Advice to North American Visitors to the UK

One of the most important things one wants to do in a visit to the UK is to recharge one’s computer. For the second time recently I have been sent into a panic by by forgetting stage four. So I will spell it out for all who may experience the same alarm as I did.

First, of course, you need to get an adapter.
Secondly, you need to plug the computer into the adapter, which you plug into the socket.
Thirdly, you need to turn the socket on. This is too often the first step I forget. The “on” switch is often next to the socket.

But suppose the computer is still not charging. You are using Skype to talk to your family, and suddenly it seems it may be the last time you can do that. The computer is still not charging.

That’s when step 4 becomes crucial.

4. Jiggle the adapter in the socket. I’m told this is only required for places that are very old and were rewired 20 or so years ago. Whatever it is, jiggling can be absolutely essential. Unless you want a very good excuse for being out of touch.

10 thoughts on “Advice to North American Visitors to the UK

  1. People should be aware that in this context an adaptor may mean a whole power cable assembly (including the transformer) or may just mean a travel adaptor. The crucial detail is whether the transformer on the existing power cable can take both 100-110V and 220-240V power – most can. Another option for PC users is to purchase just the section of the power cable that runs from the wall socket to the transformer. Often the transformers take standard ‘figure-8’ or ‘clover-leaf’ plugs, and a length of cable with one of those at one end and a wall plug at the other will often be cheaper (and less fiddly) than a travel adaptor.

  2. Where on earth were you staying! There are probably less than 1% of the country that has not been rewired and public buildings (including hotels and b&b’s) are required to meet safety regulations by law! I’m sorry you had this experience when you visited the UK, but it’s highly unusual! Highly irregular indeed! If you’ll give me the name and address of the place where you were staying I’ll report them for you, as it sounds like you were unfortunate enough to stay in an absolute death trap!

  3. O dear! I didn’t for a moment wish to suggest this is anything other than a whimsical feature. But where did it occur?

    Well, one was in the fall of 2011 at the Randolph 5-star hotel in Oxford. (I was going well beyond splurging.) The other is the Rutland Hotel on Glossop Rd in Sheffield.

    Do understand that I lived in England for some years and, among other things, survived the period of the three day weeks. I never think of electricity as a matter of course commodity.

  4. Hmm. I’ve totally been bitten by the first three (though in my spaces most switches are on all the time), but never encountered the 4th in the nearly 6 years I’ve been hear. I wonder if it’s the adaptor? Was this a problem with a proper plug?

    5 star hotel did this to you!?!?

    I will say that any electricity nits pale beside the abomination that is British plumbing. Death to non-mixer taps!!!

  5. Don’t forget to check for Elbonians hiding in the cupboard. This is only slightly more unusual than the electricity problem.

  6. For goodness’ sakes, Bijan, it is in Oxford. And across from the Ashmolean!

    Nell, did you mean ‘Etonians?’

  7. This is excellent advice, and the problem is much more widespread that Alrah, Neil and Bijan seem to think. I’ve encountered plenty of places in the UK with seemingly up-to-date wiring where I’ve experienced that distinctive moment of panic before remembering to jiggle the adapter, including the rare books room at Cambridge University Library. It may have something to do with the oddities of particular adapters, rather than there being anything wrong with the socket or the wiring. I usually carry several adapters with me, just in case I’m staying at a hotel with sockets that don’t play nicely with the first one.

  8. David, living in the UK for 6 years now, had visited it plenty for 4 years before that, been all over, used native plugs as well as a wide variety of adaptors, never even heard of this before. Ever.

    The only thing I found in a search was this bit and this. I’ve certainly, with some cords, had to jiggle the laptop connection.

    Obviously this doesn’t mean that you didn’t experience this (these are just more anecdote points). And perhaps I just don’t hit any “very old, with rewiring from 20 years ago” situations. But it really sounds like an adaptor issue rather than a socket issue. I mean, does it affect all appliances? Are people going around jiggling the lamps plugs??

    I am, of course, prepared to believe any ill of Oxford and Cambridge!

  9. Elbonians, Anne. Don’t you know your Dilbert? Call yourself a philosopher! Etonians would be scary.
    My guess is that David and Anne have the same brand of crappy US adapter, and have imported the problem.

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