Friday, December 24, 2010

5 things that define Londoners and London


It’s funny how you can get used to a place after spending some time there. After you overcome your initial bewilderment, you get used to the way things are being done and finally you begin to behave like a local. The process can get frighteningly fast and before long, you could very well feel like a tourist when visiting your home country. Anyway, here are 5 things that I have come to embrace as a Londoner.

The queue is king

Some say that newcomers have diluted the way Londoners’ way of life but for some odd reason the habit of queuing up for almost everything seems to be so deep rooted in the culture that newcomers simply pick up it up from day one. Buses, trains, London Underground and even on escalators and when collecting free copies of Evening Standard, the opportunities to queue are endless.

The dark sombre outlook

If Madrid is flamboyant and Paris is romantic, London is definitely sombre. As if to complement the grey historical architecture, Londoners tend to be decked out in dark sombre sensible colours especially in autumn and winter. Just take a look around you when you are in the Tube the next time round. Even the mannerism is rather muted, but that might just change if the person has down a couple of pints.

Keep calm and carry on

I getting used to the fact that things do breakdown every now and then. Be it due to protests, strikes, mechanical failures or adverse weather, Londoners can expect disruptions to their daily every now and then. Londoners do grumble (quite a bit actually but who wouldn’t?) but then they move on again.

Tube strikes? No problem, we’ll hop onto Boris bikes. Snowed in? Well, get the sled out and slug some snowballs. Stuck in a train due to signal failure? That’s what Evening Standard is for, isn’t it?

Lend a hand

In a huge of strangers, it’s intriguing how Londoners keep a lookout for each other. Someone I knew wouldn’t hesitate to bringing her toddler out on a heavy stroller on the Tube, which can be a suicide mission if you ask me. When cautioned, she replied nonchalantly,”There will always be someone who will help me carry the stroller down the stairs.”. And she was exaggerating at all. Just pause for a brief moment at one end of the stairs with your stroller or heavy luggage and there'll be an offer to help even before you mumble "excuse me?". Beyond their solemn outlook, Londoners are really a helpful lot.

The Chaos - Litter, graffiti and hen parties

Coming from a place where littering is still being frowned upon and would invite a fine of at least £500, I was quite taken aback by the casual littering that blights London. Even then, discarded cigerette butts, food wrappers and chewing gums, which eventually leave a dark stained patch on the concrete floor, have become less of an eyesore after some time. I'm not convinced whether that's a good thing but that's what it is.

Graffiti is much lesser a problem in central London compared to Rome and Paris but the low walls running along train tracks are still filled with it. Though most are just meaningless scrawling, I have come to appreciate the likes of Banksy and Eine.

Hen parties and stag do can be pretty wild in London itself. I wouldn't bat an eyelid if I were to see a group of Wonder-women, Bananamen and other superheroes in my train cabin these days. In fact, I rather enjoy such scenes; there was once a group zombies and werewolves who started dancing and singing in the middle of a crowded train much to the amusement of fellow passengers.

The list is of course inexhaustive. Have you got anything else to add? What else endears you to London or simply makes London the place it is?

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Fëanor said...

Merry Christmas to the Little One and you and the Wife!

C K said...

Merry Christmas to you Feanor! In town I suppose? Well, with the transport woes, I guess it's not all bad, isn't it?

Ute@HungryinLondon said...

Haha, that are some very good observations... the longer you live in London, the less you realise how weird some of the things here are. In fact you become part of them. Having said that, I have never and will never be part of a sparsely dressed hen party. There is a limit to my cultural assimilation.

C K said...

Ah... never say never... :)

Anything to add to the list?