Sunday, September 26, 2010

Observations on Living in London

Now that my departure from London is very imminent, I feel that I should take the opportunity to share some of my observations on London.

Besides, I've been doing some pretty emotional blogging lately, so I think it's high time to lighten up a bit.

Observations on Living in London...

The bathroom light switches - for some reason rather than being proper wall mounted light switches, bathroom light switches tend to hang from a flimsy string that you pull.

Scones and clotted cream - when I first heard the words "clotted cream" I can tell you that this did not sound like something I wanted to eat. Nor was I a big scone fan - dry hard little things that they are. But I have to say that Scones and clotted cream may just be heaven on earth. Go ahead indulge yourself over afternoon tea. Just don't do it too often. Clotted cream is not quite so good for your waistline!

Beans for breakfast - A traditional English breakfast or a "fry up" as they call it involves beans. It's actually kind of good. Try it.

S instead of Z? - And just what is wrong with the letter Z? What is it about this letter Zed - as they call it - that keeps English people from using it. So instead of organization it's organisation. Weird. I prefer to keep my Z's thank you.

The change situation - the change (as in the coins) here is seriously messed up! It took me ages how to figure out how to use the change and it still confuses me. In a perfect world, coin sizes should be aligned with the value of the money. So, your largest coin should have the largest value and the smallest coin should have the smallest value. But here your 10 pence coin is bigger than both your 1 pound coin and your 20 pence coin (although at least the 2 pound coin is indisputably the biggest) and your 5 pence coin is smaller than your 1 pence. And they have a weird 2 pence coin. It's impossible! (I know that the American coin system is not perfect - but it's really just the dime that messes it all up).

Council Tax - So, not only do you pay exorbitant rent, on top of it you have to pay like another 100 pounds or more a month to the "Council." And if you forget to pay it, they don't even remind you that you have forgotten, (and of course you have forgotten because you are American and you were traveling and you forgot about this Council thing) they just send you a summons to be on court on a certain day! Believe me. I've been there. Done that. But luckily, I worked my American girl charm (and paid the balance in full) and avoided a session at the British courthouse.

TV license - you also must have a license for your television here. Even if you do not have cable (or Sky TV or whatever they call it here). Even if you do NOT watch television. You must pay the TV license. I'm kinda a rebel, so I didn't do it.

Pay more to eat at the restaurant - it is a very strange fact that many restaurants (especially of the cafe variety) actually charge more for food when you EAT IN the restaurant rather than "take away." How weird is that? I have never seen that anywhere else. Not even in totally illogical countries like China. In fact, many (like Cafe Nero where I went this morning) have everything listed with separate prices for whether you eat in or take away. I guess that sitting at a table is a premium service in this country!

Member’s clubs - Here in London, most of the night clubs are Member's clubs. Which is supposed to mean that you need to be a  member to get in. I have never once met anyone who is actually a  "member" of any club however. It is actually pretty easy to get into these Member's Clubs just by going online and filling out a form to get yourself on a guest list (and then paying the entrance of course). The only annoying aspect is it takes the spontaneity out of the night as you need to plan in advance.

Obsessiveness over gas/electricity meters - My gas and electricity meters are very popular! It feels like once a week someone wants to come and check them.  

Indian and Irish call centers - I know that we live in the world of outsourcing but whenever you call any kind of customer support here, you are inevitably transferred to a call center in India or Ireland and you spend most of the time one the phone feeling highly irritated and asking them to please repeat themselves! I keep having to remind myself that they are actually "speaking English." And me being me, I inevitably end up giving them a lecture on the fact that since their accent is very very strong, it would be good if they could "please SPEAK SLOWER and ENUNCIATE MORE." I'm pretty sure they all appreciate this tidbit of advice and put it to good use.

British English vs. American English - Where oh were did American and British English decide to divide? I’m not sure but it seems that when it comes to clothing we have a big difference. Here are some British English translated to American:
  • trainers = sneakers
  • pants = underwear
  • track suit bottoms = sweat pants
  • gym kit = gym clothes
  • trousers = pants (do not say pants here, it means underwear)
  • jumper = sweater
  • bathing costume = bathing suit
They drive on the wrong left side of the road -  But apparently, this is hard for many tourists because (luckily) most crossings are clearly marked with arrows telling you which way to look before crossing.

The Cars! - All I can say is WTF? The other day I was walking just 2 blocks in Chelsea and on those two blocks a saw 3 Porsche's, a Ferrari, and a freaking Aston Martin! This is oddly normal here. And people just leave that shit on the road. And it seems to be fine!

