A Day in London: and all the Tiny Differences Along the Way
Updated: Sep 30, 2019
I knew that living in London would be different to Austin (Texas). While they’re both cities, they’re in completely different countries, in completely different continents. While I expected to encounter cultural differences, I had been to London several times before and felt confident that I already knew what to expect. Once again, and now becoming a recurring theme to my life, I was wrong. And while I have now grown more used to the little differences, it continues to pleasantly surprise me each day how many strange new habits I encounter.
This is just one of my weekends in London.
My alarm rings and I wake up in my bedroom - in the shared house I live in with 4 other people - in Cambridge. Am I in college?? No, but this is actually fairly common in London because rent is so expensive. It’s not unusual to have roommates well into your thirties. It's been HOT the past two weeks and what I didn’t realize before moving was that air conditioning in homes and apartments is not really a thing. Despite Londoners’ arguments that air con is unnecessary, the past two weeks say otherwise. If it hits 100 degrees where you live, you could use air conditioning or a fan. My house here has neither, which has prompted me the past two weeks to snuggle up with an ice pack when I go to sleep.
I pick up a coffee and a sausage roll for my journey. While I do enjoy a kolache back home, it’s not something I eat often. In England I have grown to LOVE sausage rolls. I hadn’t had one before, but it’s similar to a kolache in that it has sausage inside, but it's a flakey pastry on the outside. Try it with ketchup- weird, i know, but trust me! Sooo nice.
Now aboard the train, I sip my coffee and relax into my ride. While I do miss the convenience of driving, there is something nice about being transported somewhere without having to think about it. Moving from Austin, where the traffic is so bad I could eat my entire Chick-fil-A meal on the highway, in rush hour, because you just don’t move, I certainly don’t miss the frustration of rush hour traffic and the nerves of reckless drivers on the road.
Don’t get me wrong, the underground “tube” system has its downsides too. While it is so easy to scan your card and ride until your destination stop, rush hour on the underground is unpleasant too. I could never finish a meal down there because there is simply no room. Be warned my fellow claustrophobics, people squeeze into the trains and you’ll find yourself nose to nose with strangers. You awkwardly reach around one another for a rail to grab onto for when the train starts and stops. It’s kind of like being in a packed club where everyone’s playing twister, except on the tube it’s brighter and without the fun music. In both scenarios it’s hot, uncomfortable, and there’s a good chance you’ll accidentally touch someone’s bum. However, if you can avoid the minimal rush hour slots, you can grab a seat and ride comfortably until you get where you’re going.
While the mindlessness and convenience of the tube is nice, it’s also fun for a traveler to pass famous stops on your route. Covent garden, Hyde park corner, Notting hill - I love knowing I can hop off at any point and be minutes walking distance from a famous London hotspot. And today is no different! I hop off at Hyde park and pick up sandwiches and fruit before meeting Tomás for a picnic. Another thing I’ve noticed here - picking up food ready to go is so accessible. I think it is in America too, but it seems every shop you go into in England has a meal deal ready to pick up and go - and people take full advantage. Coming from Texas where we have mega supermarkets (I miss you, H-E-B), I have grown accustomed to the tiny shops here and surprisingly have found that they do carry everything you need for a meal. Meal deals are so popular, as is eating outside on the grass when the weather's nice, like it is today. I look around and the park is decorated with people enjoying their meal deals in the sunshine.
I cross the street and see the stereotypical red telephone booths and double decker buses. I love it. Tomás and I spend time at the park enjoying the sun and our sandwiches, working side-by-side and strolling along the lake. Later, we head to the cinema. You won’t hear it called a “movie theater” here. Im a big fan of movies and one of my favorite little pleasures in life is going to the cinema and getting a big popcorn and Diet Coke.
“Sweet or salty?” I’m asked as I pay. Sweet?? This is not even an option in the US theatres. So obviously I'm leaning towards salty, so I can drown my popcorn in movie theater butter and the popcorn salt they give you in a separate cup. Only one problem - that doesn’t exist in England. My popcorn dreams are shattered, but we get a mix of sweet and salty and I’m pleasantly surprised. After, we leave the movie and wean in between people, English accents heavy.
I miss home and I miss Texas, but I love going through my day to day life and feeling things are so similar yet so different. From the little details - weird sinks with two faucets instead of one, people eating beans for breakfast, tea all day every day. It’s something I never would’ve experienced otherwise, and I love that I’m getting to learn more about a different country. But I promise no matter how long I stay, I won’t pull a Madonna and pretend I have an English accent.