Tuesday, August 4, 2015

15 Things I Learned In London

It’s not like I have even scratched the surface of what England has to offer over the course of a six-day visit, but going to new places does open your eyes to differences you might not even think about being different.

1. There aren’t very many pickup trucks or mini-vans in the city.
2. London is not a semi-arid landscape; they mean it when they say it is rainy.
3. Black taxi cabs are easy enough to find, but they aren’t nearly as cool as they look on Sherlock.

4. Detours are called “diversions.”
5. London is like a huge commercial tourist attraction—the touristy places direct you to the gift shop, where there are bins filled with Oriental Trading Company-esque trinkets to go around; it’s kind of depressing. (But seriously. Does the Tower of London NEED three gift shops? I thought England was supposed to be classier than the U.S.)

6. People don’t seem like that they hate Americans that much to your face. People we talked to seemed curious but kind.
7. Mini-fridges are not a given in London or in Barcelona. Midwestern hospitality should punch them in the face.

8. There is a very large Muslim population, although no British TV show I’ve ever watched would ever suggest that.
9. There’s something wrong with the water, I guess, and maybe in all of Europe, because apparently they have to get you weird water from Norway in a jar. There are no laws about free tap water in every restaurant, perhaps? Maybe it’s like California or something…

10. All the prices are as written, which is super confusing for someone accustomed to calculating sales tax.
11. Alcohol isn’t as no-no-y. There was a bar in the Southbank Centre despite the large toddler population.
12. There is not a grid system, and it makes you want to throw up. Never have I been more glad for the Northwest Ordinance.
13. The Globe Theatre is WAY AWESOME and people don’t talk about it enough.

14. The Thames is kind of nasty.

15. It’s a lovely place, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Beyond the Globe Theatre, I’m not even sure if I want to go back.

I did have a decent trip, mind you, but I’m kind of glad I went under the circumstances that I did. I didn’t expect to be seeing the sights or doing things the way I would have if I had gone on an England trip as originally planned last year. But it felt very commercial and fake… less English than I would have liked, if that makes sense.

I’m still interested in exploring England again, but for now, my plans are to keep London to a minimum. There’s a whole rest of the country to explore, I’ll have you know!

Have you ever visited London (or, like, do you live there)? Do you like it?


  1. Interesting thoughts. You are right, London is set up for tourists and if you walk in the tourist lane and do all the main tourist attractions, it will feel more like a fake world/one-ginormous-gift-shop than a living breathing city. But don't give up on London. There is SO MUCH to see and do and hear and explore. It is really important to step out of the things that tourists tend to do and look for ways to see and touch real London life.

    I only got to spend a few days in London, but I enjoyed exploring the less central districts. Like you mentioned in point eight, London is way more diverse than the tv shows portray. That was a happy surprise for me cause I'm obsessed with middle eastern food and so I enjoyed the fact that there were ME restuarants on almost every single block.

    1. I didn't do a ton of tourist attractions since I was mostly there for the poetry conventions, but you're right, the touristy places were the real fakeness I felt. Mostly I spent time in the Southbank Centre, and that was okay, but nothing particularly special, I suppose.

      It's cool that you got to stay in London! It must have been awesome to run into the deliciousness you didn't expect. I loved the Chinese Peruvian food in our hotel, so that was a nice surprise for me, too!

  2. I'm so glad you had a good time. When I was in London in 2012 (in the middle of the Olympis ) I Musemed (very happily. I love museums and I want to possibly be a museum curator.) We didn't go to the Tower of London or the London eye or the big ben. I loved the british library and the britsih museum (so cool despite questionable imperial legacy and I dragged my mother back a second time without the rest of my family) and the natural history museum (though there wasn't enough time for all the things) and then in scotland that wasn't london there was this cool castle and a ship history museums (I'm not obsessed) I do wish we'd gone to the globe though. Oh well. I'm glad you had a good time. England is quite a bit like New Zealand but more conservative/ quiet I guess. I love public art, it should be a Thing more. The Thames is quite brown, but I think thats because it's tidal. Thanks for the post, Heather. and I loved the pictures!

    1. That's awesome! Being a museum curator sounds like it would be an awesome job. We saw the Tower and our hotel was close to Big Ben and the London Eye, but we didn't tour the last two. The British Museum definitely has the questionable imperial legacy—I feel bad for all the cultures who don't have cool stuff to show anymore. :/ I think I would have liked to see a castle, but I'm glad you got to spend some time outside of London! Public art is definitely something I like about where I live, too. :) I didn't know if it was due to tides or pollution or anything... No idea. Thanks for reading, Shanti!

  3. Wow, cool post! And definitely unexpected. Most people who go to London just gush about how awesome it is, whereas you seemed to see a lot deeper, beyond the tourist attractions and stuff. So thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    I've never been to London, but I'd love to go there. Actually, I'd love to go everywhere, but England especially.