The dirty drinking culture - I have to say it, the Brits are dirty drunks! I have never seen anything like it. Not only are they loud, rowdy and sloppy, they also seem to get completely drunk (or pissed as they would say) at a very early hour, they also tend to lie in the streets (often in their own vomit). I know. It happens to the best of us sometimes. But I've never seen it happen so much as it does in this country!

The cost of living - The cost of living in this country is exorbitant! It's the cost of your apartment that is the most expensive especially when you add on bills and council tax and gym rates etc. However, I find the cost of food and alcohol - in both the grocery store and in restaurants to be much cheaper than in Sweden. But the fixed cost here is so high that it doesn't even begin to even out. Basically, you should not live in London unless you make a ton of money. Otherwise, you will be poor. I am sadly a lot poorer now then when I arrived (my poor savings got depleted as I tried to keep my champagne drinking lifestyle here).

Pub Culture - There is a BIG pub culture here and I love it. It feels like it's preserved from the "olden days" when villagers used to congregate at the pub (or basically any other time that warrants a good old pint). Today, people go to the pub after work for a pint and on Sundays for a traditional Sunday Roast. There are many pubs in London and I'm amazed that they are all very quaint and charming. I love the pub culture!

Anyone else have any observations on London? What have I missed? What do you think is funny about this culture?


One Blonde Girl said...

All that said, I think I would enjoy it over there.

Lifebeginsat30ty said...

I love love love the pub culture :) Especially the pub quizzes. Although it annoys the crap out of me that cocktails are in separate places.

Also the separate hot and cold faucets. Has no one ever heard of a mixer?!

The things that annoys me about the coins is that they just accumulate. I end up with mounds of coins for no use. Except to toss in the museum bin. Maybe that is their secret plan.

Scones are amazing; high tea even more so!

Council tax I'm okay with. Because they have health insurance.

My one pet peeve: the beautiful well-maintained parks locked up for only 'resident' use. We have private clubs here, but we are nice enough to have them in back behind high fences so it's not like you're teasing the rest of the poor sods (aka me) that we can't go in!

My favorite service: the ladies in the club bathrooms. They get my change too.

You are one of the very few I can compare notes with. Everyone else is tired of hearing about London. Keep em coming ;)

Julianna said...

LOVE scones, and I've never been to London... heck I thought they used Euros. But the TV thing? That'd be all the reason I'd need not to have one. -J

Jess said...

How wonderful to have the opportunity to be in a foreign place long enough to learn the culture and customs! :) Thanks for the lesson!

Average Girl said...

I loved London when I was there, the only things that made me gasp were:

1. dog poop everywhere! it was like avoiding land mines!

2. I once ordered a steak sandwich, what i got was two pieces of bread with a piece of steak in the middle, nothing else, no condiments, no side dishes, natta!

3. I went and used the pay phone and down the street I could see a pizza place, so I ordered pizza and asked them if they could deliver it to our flat, they told me we were too far away and out of their jurisdiction... ha ha ha

It was all fun though!

Sara Louise said...

Ah yes, the drunks! It's the same in Dublin. I used to have to step over vomit puddles on my way to work on like a Wednesday morning. Who gets that trashed on Tuesday nights???

And yeah, what is it about Z(ed) it's like they're afraid of it or something

And one of the things that pissed me off more than anything in Dublin was the TV license! If I'm paying for cable, why do I have to pay for a license? If you pay for a license, than I don't want to see any commercials! (but honestly I never got a license... F them!)

International Woman of Mystery said...

Thanks for all the comments! Those are some good ones. Especially the fact that hot and cold water come from separate taps. I totally meant to add this one! Thanks for reminding me Lifebeginsat30ty! And too bad we are kind of switching places - otherwise, would have been fun to meet up. But well, at least we can follow eachother's adventures here.

petit tresor said...

about bathroom lights - from what I heard it's to prevent any 'electric shocks' which you may acquire when you put wet hand on the switch... weird. I even had it in my room when I was living in the halls of residence!
what I HATE, really HATE are two separate taps for hot and cold water. i! i asked my friend about it and she said that this is from the times when the water was expensive (?) and that's the way they could keep some pennies - by washing etc. in cold water. weird.
also, I am not enjoying England's specialty of tea & milk. I am from Poland and we call this 'Bavaria Tea' and to me it's disgusting. :D
what I like about London is the fact that almost all of the museums are for free! being vegetarian I also enjoy the fact that there are (usually) lots of vegetarian options when you go to eat with non-vegetarian friends. :D and I LOVE TOPSHOP! :D :D xox

International Woman of Mystery said...

Museums for free! You are right! That is great. I'm saving that one for my next post though - what I'm going to miss about living here...

Crazy Shenanigans said...

I love London and miss it so!!! One thing about being there at a restaurant if you have extra chairs, I remember people would ask if it was ok to sit at the table as well. Here... not so much!