Monday, October 6, 2014

What They Don’t Tell You About London

Been in London for about a month, it has been one crazy month and I’m still vagabonding it (one more day!). I’m exhausted and at the library trying to read some queer theory, eek I know. But as I am taking a lil’ break (aka just realized it was a Monday), I will use this time to chat about some stuff I have learned about, and is particular to London over these few weeks.

Limescale – WTF is that?! Exactly my reaction when first learning about good old limescale.  It is in the water.  The tap water and what you do your dishes and laundry with. It means that the water is ‘hard’ and it leaves this white chalky, build-up residue that can get all chunked up and make your appliances all wacked out if you don’t use tablets and such to counteract the limescale accumulation. It apparently doesn’t hurt your body but it’s a bit off to think about it when/if you drink from the tap. This girl says, ‘no thank you’ most of the time to ingesting it but hey, sometimes you just gotta drink from the tap.

Fashion – It’s varied obviously because it is a mega city but the thing that I want to remark upon is how the ladies on London, specifically arty ones, dress. They dress in supreme comfort and total affordability. Baggy is in, department store off the rack is in, soft is in, sweats (tops and bottoms) are in.  Cheap-o shoes are in, sneakers (trainers) are in, doing your makeup on the train is in. I don’t know what to call it. How to pin it down but there is a casually lazy but indeterminately cool vibe being produced by all these parts. Maybe it’s because they are just so damn comfortable. Who knows but I have most certainly embraced this and have been wearing boys sweat pants for four days strait.

Rocket – Yo, but for real. They call arugula, ‘rocket.’ Mind blown.

24 hours doesn’t exist – So you are out someplace far or even sorta not that far and you are having fun and talking and drinking and making new friends and then it’s like holy crap it’s 2/3am and omg all the trains are done-zo for the night. So you have to try to find a bus and try to get home on a series of these and then somehow you make it home but it took you a good hour plus to do it. Sobering. Infuriating. London does not like 24-hour transport. This is going to be a very awkward year.

Middle Eastern/Muslim Population – Maybe people know about this but I didn’t know that London has a HUGE population of Muslims and Middle Easterners. I have only been to a few areas but in all those I have been to, this is very noticeable and it is fab for the food and complex demographic influences. It’s relative to New York’s Latin/Mexican/Central America population and their presence and effect on commerce, food and conversations about race, politics and economies. Fascinating to see.

School is basically free, except PhDs – So school is like insane cheap for UK/EU citizens. Yes, yes I am sure things have gotten more expensive and changed over the years but compared to America it is nearly free. Amazing. I think that changes a lot of the potential and mentality people have here re: higher education and also the pursuit of degrees that will probably leave them with a middling income at best. On the flip of this, what is very surprising to learn is that PhD programs are not funded in the way American programs are.  Not only do all PhD programs in the states have their tuition funded but here is additional monies for living expenses. Maybe all those years of cheap schooling has a final price to pay.

Buses – You are always, always, ALWAYS on a bus. Aka dying.

Political – People, artists, students are very political. Very. Seriously.

Change – I think that London is actually trying to bury me alive with change. They have so much change! It is heavy and all sorts of sizes and they look all different and you literally get ‘change’ when you get ‘change’ like 10 pounds worth of change in one transaction. Dying. Need a coin purse asap before my wallet explodes.

Credit/Banking – I feel like I’m in the year 2000 with the banking and credit/debit use here. My US debit card is not signed, never has been. This is a MAJOR problem every time I use it because they literally check your signature to the receipt you sign. Every time. And then they don’t believe it and then you get into this fight.  You don’t use a pin, you literally have to write your name exactly the way you wrote it that one time. Nuts. Also to check my UK bank account online and to do any transfers etc. I have this secure key that I have to put all this stuff into and codes for each step. I have no idea why they are so remedial in banking. Seems possibly indicative of other traits.

Plants, Shrubs, Flowers – I can’t get over how cute and quaint and charming many neighbourhoods of London are.  They are adorable! People from here sorta roll their eyes at me when I express this but really, it is super clean, (have yet to smell urine in the streets/ while using transport). There are lovely roses, and flowers, and shrubs and bushy flowers all over the place. Also, this is a wide, short city so you can see the sky and clouds. Being able to do this makes even the sombre, rainy days feel at least brisk and fresh.  I’m sure I’ll get over it soon but seeing sky is something sorely missed in New York.