In the last seven years, some things about London have changed. They hosted the Olympics and adjusted the traffic pattern on Oxford Street. They closed some tube stops and opened new ones. Harry Potter ended and Sherlock started, and the fan zones adjusted accordingly.
But some surprising things stayed the same – small but important things I totally forgot about until I got back into the hustle and bustle of this city:
- English isn’t the most common language. Everywhere I go, and I’ll admit that I tend toward touristy spots, people are speaking languages other than English. French, Spanish, Russian, Italian, dozens of other languages I can’t even recognize specifically enough to name, fill the air. And the people speaking them aren’t just tourists – they live here, in the melting pot of the UK. It’s fascinating, and adds to the international vibe of the city, as well as making my American accent stand out a little bit less.
- Food is super cheap. Sandwiches at local grocery stores are around £2.10 (less than $3.50) and way too many sweet treats cost less than a pound. Obviously this balances out because city restaurants are quite expensive, but it’s still nice to see that you can get a solid meal for a reasonable price at a grocery store.
- Escalator rides are a form of entertainment. They have these posters and video boards on the side with all sorts of coordinated ads that play off each other. I seriously used to use them as my newspaper when I was here before, and the memory came back like a flash when I got back on the tube at Heathrow and saw them again. Also, EVERYONE KNOWS TO WALK LEFT AND STAND RIGHT. Which is ironic, because that’s not even the way traffic moves here, and yet people are better about it than in most cities.
- The bus system is AMAZING. I can get basically anywhere in London within 40 minutes thanks to a combination of the bus and tube, and since I bought a monthly pass, it’s super cheap. Plus, the routes are so scenic – my ride home goes straight past Parliament and is worth the entire trip in and of itself.
- Cars are confusing. It will never not freak me out to see someone stopped at a light just hop out of what I think of as the driver’s side door. I can’t rewire my brain quickly enough, so it just seems like all cars are being driven by ghosts.
- Gambling is everywhere. Seriously, everywhere. There are betting shops on every corner, and ads all over the place. What could possibly be worth spending your money on like that? I’m glad we don’t gambling and mini casinos in the US like they have them here, they add nothing of value.
Now I’m off for a morning of adventure and planning a fun long (birthday!) weekend. More later!