Hey all. Last week, I couldn’t think of anything that I really REALLY wanted to blog about, so I decided to take a break (and give y’all one 🙂 ). During my week-long hiatus, I was asked for the billionth time why I left the United States to come to London, or to England in general. I love how the people who ask me this say it like England’s the asshole of the world, and not brimming with history and beauty and so much to recommend it. Anyhoo, it got me thinking about the differences/similarities I’ve noticed between here and the States. This list, like my life, is poorly organized.
1. There are ads for books everywhere! BOOKS!
My go-to reason for why I’m here/why I love it here has to do with books (because not-so-deep down, I’m an 87 year-old librarian who hates anything lacking pages and a spine). I’ve seen more posters in tube stations advertising books here than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. I’ve noticed at least as many ads for books as for movies (if not more) which blows my mind. Near Leicester Square station, there are four book shops on a single block. And after a couple more minutes of walking, you’ll eventually hit Foyles, too. People here love to read, and I love them for it.
2. You know when you’re being hit on.
In the US, I’m not great at being able to tell when someone is flirting with me. I mean sometimes it’s as clear as a punch to the throat, but most of the time (for me anyway) it’s a murky business. About 98% of the folks here will greet you with “You alright?” But when you get “You alright?” combined with a leer, you know without question shit just got real. Every day here is like an episode of Happy Days — you’re never in the dark about a person’s intentions. Well…at least when it comes to strangers. I’ve actually found it harder to decipher the people I’ve become friends with than the people I randomly run into (which, when I think about it, only makes sense). *shrug*
3. No eye contact.
This is mostly about London and something you’ll find in any big city. It was the same for me in Los Angeles, New York, and even Houston to a degree. People don’t like to make eye contact unless they want something from you (see point 2). And they definitely don’t smile at you. Dear God, no, please don’t smile at anyone. No one wants your stranger cheer here. In smaller cities/towns where it’s less busy, people are more easygoing. But in big cities everyone’s got more important things to do and their guard is up a lot of the time. Probably because there’s always someone trying to sell you something in the more touristy areas, or just straight up asking for money. I think I’ve had my smile returned on the sidewalk a grand total of three times since I’ve been in England. Maybe those people were just tourists…
4. These streets were made for walking.
Cities and towns in the UK are super walkable. As in NO GAS MONEY. As in Hallelujah! Public transportation here can be helpful, but honestly, it’s nice to be able to walk most places. My brain was dangerously close to exploding about 9843594385734897473948573957 times in LA because it was always such a damn fiasco trying to get from one place to the next. In London, there’s the “engineering works” issue (and the more-than-occasional delay) to contend with. But luckily, whenever you hit one of those snags, you’ve always got good ole lefty and righty to fall back on. And while you’re walking around, you can take in all the cute houses and pretty greenery.
5. Last minute? HAHAHAHAHA.
London is not the place for spontaneity, at least when it comes to the good stuff. Watching a movie at a luxury theatre last minute? Nah, dude. A special exhibition at the V&A just because you feel like it? Think again. A theatrical production starring a big name actor on an impromptu date night? Nope, nope, and nope. Now that last one, you really can’t expect to do on a whim no matter where you are. But on more than a few occasions, I’ve thought to myself, “I want to go _____” only to be foiled by sold out tickets. While there are definitely fun things you can do here as soon as the idea pops into your head, you’d still do well to plan your activities in advance.
I learn more about this city each day, and I’m really enjoying getting to know this place. All that’s left to do now is extend my explorations to the entire country. Bath, Bristol, Manchester, Kent, Stratford-upon-Avon, not to mention the areas, markets, restaurants, shops, parks, plays and urrythang else in London I have yet to visit. Despite how lackluster London seems to be to its natives (at least in comparison to the US), I’m still finding new things to love every day.
Someone give me all the time and money in the world so I can do all of the thinggsss!