I’m in London now. LONDON! Can you believe it? I still wake up every morning in what feels like a weird, heavily-accented dream. It’s been just about a month now that we’ve been living and studying here and I can’t even begin to describe to you my experience thus far. I’ve been trying to come up with a way to break this down for the blogosphere. I could ramble on about the British way of life, the fact that there are streets here older than my own home country, the food, and even the weather – but one of the craziest things I’ve noticed while I’ve been living and learning here is that there are so wild, random, hilarious quirks of London. They seem insignificant, but they are exactly the things that come together to make up whatever the idea of “being British” really is.
Some are silly, some are just plain odd, and others are really, really useful. Please carry on reading, for your viewing and consuming pleasure, my list of the Top Most Bizzare & Awesome Things about London.
1. Bagel is spelled wrong (Beigel) …but they taste so right.
The first time I saw a sign for a ‘beigel’ I stopped dead in my tracks and pointed up at the sign, saying “Is that a typo?” Turns out no, it’s definitely not, and beigels, when you can find them, are absolutely NUTS here. NUTS!!!!!! If you read my blog you probably know how much I love Temple’s Bagel Hut. I would never be disloyal, but I have to say, the bagels here are incredible. They’re often baked Jewish traditional style, and you can even just eat them warm without cream cheese. THAT’s how great they taste. They’re 25 pence, (cents here) so you can literally just fish around in your pocket for some loose change and get to taste one of the most amazing things to ever happen to British society. You have. No. Idea. So maybe they spell it funky, but if a few extra letters equals that much delicious taste, I will personally change the official spelling in Webster’s. Beigels 4 EVER.
2. Outlets have off & on switches – read: SUSTAINABILITY IS HUGE!!!!!
Alright. Ya’ll might think that the USA is all about that going green thing – wrong. Not compared to England. They LOVE to save the environment. Which is awesome! Just living here makes me feel like I’m saving the world a little more every day. All of the outlets here have little power switches on them – which took me a while to get used to (“wait…this isn’t charging at all.”) but really does make an energy saving difference. The push for keeping London clean and friendly for the environment is everywhere you go – even in public. It’s an awesome, refreshing change and already has instilled within me better habits like turning the lights out when I’m not in the room, walking places when possible, and always recycling (its fool proof here! so many color coded bins!!!!)
3. There is no right way to walk on the sidewalks.
You know the rule in America. Stay on the right, and so will everyone else. There is a definite traffic flow on the sidewalks. Not so much here. My roommate and I were convinced when we got here that it was proper to walk on the left of the sidewalk, just like the cars here drive on the left side of the road (which, side note, is the correct way to drive, according to history. America & other places just decided to change that up! You learn something new everyday folks). Turns out, walking on the left is not something everyone does. In fact, no one really does anything specific. People just sort of go where they want on the sidewalks – right, left, a little of both – and it makes for some serious people-dogding. At first, this was SO tricky for me. Now I’m pretty used to the back and forth shuffle of the streets. BUT! There is one guaranteed rule of thumb – if you are on an escalator coming out of the tube, you have to stand on the right so people can walk quickly up the moving stairs if they choose on your left hand side. This one is a huge no no to break – we have learned the hard way, folks.
4. Dogs. Don’t. Use. Leashes.
MOM!!!!! DOGS JUST RUN FREELY HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!! (hey mom.) That’s right, even the animals are proper enough to be let loose around this place. I’m not sure if it’s just the way the culture is, or the training of their animals, but for whatever reason dogs know not to stray from their owners when they walk through parks and even sometimes on streets. Although I have seen this less on the sidewalks (cars and lots of people probably are a concern) in Hyde Park, home of my afternoon runs, the dogs just do their thing. Sometimes they stick close to mom & dad, other times they run ahead and check out the scenery while they wait for their human to catch up. As a dog lady, this warms my puppy loving heart. It also presents a real challenge, as all I want to do is run up and hug that dog until it can’t handle the love anymore.
5. There is no such thing as a 1 pound bill.
It’s a coin! Never in my life have I used so much change before, ever. Instead of having a wad of singles, my wallet is always crazy heavy from the weight of one and two-pound coins. Personally I think it’s way cool, because the coins are gold colored and I feel really regal. So that’s neat.
6. Pretty much everyone is friendly and the food really is quite good.
I say this because people warned be that the Brits are cold and the food is bland. I haven’t had any poor experiences here with either food or people! I’m happy to report the British folk eat really well, and they smile, too. Overall, I have had such an amazing experience thus far. For me, it’s all about immersing myself in what is really proving to be quite a different culture. I can’t wait to see what the next three months hold for me and the rest of the Temple crew while we’re here, but hopefully you learned a little from me so far.
Miss you, Philadelphia! (Especially miss you, co workers & bosses!!!!! xoxoxo)
Pip pip cheerio!