London is a city of firsts for me.
The first time I went abroad, it was for a weekend in London with my Dad. I was 8 and I felt so proud saying “A Coke, please” that I ordered six glasses in the spam of a one-hour flight, gleefully unaware that a simple “Ice ?” would have completely thrown me off.
I remember crossing path with a colorful punk and a gentleman wearing a cane and a bowler hat along the Thames and being appalled when I realized I could not understand the conversations of the locals riding the Tube while I had been studying English for a good six weeks in school.
I became fascinated by London then and after many trips and one full year of living there, I still love it. Let me share six things I particularly like about London and the UK.
Diversity in London
“In London everyone is different, and that means anyone can fit in.”
Pink, green or blue hair, piercings everywhere, three-piece suits, checked socks over pants, tights with flowers or glitter, platform heels, fancy hats, insane color associations, layers of make-up… London’s streets and Underground showcase a festival of eccentricity at any time of day or night.
As upsetting as Brexit has been for minorities, it is not representative of the atmosphere in London as the Mayor, Sadiq Khan keeps repeating , #Londonisopen. Everyone can present themselves to the world the way they want without feeling judged. And I love that.
And yes, that also means that being so lazy that you just go out of the house in your PJs on Sunday is acceptable.
Everything is open on Sunday
And at lunch time. And after 7pm.
Incredible for a French girl. I could fall asleep on Saturday knowing that I could still go grocery shopping, to the hairdresser, to the bank, find a birthday present and all that before Monday morning.
NB : Contrarily to New York, London does sleep when the night comes. Plan ahead if you want to have dinner after 9pm.
The British pub
My landlord made a moving speech praising the British pub, this marvelous place where the priest, the factory worker, the executive, the student and the family man can share a pint regardless of social stigmas.
The pub is neither chic nor elitist, it is a popular place where anyone can find food and drinks for a reasonable price in a warm atmosphere.
Even if it tends to become fancy and hipstery in some neighborhoods, I like what the pub stands for. There is literally one on every corner so if you get the chance, tag along to a local.
Unlike France, the UK does not have any problem celebrating entertainment. And the English language helped spread British productions across the world.
I adored being able to just pop to the West End and see a musical.
I have bothered everyone I know over and over again : I absolutely loved the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. I will admit I am a sucker for this kind of over-the-top performances and I start crying every time they start playing any kind of ceremonial music. But in this case, I am talking about J.K Rowling reading J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan, Mary Poppins coming down from the sky to fight Voldemort and the Spice Girls touring the stadium on sparkling London cabs. The artistic part is from 13:40 to 1:30:00 in the video.
British Humour – TV series
Recent excellent British TV shows have made Britain shine internationnally. I am thinking about Dowtown Abbey, The Crown, Sherlock and Doctor Who among others.
However, there are also many shows with typical dark humour that do not cross borders as much. You laugh but not out loud. They are full of wit, euphemism and cynicism.
Jokes about social classes rarely make me laugh, I am probably too republican for them, but I like the global tone of it. While living with British families, I joyfully discovered Bad Education, Little Britain, Faulty Towers, Blackadder, Big School…
British comfort food
British food has a bad reputation, I give you that. But there are a few dishes that will make you forget the gloomy weather : full English Breakfast, scones, pies, afternoon tea, Sunday roast… I could not get enough !
To sum up, London has a very rich culture that is both familiar and different. A folklore made of double-decker buses and dozens of accents.
I will soon share a few ideas of things to see in London.