This final post in regards to my London Summer Study Abroad trip will be a two-fer. The first half will be how I feel upon returning home and what I have noticed culturally that sticks out. The remaining half will be a tipsheet or guide of sorts for those interested in traveling to London in the future.
One thing that I greatly miss about the UK would be the lack of cell phones. Sure, you see them in the bustling streets as people chat on them on their way to work, etc., but they are not everywhere. People aren’t zombified and peering down into the screen as they wander about. One of the biggest differences I noticed while across the pond was that people were more invested in spending quality time together. At the pubs, men and women gathered around with their drinks and chatted and laughed – not a single phone visible. This could be recounted in cafes, university, and so forth.
I was more than happy to put my phone down and actually interact with my friends while I was over there – something I attempted to do upon being invited out to dinner by two of my friends so we could all catch up. But what happened actually aggravated me quite a bit. The two of them sat across from me. . .and instantly were on their phones. One of them would surface, ask me a question, then as soon as I spoke, go back to his phone while I talked, getting the occasional nod from either of them. Or sometimes no response at all. Are you kidding me?? Already I miss being able to just settle down for time with people and have their actual attention and interest.
There was another thing that I actually appreciated quite a bit about the UK – people do not pester you or hover around you while you are eating or shopping. While in the UK, you order your food at the bar, they bring you your food, and unless you call them over, you are left to enjoy your meal and company. Simple as that. The same goes for shopping. You are not asked if you are finding things alright, or if you are looking for anything in particular, or heckled about current sales. . .instead, they just let you shop, and there are plenty of assistants around if you need one. A beautiful concept, in my personal opinion.
Other than that, I have not noticed anything that bothers me too much. Instead, I just miss certain things – how easy traveling about was, the vast cultural and linguistic variety of people, and so forth.
Now comes to quick guide to surviving London for those interested in the future:
- Always, always, always ask for tap water. Otherwise you get sparkling or bottled or magical water drawn from a unicorn horn – and none of those come cheap.
- Order at the bar! If you sit down first, you will be sitting forever. Go to the bar to order your food, and they will bring the food to you once it’s ready.
- Leave your table dirty & tipless. Of course I do not mean dirty, dirty – but leave all of your dishes and trays there. My friends and I would bring our coffee mugs back up once we were done at a cafe, and often times get very odd looks. Leave your dishes and such on the table to be cleaned up. Also, most places include tips in the cost of their food, so unless otherwise stated, don’t bother leaving a tip either.
- Don’t be that person on the Tube. No seriously. Don’t. Everyone on the tube is generally quiet and just trying to get to work. They are reading the paper, staring at your shoes for the millionth time, or doing anything other than generating noise. Try and do the same.
- Driving on the left equals everything else on the left. If you are on the sidewalk or going up or down stairs, or any other area where it may require two lanes of ‘traffic’ – mimic the laws of the road as we do in the US, but this time steer to the left.
- Don’t be a lemming. As pedestrians do not typically have the right of way at crossings, wait for the light to signal that you can go. Sure, it may be tempting to do the race across the road with other Londoners, but don’t do it just because everyone else is. Better safe than sorry – there were several times I saw even natives nearly get smeared by a large automobile or sneaky motorcycle.