This week marked the end of my classes in London, and I will move on to Vienna next after some extra travel in Norway and Spain between terms. It’s been a good first term overall. I had visited London several times before joining this program, but staying here for several weeks allowed me to get to know the city a bit better and to do some more exploring in parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland to which I had not yet ventured. Below are a few random thoughts from my adventures here, and in honor of the Rugby World Cup being hosted in London as we speak, the pictures are of the countries participating (taken in Cardiff outside Millennium Stadium):
**The diversity in London is vibrant. For example, my teachers this term were British citizens of Bosnian, Nigerian and Israeli extraction. There are more Halal grocery stores in my neighbourhood than non-Halal.
**When someone tells you your new apartment is near a Carnival route, leave for the weekend. If you realize your apartment is on the Carnival route, leave for the whole week.
**I don’t know what the British have against “z,” but I have not gotten used to spelling “realise,” “recognise,” or “authorise” with “s.” An extra “u” now and then doesn’t phase me.
**When you say, “thank you” to someone in a shop or elsewhere, they will inevitably respond, “that’s a’right” or “you’re alright.” This might be the most British thing about my time in Britain.
**The British are famous for their tea. That’s not a stereotype – they really love tea. I’m convinced the whole island is immune to the effects of caffeine. They’re drinking tea in the late afternoon without being up all night.
**Anyone who questions the courage of the British should try driving a double decker bus through London or the countryside for a day. Those drivers are freaking fearless.
**Always carry an umbrella.
**The 10P coin is bigger than the 20P coin. But both are smaller than the 50P coin, which is bigger than the £ coin but not the £2 pound coin. And there’s inexplicably a 2P coin. £ coins are also heavier than their pence relations. The bills are colourful, and Charles Darwin and Jane Austen join the Queen in gracing them with their images.
**Always carry change with you in case you need to use the toilet while out and about.
**Restrooms are “toilets” or less often, “the loo.” Actually I’ve only heard “loo” from Americans trying to sound British.
**Speaking of Americans, there are a lot of us over here. This is amazing since it’s 60% more expensive to live here for those of us on the dollar.
**Don’t make eye contact with strangers on the Tube. (This is not unique to London but excellent life advice overall).
**Fewer people smoke here than in other parts of Europe but more than in the States (based on my own non-scientific observations). But my school has a lot of international students, so they’ve placed an adorably optimistic three picnic tables in the courtyard for the “smoking section.” The entire courtyard is usually filled by 10 AM.
**The fire doors are out of control. Every building has lots of them, and it’s time for someone to tell the people of London that the fire was in 1666, and there are other methods now for fire suppression.
**I do seriously think it would be easy to get hit by a bus here. It’s good that most streets have which direction you should be looking painted on the pavement with an arrow (“Look Left” or Look Right” – I mentally add a “moron” to the end). Clearly they are concerned those of us from their former Colonies will get it wrong, to our peril, causing delays.
**Public admonitions and signs are phrased to identify the impact to others around you. Bags caught in the door hold up trains – not that your stuff might be destroyed or lost. Bags left unattended may cause delays – not that they will be confiscated.
**Flu shots are called “flu jabs.” Way to encourage people to get one, NHS.