SGV Girls Take the UK: Substitutes for Home

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As UCEAP Study Centre interns, moving to the United Kingdom after growing up in sunny California can be quite a cultural shock. Like, they actually have seasons here?! So imagine mine and Shannon’s collective surprise when the two of us, one working out of Edinburgh, and the other working from London, realised we grew up a mere seven miles away from each other! Where exactly do we hail from, you may ask? Well, Shannon and I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, a beautiful suburban county just east of Los Angeles. More specifically, Shannon’s from the city of Alhambra, and I’m from Arcadia, but the 626 area code has got us both covered.

They say home is where the heart is, but when home is a million miles away, you might find yourself missing a few of your favourite hometown things. So while we’re still both operating on this side of the pond, we thought we’d put together a list of the things we’re missing most from home, and where to find good replacements here in Edinburgh and London!


London: Thankfully, boba, or bubble tea, as they call it here, is offered in abundance in London. My favourite places to go are Cuppacha and Chatime in Chinatown, but if you’re out and about in South Kensington or Notting Hill, try out Bubbleology, where you can get strange but fun flavours, like Banoffee milk tea!

EdinburghBoba from the SGV should be labelled an American cultural treasure. Nothing will ever come close, minus the genuine stuff you get directly in Taiwan and Hong Kong. It’s a bit harder to find in Edinburgh, but thankfully there are some places to get your fix when you start twitching. Tempo Tea Bar has a location right on the Royal Mile, along with Chatime. Lian Pu Oriental Express Restaurant on Market Street goes all out with the flavours and toppings, with grass jelly, coffee jelly, hazelnut, and so much more.



London: It’s not really dim sum, but there’s a new Taiwanese restaurant called BAO that has just opened up in Soho, and minus the length queues, it’s to die for! For actual dim sum, there’s a place called On Café, which serves a delicious,’modern’ take on dim sum. And the kicker? On Café doubles as a French patisserie, so after your xiao long bao, you can have macarons and éclairs for dessert!

EdinburghSaigon Saigon on St Andrews street is right up my alley when it comes to the traditional stuff. The grand decor, the bamboo steamers, and the tickbox ordering chart all remind me of the numerous times I went to ‘yum cha’ with my family as a child. Stack Dim Sum Bar in Leith is a little further from central Edinburgh, but still plenty tasty. Also, quick shout-out to Loon Fung in Glasgow for providing me with dim sum during my study abroad days!


shake shack

London: Although there’s nothing like a good ‘ol In-N-Out burger with animal fries and a shake, London has recently been hit by a wave of burger enthusiasts, so there are plenty of options to choose from in the meantime. If you’re craving an American chain, hit up Shake Shack, the burger chain New Yorkers claim is even better than In-N-Out! Preposterous! (I’ll admit, it’s pretty darn good,  and hey – there’s no In-N-Out here, so no one can blame you for switching teams for the moment!)

EdinburghThankfully there’s no shortage of great burger options in Edinburgh to tide me over before I’m reunited with my beloved animal-style Cheeseburger with whole grilled onions and well-done fries. BRGR on Nicholson has a great, no-nonsense cheeseburger that I return to again and again. On weekdays all burgers on their menu only cost £4! You really can’t go wrong with that. Bread Meats Bread on Lothian Road do a ‘Cali Burger’ (cough, cough) with a mustard-fried patty, pickles, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and a special sauce. Hmmm….. Possible copyright lawsuit aside, it is definitely a great substitute for the famous animal style deliciousness you’re used to. If you want a genuine taste of home, there’s also a Five Guys in Kinnaird Park.


I miss Target sooo much. Retail therapy without it isn’t quite the same, but alas! Primark to the rescue! If you haven’t already been, you need to get your booty over there. Primark is a chain of stores throughout the UK where you can buy just about anything from clothes and shoes to home goods, makeup, candy and more, and for dirt cheap. Guilt free shopping really, especially if you’re only here for a semester and don’t want to waste your life savings at TopShop. It’s the closest you’ll get to the feeling of going to Target to buy primarksocks and walking out with a million other things at the end of it. Just don’t go to Primark on the weekend – it’s a madhouse!

EdinburghDitto on Primark. The 5-level behemoth on Princes Street is a haven for just about everything and anything you could think of. How and why did I end up looking at face towels for over half an hour? It’s like walking into an unexplained time-and-space vortex. I also really like wandering into the local Pound Savers shop on Nicholson, right across from the Surgeons’ Hall; every possible thing you could think of is available in a “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium”-type set-up. Birthday candles? Got ’em. Teddy bear in traditional highland dress? Got ’em. Scottish terrier-shaped salt and pepper shakers, rice cooker, life-sized One Direction poster? Check, check, check.


LondonHot cheetos are probably my favourite thing of all time – I’m utterly addicted to them, and although they’re quite hard to come by in London, they’re not completely impossible to find! When I studied abroad at King’s before I came to work in London, I would walk 2 miles to this little corner shop in Chinatown for my Hot Cheeto fix, but you hot-cheetos-copycan also usually find Hot Cheetos at stores that sell American sweets, like Kingdom of Sweets on Oxford Street (or you can order Hot Cheetos online and have them delivered to your door!) Either that or have your parents send you a Hot Cheeto care package for all of your fiery cravings.

EdinburghI’ve given up on the search for this illusive snack of the gods, the neon-red powdery goodness that marks your skin and clothes like the tender, secure kiss of a lover. I’ve gone to just about every speciality American snack shop in Edinburgh and Glasgow and have yet to find it. I tried cajoling Fraser to bring some back from his trip to California earlier this summer, but he didn’t do it because he refuses to see me happy. This is a treasure that I will long for until the day I am back in sunny California. Until then, I’ll tide my cravings with McCoy’s crisps seasoned with the salt of my tears.