Song for this post: “Express Yourself” by N.W.A.
After being in London a little over a week I’ve compiled a small list of things that I’ve noticed, amazingly, are different from my experience in America. I never would have guessed. Because everyone loves lists, I present a list of things that London, as a city, hates and loves.
- Walking – like, everywhere.
- Taking your money
- Diversity – I’ve never seen so many mixed race couples in my entire life. It’s really quite lovely. Walking around you rarely hear English and will see Indians, Pakistanis, Eastern Europeans, and many more. This contributes to many different kinds of food.
- Public transportation – I actually love the tube. This is from someone who has a mild phobia of public transportation. My friends from New York and New Jersey will be the first ones to tell you that.
- Being Fashionable – People simply are well put together and well dressed. Perhaps it is just the places I’m walking, but dapper is the name of the game in London. I’ve only seen one pair of sweatpants since I moved here. And those were actually trendier than the jeans I was wearing.
- Club/Dance music – You can hear this anywhere. You know how the music in Abercrombie and Fitch makes you want to either take Ecstasy and dance or, at the very least fist pump just a bit? Well in London, you can hear this music anywhere. I’m talking frantic drumbeats and loud club sounds in a quaint coffee shop. Must. Do. Club drugs.
- Sandwiches – The little London bodegas and bistros have so many sandwiches that many of them seem made up just to fill the rabid market demand for sandwiches (cut in triangles, mind you). Eggs, salmon and jelly? Yes, please.
- Beer – Beer is everywhere and everyone drinks it. Why? Because it’s cheap and delicious. There are so many different types, brands and styles and it’s everywhere. An absurdly cheap beer at a pub in London is roughly two and a half pounds which is roughly $3.90 American dollars which is what you might pay for a Bud Light or Coors Light bottle in most cities in America (New Orleans and college towns excluded). The rub lies in the fact that this gets you a pint of beer instead of twelve ounces in your standard beer bottle you would purchase in the US. If you convert this into twelve ounce increments it’s $3.90 American/Pint of beer (16 ounces), then X= $ spent/12 ounces of beer. X= $1.875 per twelve ounces of beer which is unheard of.
- Indian food
- Skinny ties – This is accompanied by “slim” suits. How this exists with the cheapness of beer is something I’m not sure I’ll ever comprehend. It might have something to do with ubiquity of walking.
- Soccer/football – This permeates news, politics, popular culture, social relations and most discussions of the moral righteousness of certain individuals.
- High heels – This combined with the predeliction for walking is another paradox I fail to understand fully.
- Justin Bieber – At all of the tourst shops and carts there was certain fare you could guarantee: t-shirts with London stuff on them, postcards of Big Ben, etc., but every single one of them had sweatshirts and t-shirts that said “I Heart Justin Bieber.”
- Affordable apartments
- Cheap food (outside of sandwiches)
- Easy discernible and distinct native cuisine
- Stopping pedestrians – Cars have the right of way. Simple.
- Roads that make sense, e.g. city planning.
- Big tables – This is a problem for me when I go out to eat. Space is at a premium in London so restaurant owners must strive for maximum spatial efficiency with their tables. Alas, larger humans, such as myself have to do the same airport crotch/butt shuffle past tables in close proximity just to sit down. It’s a miracle I haven’t ruined someone’s evening yet.
- Shorts – Everyone wears pants all the time. The only people wearing shorts are me and the German tourists. There are so many German tourists that if they all decided at once to invade various branches of the British government, they could take over the country in three days.
- Cheap cab fare – Lesson learned.
- Appropriate beverage temperature – The coffee is served just a shade above lukewarm. This is a stark contrast to the magma coffee you get in the US where it’s way too hot but sip it anyways and everything tastes like glue for a week. But at least the coffee was hot. Also, the beer is served cold, but it has just enough warmth in it for you to think someone might have forgotten to refrigerate it long enough.
- Simplicity – Paperwork and bureacracy is the name of the game. From real estate to verifying bank documents to school paperwork, be prepared to use another London staple, walking to navigate the paper bureaucracy.
- Talking quietly on cell phones in public – This might just be a Western thing, but I feel that most people in the US are aware of the fact that no one needs to hear you give diaper instructions to your husband when I’m eating lunch. People in the US will talk quietly, will leave the venue or ask to call the person back because they’re (insert venue) and it wouldn’t be appropriate. Not in London. People talk full volume full steam ahead on the cell phone no matter where you are. I haven’t had the movie theater cell phone problem that I encounter in the US though. I’m not talking about phones ringing, I’m talking about the time I went to see a movie and the woman next to me picked up her phone and said, “Yeah, I’m at the movies. No, I can talk.” She had a ten minute conversation about her weekend plans. Two more minutes and those plans would have involved removing 217 movie theater straws from her skull.
This is all that I’ve noticed for now. There will be updates to this list as more time goes on. Here are some more pictures in the meantime.