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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Not-So-Keen Observations

Now that I've caught up on rest and have somewhat trained my body to obey the six hour time difference, perhaps this can be a more thoughtful post. Today consisted of more welcome-to-London orientation, fruit and croissants for breakfast, and discussion of web 2.0 technologies. Glogster was my favorite technology discussed-you can make your own digital, interactive poster to promote events.

I've only been here two days, and I'm genuinely enjoying every.little.thing about this city. Maybe this sounds odd, but England really does seem more of a "foreign country" than I thought. It's not just the US with pounds and charming accents. London has most of the comforts that the US has, but everything is just a little bit different.

  • London promotes healthy eating. I was handed a free, ripe, and purple (?) avocado in the street by a couple of women holding avocado promotional materials. There was also a walking avocado. 
  • The British value their bacon sandwiches, as well as baked potatoes (jacket potatoes). The ubiquity of Indian and Asian food around here is simply incredible. Even the small cafe offers takeaway chicken curry and tikka masala for only 5 pounds. Indian food is harder to find in Wisconsin and certainly isn't cheap. Also, the British are so creative with their sandwich fillings, which are often Asian-inspired along with the usual turkey, ham, etc. I need to take pictures to remember them. Also, prawn cocktail crisps are rumored to be excellent here.
  • Terms I find enchanting: takeaway (take-out), gents' bathrooms (men's bathrooms), washing-up liquid (dish soap), and cash points (ATMs).
  • In general, everyday terms here seem more refined. Brilliant, for instance. Queuing up. Even car parks instead of parking lots. Er, I'm just easily enchanted by differences.
  • London traffic is terrifying. Motorists zip in and out between cars with barely enough room for their cycles, buses barrel past, and everything just seems rushed. Drive here? No thanks. Luckily, my program supplies us with an Oyster card, so the group can use the bus and tube systems. 
  • Our Indian restaurant refused to give us free tap water; we had to buy bottled.
  • I'm getting the language inferiority complex like I had when I was in Paris a few years ago. The more I listen to the public speak, the more self-conscious I feel when I talk to a British person. It's like I think that they'll perceive my Midwestern accent is hideous and unrefined and be irritated by the fact that I'm American. So far, shop keepers and restaurant owners have been fine, but I feel so shy about speaking much. What I'd really like to know is how I sound to someone from the UK.
  • Calling the British equivalent of 911 (999), will get you free medical treatment. A non-emergency appointment will set you back 40-50 pounds. Bless the NHS. I bet the British don't feel as assured when they visit the states.
  • Fish and chips come with peas, and apple pie comes with custard. It was delicious. Portions are smaller here. When I buy a meal in the US, I usually feel stuffed and often leave food on my plate. The Indian food and fish and chips left me feeling like I'd had a small dinner, but could eat more. I hope I adjust, though-less food and more walking for me.
  • The architecture here is jaw-dropping.
Tomorrow is a tour of the Bloomsbury neighborhood and seeing Billy Elliot in the theater.


  1. Yes, I too discovered that you have to buy water at most places. At one restaurant my group went to eat at, we wanted extra plates to split individual pizzas between two people, but they refused to allow that.

    Your blog is great :)

  2. Actually, most places I've eaten at after don't charge us for water. I think they were just really miserly/didn't care for such a big group of us. A lot of places don't like to split us up, either-they want us all at one big table and refuse to give us separate checks. It's nice when I just go into a pub and order my own food now.

    Thanks for reading, Aaron. :) :)