    1. *purses lips* Yeahhhhh. Maybe it's a matter of seeing what you want to see? London definitely wasn't my favorite trip, though, and that cast a certain light on what I thought.

      I hope you do get to go to London one day! You'd have to share what you think of it, of course. :)

  4. Aw, I'm sorry to hear that you didn't have a great time in our GLORIOUS country. To be fair, most of us English will tell you that London is not all that it's cracked up to be - the touristy things DEFINITELY aren't worth it. I live just outside of Bath, and that is a BEAUTIFUL city. It's where Jane Austen wrote most of her books, so it's got a real Regency feel, and there's also The Roman Bath Spa, which is pretty awesome. And there are cathedrals and one of the best bookshops I've ever been too.
    Long story short: if you're coming to England, don't go to London. Everything is overpriced and tacky there. Oh, but be warned: if you visit ANYWHERE outside of London, people take much less kindly to Americans. I mean, we'll be lovely to your face, because we're not uncouth, but we'll roll our eyes and shudder at your accents. It's not meant to be offensive; it's just the English way!
    Beth x

    1. Fortunately, there were some nice English policemen who clued me into other places I might like to visit on a return trip that are not in London. My dad actually went to Bath, around fifteen years ago, and the pictures he took are lovely—of the Roman Bath Spa, actually. He's spoken of it in a very complimentary way.

      But, yeah, now you tell me. XD I am still interested in visiting England, but not London so much anymore. (Speaking of overpriced things, I assume it is ridiculous to pay 25 pounds for a small umbrella? because I felt like that was ridiculous, but we did it anyway...) Anyway, thanks for the warning. I'll try to suck less if I go back, so that the English way has less to complain about me.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Beth! (It is nice to have the opinion of someone who actually lives in England, you know?)

  5. *laughs head on* *screws head back on for typing of comment* Seriously, your photo edits was hilarious. "less important boats." "British plug." "faking my chopstick skills." (Good faking, too. It doesn't look that different from my incorrect skills, which no one has reprimanded me for past the age of twelve.) "rich person seats" vs "oglers". Seriously, THE BEST.

    And your actual comments were lovely too, of course -- on a more serious note, I'm sorry to hear you didn't find London as genuine as you would've liked. I do find that note about the Muslim population interesting -- I never knew that, either! *notes down contemporary idea*

    1. *curtsies* I do try to be hilarious when I can help it. AND THEY WERE LESS IMPORTANT BOATS. I didn't like them. British plugs are weird, and chopsticks are hard—even if your skills are incorrect, I assume you aren't going forklift-style? Glad you enjoyed my captions!

      Yeah, London wasn't as disappointing as it might have been at another time because I wasn't expecting to do much but poetry anyway, but hopefully other parts of England will be better. And yes, there was a much more diverse population than I expected! It was actually kind of reassuring.

  6. I LOVE THIS POST. I think in NZ we are closer to England than America with culture. So the whole sales tax thing??
    I love your writing on the photos X'D

    1. THANK YOU. I'm glad you like it. It would not surprise me that you are closer to England since NZ was in England's direct custody for about 64 years longer than the USA, although you've had plenty of time to grow in your own way since then.

      (Do you people not have sales tax, then...? I'm confused.)

      Thanks for reading, Opal!

  7. Now I know where you went! That was such a short visit! The time I went to Europe, we went to Spain, France, and Britain, and we had about 2 weeks in London. I don't know. I'm with you on the Thames sanitary quality though. We didn't go to the globe (le sob) but We visited the British museum at least twice. Did you go there? I loved all the amazing stuff, even though it was generally stolen, especially from Britain's ex-colonies. When we went there we also noticed pubs were in a way more like cafe's- in New Zealand that wouldn't be normal at all (nor in India). We were going on a walk and our spainish friends were like let's go and get ice cream from the pub and we were like what??? Anway, nice to know where you went!

    1. Well, it was six days, and it felt like a long time. That's quite a trip that you took, though! I did go to the British Museum, although you spent more time there. We could only stay for about an hour. It's kind of cool, but, like you said, kind of sad, too. I didn't go to any pubs, so I wasn't really able to compare them to anything, but it's good to know they aren't like saloons or anything. XD Thanks for reading and commenting, Shar!

  8. Those pictures though. I love your commentary. Aside from the London tower and the Thames and the Globe Theatre, I'm not hugely interested in London. It strikes me as a little too stinky and crowded for my tastes. I would prefer the lake country or Exmoor or something like that. But rain and fog are basically my favoritest things ever, so I'd like to visit there sometime. It's fascinating to learn little tidbits about London, though, so thanks for sharing!

    1. I'm glad you liked the pictures. I always enjoy being weird like that. I didn't get to see the whole of the London Tower (though I wasn't hugely impressed by the crown jewels...) but it is interesting to take boat tours on the Thames. I agree with you though, I'd definitely prefer to go to the country a little more than a big place like London! Thanks for reading, Liz!


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