The English or the British. You may have to read a book on that to know the difference. Regardless, here are my experiences from my adventures in London during the spring of 2015.
I got into my room that was in a large house after an 8 hour flight, 1.5 hour pass through at immigration (even while being a US Citizen), and a 3 hour first time commute from Victoria terminal. The woman renting me the place via Airbnb was, on my initial read on her, a nice old lady. I dropped my bags, and off I went. Took Portobello Road, and was somehow via the Tube and avoiding the line to Cock Fosters at Victoria again. I wanted to quickly get used to the London Tube. Actually, it took me about 4 days to figure it out. I came home late and slept till goodness knows the hour, only to be woken up by loud noises of kids and a cat. I think it was intentional by the nice old lady. On my first real day, she seemed to be nice, and showed me around the kitchen. The floor had cat food and other items, so, I chose to leave my socks on. In general, it wasn’t too clean for a kitchen. She was friendly, and talkative, yet, I went out to tour London. I had a mixed experience with the people of London. The social and economic class vibrations were pretty much in my face. I have had that before, so it was super easy to detect it. Some people were friendly to me only as a mere formality. Some were genuine about it.
In comparison to NYC, it’s a lot cleaner, and more organized. That went for its local transport as well: Tube, Trains, and Buses. The Tube for the several lines I rode on were clean inside, and so were the tube stations. They really need to improve on their tube card. The tube card is much like the metro card except more expensive and different cost structure. Also, just keep in mind at many Tube stops (probably all) including Victoria did not have an escalator or an elevator. Generally, I had a very positive experience. People in the Tube mostly keep to themselves. I found that unfriendly at the time, and I understand it now that that’s fine and acceptable especially for the women riders of Tube. I think they just need to be more relaxed not necessarily soft. They being all of them with all the different backgrounds. Also, I did not encounter a single pan-handler or mentally unstable in your face loud, obnoxious, and smelly person as you would almost every day and every ride and multiple times in that ancient Subway of NYC.
The first night with the owner was kept brief. I had told her that I don’t drink for health reasons. And that was, and still is true. I hit the sack, and was fast asleep and hoped my sore throat or allergy type symptoms would go away in the morning.
The next morning I awoke to a loud smoke alarm. I ran upstairs to the kitchen to find no smell of smoke or anything. The nice old lady said she was making toast, and it got burned and thereby setting of the alarm. Still, there was no smell of burnt bread. I know it well (or should I be English and say: “I know it ratherrrr well.”) My suspicion was she just wanted to wake me up, or maybe I was just being a doubtful idiot. After breakfast, took the tube to Victoria, and did not like figuring out the odd ball connections of the tube and was in dislike with the English bureaucracy. I waited in line for the travel and tour info bus line at Victoria terminal for 40 minutes. I missed both the 10:20 bus and the 11:00 am bus to Windsor Castle. The Green Bus Terminal was about a 15 minute brisk walk. The customer service reps in the booth of the Green Bus Terminal, laughed at me, when I mentioned the 11:00am bus didn’t stop for me when I waved my hand, and the bus-ticketer aboard the bus informed me (while the bus was in motion) to purchase the ticket at the booth. Love that immigrant run English Bureaucracy. So, at the booth, the big fat eastern European guy laughed quite literally “Ha, Ha, Ha”, and then informed me I could have bought the ticket on the Bus. The other guy upon noticing my nervous-upset self, tamed down, and tried to help me. I bought the ticket, and later told me it was non-refundable. Quite a day I was having. Outside, I walked in the back where there were some Café stands, and only one was open. On the café stand was an anti-considerate sales person who happen to be from that region of the formerly ruled British Raj. No she was not even experienced to get the badge of a “Barista”. I guess she disliked me because of my cleanly spoken (American) English. I don’t know, maybe she hated her job, or she hated to help out her clan that owned this little makeshift shop of a café. And I had succeeded in claiming a bare victory by purchasing a croissant and coffee from her. She was so friendly she might as well as have tossed the croissant at me. I thought to myself to her “Burn baby burn.”
Finally, aboard the double decker Green line bus, I enjoyed to view on the top level all the way to lovely Windsor Castle. At Windsor Castle there were more true English people running the place. Sorry, I couldn’t discern between the Scottish, Welsh, English, or British, and truly I am not even interested in learning about their bloody rivalries. Off with your head 🙂
On my third night, I had returned, and found the nice old lady drinking. I saw her in a panicky mode. Panicking as she was trying to hide the wine bottle, which she later admitted to me jokingly. She was with a friend. He was an honest looking person. Her real side came out. And she offered me a drink. I knew that she knew that I was avoiding to drink. However, she was kind of inexperienced and figuring out things and obviously thought I belonged to certain faith, which she admitted later. Only after I decided to have a few drinks with here was she put at ease. Well, my drinking had started again, reprehensibly, only to prove to her that I was okay with drinking, smoking, and all that as long as it didn’t affect my health. So for 6 more nights I would have a drink with her and who-ever she had over. I also bought her some wine on my second to last night. However, I still suspected her for being creative in creating a different havoc almost every morning. I suspect it was to get me up and out of the house. Some nice old lady, mighty English of her (even though she was and is admittedly a proud Scott).
Oddly, there are many Eastern European immigrants, a significant of Polish decent, in England, especially in London. Most of them were nice to me. Sometimes they were friendly to get a large tip, and other times so they could practice their English. They seemed genuine in their being.
London has many of the fast food eateries as New York. Still, their Mexican food at Chipotles was not that good. Their black beans were a bit hard and kind of raw. I also ate at another small Mexican place where the food was made by Italians, and some Eastern Europeans. I don’t remember the name of the place, and the food did not taste Mexican or American. It was the Eastern European-London version of Mexican food that was very affordable and affectionate.
The English are definitely refined in their taste of music. Everywhere I went they had really good music selections. This was modern music, and I don’t even know the names of the groups in the endless Genres I heard. Take NYC or Boston radio, it’s awful, except for maybe WQXR and (Jazz), the rest of the Genres are awful. Take any café small or chain in the East Coast USA they play awful music in comparison to that of London.
The best thing I liked about London were all its Gardens, and parks. I had a mixed experience with the people of London both native (whatever that means), and recently shifted ones.