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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Things about London

Soveniur Shop in LondonHaving visited London last month for two weeks, and having only USA and India to compare it against, here are my first impressions. Caveat is that my time frame and very limited experience may have resulted in wrong impression.
  1. London is a very historical city in its architecture and layout. Every building can be counted as monument in itself. I’ve seen similar architectural palaces and forts in princely states in India but those are usually surrounded by simple house of common men, which I didn’t find in London. It is difficult to believe that everybody in historic London lived in stately mansions. Perhaps I’ve not visited part of London not sprawled with ornate dwellings.
  2. London has all signs of developed world but it is much less rule driven than States. Jaywalking is all too common and pedestrians hardly follow traffic signals. Cars do follow but aren’t as steadfast as they are in US. Punctuality is not strictly adhered to and up to half and hour delays are acceptable.
  3. London is very expensive and common mode of travel is public transport. Therefore, it is very usual to see people walking on the footpath, something I am very happy to note. Despite congestion charging, or perhaps because of it, I didn’t find traffic jam on street anytime.
  4. Despite being developed city of the world, ‘mall culture’ is less in-your-face than in US. Whereas in America, one would only see huge warehouses at the end of side road originating from main road which housed big shopping malls and giant retailers, London has fewer large malls and those are less threatening and imposing. I also didn’t see any large malls like in India.
  5. There are numerous small shops alongside the road for everything including repairs, electronics, laundry, grocery, stationery and so on. They give London a personal touch and much familiar Indian local shop feeling.
  6. People in London love to eat out as there are way too many restaurants on every street. Drinking tea or coffee at the end of meal is customary.
  7. Finding vegetarian food is marginally more difficult in London than it is in US. High end restaurants keep worst kind of vegetarian menu.
  8. My impression also suggests that Europeans drink a lot too. Every restaurant serves alcohol with food and I’ve seen my colleagues going to bar at the end of dinner after having gulped few bottles of beer/lager pre-dinner and few glasses of wines and cocktails at dinner.
  9. London English is very fast and hence difficult to understand. Four years ago I would not have been able to differentiate between British and American accent, but now the difference is stark.
  10. British people are very direct in speaking just like those in US, but they can often come out as rude to people from different culture.
  11. I now know exact items in English breakfast. Among vegetarians once are fruits, fruit juices, muffins, croissants, toast, corn flakes, tea/coffee, hash brownies, grilled tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, pan cakes, etc. Non-vegetarian items include various meat pieces, sausage and omelette.
  12. British national lunch consists of sandwiches. They have full-fledged sandwich shops. Compared to Indian masala sandwiches, they all are horrible.
  13. Greater proportion of women appeared in mini-skirts compared to US controlling for ambient temperature. Public display of affection, though, was relatively less. Few public telephone booths had very visible advertising by “escort services”.