, though.  I asked my hallmate what type of mattress we have and it’s apparently called a “three quarters mattress” and is 120 cm x 190 cm.  Ali’s Cave didn’t have sheets or blankets in that size.

I decided to go to Prince’s Street, which is a long street not too far from where I live.  It has a ton of stores, including phone stores and stores where I could buy sheets.  The first thing I took care of was the phone.  I’d heard that a brand called Three was pretty good, especially if you’re planning on leaving the U.K. during your time abroad.  (I’m hoping to.)  The Three store I went to was sold out of their cheapest smartphone–I wanted a smartphone so I could pull up maps when I was out and about–but they told me that as long as I made sure the phone I got was 100% unlocked, I could get a cheaper one from the place next door and get a Three SIM card.  So I went over next door and got a cheap Android smartphone.  I didn’t get the cheapest one, because the salesperson said it was awful, but since they weren’t trying to push me towards a hugely expensive one, I figured their recommendation of one that cost a bit more was somewhat genuine.  Then I trotted back over to the Three store and got a SIM card.  This was where it got tricky–the person I’d heard about Three from had gotten a really good deal, but it turned out I couldn’t get the same deal because I don’t have a U.K. credit card.  I chose the credit card I did because it’s fairly compatible with the U.K. in general, but I guess it wasn’t in this situation.  So I got a less-good deal and I’m going to have to remember to go back every month and pay them.  (The nice thing about that is that I won’t have to cancel the service when I leave; I’ll just stop paying and it’ll cancel itself.)  The people at the Three store were really nice, and very patient with my inability to use technology and my constant, “But are you sure that…?”  Based on first impressions, I’d recommend Three, but we’ll see how my phone fares.

Then it was time for bedding.  A lot of the places people had recommended to me were along Prince’s Street, so I decided to just walk along it and look in all the stores that had home furnishings and stuff.  In Primark I couldn’t even find the home section.  Marks and Spencer didn’t have any sheets that fit my bed.  Neither did T.K. Maxx, which is the exact same company as T.J. Maxx, if you were wondering.  I asked a salesperon in T.K. Maxx about sheets and blankets for a “three quarters” sized bed.  I had to clarify what the dimensions were because they had never heard of that.  They suggested I go to John Lewis, which had a big bedding selection.  I was already tired, sore, and hungry, and it turned out to be a long walk.  I finally got there, looked around… oh crap.  It was a fancy store.  But I poked around and eventually I found it.  A single, solitary white fitted sheet for something called a “small double”.  The measurements listed were 120 cm x 190 cm, which meant it was what I was looking for.  I figured that the fitted sheet was the most important thing to have in the right size, and I could go buy cheap double-sized sheets and blankets… but I was exhausted and it was late and I’d been hungry for dinner for ages.  So I bought the rest of my bedding there, but decided to buy everything else I still needed later.


I have a proper bed now!  The red sheet is for a double bed, which is why it’s so wide.  The quilt is meant for a king bed, and is just about exactly twice as wide as my smaller bed, so I folded it in half.  I’m sleeping backwards, essentially, so that’s why you can’t see a headboard; it’s actually at my feet.

[Image description: one photo of a bed with a white fitted sheet, a too-big dark red top sheet, two pillows in pink pillowcases, and a patchwork quilt folded in half.]

I really wish I’d looked up what kind of bed I was going to have beforehand–I checked today, and it was on the website–and bought sheets online ahead of time.  I know the front desk in this building wasn’t accepting packages until the 12th, but if I’d timed it right, I could’ve had it show up on the 12th and only gone one night without a properly made bed.  Finding sheets was a huge pain in the ass; it was expensive, and I ended up getting a bus for some of the way back home because I was so exhausted and my feet hurt so much.


3 thoughts on “Days 3 & 4: “helicopter parent” seems to be American-specific slang

  1. Hey. I don’t know if my facebook comment ever showed up, but google maps gps always works. True you can’t pull up directions, but the app will still show you where you are and the names of places and stuff. If that’s the only reason you got a smartphone there, you may want to return it.

    Also, if you look up the directions before you leave a place with wifi, you can screenshot it and use the app as a map. I also recommend screenshoting bus routes you plan to take before leaving as well.

    I hope some of this helps. Also, if you have a debit card, you should see which bank is your sister bank, for example, I have Bank of America, so I use Barclays over there because I won’t get atm fees when I withdraw money.

    Feel free to message me if you ever have questions about being over there. Ive only been to Edinburgh twice, but I’ve been to the uk 4 times now. 3 of those times on my own.


    1. Nah, it’s not the only reason! I’m gonna want to be able to text people here, and I also fiddle with my phone a lot in social situations but I can’t fiddle with it if there are no apps to fiddle with. Plus the WiFi in my room isn’t good enough to really keep my U.S. phone working.
      My friend told me about the Google Maps trick, but I kept forgetting to do it before I left whatever WiFi I was on.
      I also have Bank of America/Barclays–that’s part of what I meant when I said my card sorta works over here. I think the problem was that it’s still not a U.K. card, and the billing address needed to be here or something. Are Barclays ATMs uncommon or am I just not around that many? I’ve only found one so far, and it’s a bit of a hike to get to, but I’ve seen multiples of a bunch of other banks.


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