British Observations

Note I said observations – not judgements. My entrepreneurial mind keeps wandering to how to take advantage of all these slightly different products and ways of being that North American’s could adapt or vice versa. Although, I like that things are different geographically even though we’re always hearing about globalization and how there is no difference between one culture and another.

  1.  The number of new drivers who are older than 16 is quite astonishing. I think our street is used as a teaching ground, since it’s a dead end. I don’t think I’ve seen a teenager yet.
  2. The number of people who find it perfectly acceptable to pick their nose in public. Ew!
  3. Better medical? Phil got in for an MRI in a couple of weeks for his knee. My knee has bothered me for years and my doctor just tells me to stretch it out. I sort of feel like we’re the immigrants that they’re always talking about in the news that are abusing the medical system.
  4. The lack of workout attire. I am getting a little sick of see-through leggings. One woman even wore the dress she wore to work and ballet flats. One instructor had holes in her one-piece jumpsuit, and I’m pretty sure I had the same one in the ’80’s. I have yet to see one stitch of Lululemon. Although, it is refreshing that people could care less what they look like when they work out. Lululemon – you should make me an ambassador. If you pay for my classes and workout gear, I’ll tell everyone where I got the outfits. Deal?
  5. Utilities are expensive. Quit your griping Canadians. For the little, itty bitty place we have here, we were told to set aside £90 per month (that’s water – yes, you pay for water, electricity and gas). For a slightly bigger place in Vancouver, the only utility bill we had was electricity and that probably averaged $25 a month. So if you don’t see posts for a while, assume that the electricity has been shut off or I’m protesting against the cost of it.
  6. Cell phone plans are inexpensive. Also, I think the whole iPhone craze is going away. I don’t think the brand of your phone says as much about you anymore. This could be world-wide.
  7. All the groceries come pre-packaged. You want some bananas? Packaged. You want some tomatoes? Packaged. Phil and I actually had a woman who was writing her thesis about packaging on foods come up to us in the supermarket. I may have given her an ear full. She looked a little stunned to find someone that knew what she was talking about. I probably could have blathered on for quite some time. I went on a hunt to find re-usable grocery bags. The girl at the grocery checkout just looked at me like I was from outerspace or Wales.
  8. Similar, but slightly different to #7, there is a lot of pre-packaged food here. Some grocery stores have a tiny, little produce section and aisles of ready-to-eat meals.
  9. Neighbourhoods are more mixed. You get the rich and the poor in almost every area of the city. I think it makes it quite an interesting scene. Although, to be honest, I’m having a little trouble adjusting to it in my own neighbourhood. I’m experiencing a little NIMBY-ism.
  10. It looks like all kids wear uniforms. I have to say part of me likes that idea. Although, I find the girl’s skirts to be a tad on the short side. God, I’m getting old.
  11. Better layouts for small spaces. North America could definitely adapt some of these European/UK tricks. For example, washing machine in the kitchen and smaller appliances. It also has the side benefit of making you only have things that are fresh and not wilted. I find they haven’t adopted the whole open concept layout as much so. It actually works really well because you end up with more wall space for laying out furniture and storage.
  12. The fashion hasn’t impressed me as much as I had hoped and not everybody in a super model. Disappointing – everyone is normal.
  13. There are lots of smokers. And it seems socially acceptable to be so. I guess they haven’t started putting death threats on packages here yet.
  14. You can drink in public. We’ve been going to the park after work with a bottle of wine and picnic blanket. It’s the best! Although, Phil and I both feel like we’re doing something wrong and tend to hide the bottle and get flustered by anyone who looks like a park ranger.
  15. Vancouver considers itself to be a melting pot of ethnicities, but I don’t think it’s got anything on London. There is just more diversity. A wider range of ethnic backgrounds. Which leads me to #15:
  16. It seems they judge different ethnicities moreso. I signed up for a library card the other day – no proof of identity required, but I did need to tick my ethnic box: white, black, etc. Then I had to state what kind of white I was. Canadian wasn’t an option. I am really struggling to understand the importance of this information. If it’s just to understand who comes to the library, I sort of get it, but what does it matter what race we are? Can’t we all just be treated as equals?
  17. Everyone gets dressed up for work. Phil is still unhappy with this. Although, he’s happy that his belt arrived today, so he can stop wearing mine.
  18. It matters where you went to school and what accent you have. There is definitely more of a class consciousness here. I can’t tell the difference, but born and raised Brits know right away where you grew up and how affluent your family could be. Although, I think any British accent is better than an “American” one.

This article may need to be continued. I didn’t intend for it to be so lengthy.


7 thoughts on “British Observations

  1. Love your, uh, “observations” :-). Seriously though, I found your orbservations to be insightful and interesting, and it is clear that you and Phil (plus one badly needed belt) are having a grand adventure and loving it, and that is so cool. This adventure will impact you now and for the rest of your life in so many ways. That is enough to make any and this Dad’s heart very warm. Love you!

  2. Ooooh, I had a good laugh at this, the knowing “eeeheheheheh” kind of laugh.
    1. It’s really hard to pass the UK driving exam. Most Brits have failed it more than twice. Roundabouts!
    4. I even just noticed how few people talk about or even consider working out as a part of their lifestyle. London may be different, but in York there weren’t many runners, cyclists or active looking people around. Yoga was VERY exotic.
    7. WHAT is the DEAL with the veggies entombed in plastic, eh?? I found the solution for this was going to the farmer’s market. York spoiled me with the most amazing one, open all week with special stalls on the weekend. It’s all loose produce, often much cheaper and more fresh, and sometimes from a person’s backyard! Mmmm duck eggs.
    8. When in a bind, Marks & Spencers make the nicest pre-packaged meals. Great for trips!
    12. Britain really holds on to fashion trends, beyond the uber-rich in Chelsea who look fabulous. Most shops seem to be stuck in the 60’s, with sheath mini dresses and loud colours and patterns. Brits really like “more is more”: leopard print cardigan with sequined shoulders and a big satin bow, with a lace cut-out back. Jigsaw, Whistles, Cath Kidston are gorgeous stores that buck this trend and have great sales.
    15. Head to Tooting Broadway in South London. It’s like walking into India. So many people on the street, all the shops wide open. I saw naan bread being made fresh in a copper drum on the sidewalk, and had the BEST lamb biryani at a curry place housed in a re-purposed fish and chips shop.
    17. People get dressed up more for everything! My mom and I had tea on a Sunday morning in a tiny town, and all the women were dressed in pastel skirt suits with fancy hats. Brits are obsessed with fancy hats!
    18. The class system is VERY solid, and this manifests itself in many interesting ways that you can observe as an outsider. The best people will not give a hoot (this is true in all places, of course). The worst people will even treat you, being a “colonial” (and apparently “American”), as a lower class. Also, watch out for casual sexism, especially in the workplace. Rubbish, I say!

    Love your writing and your adventures. Good luck with Yoo!

  3. Interesting/funny ha ha cultural observations Tara. My thoughts:

    1. We have trouble with roundabouts in Canada too – nobody wants to yield – not good.
    2. Nose picking in Canada is usually only done in your vehicle – and they make such a stink about driving whilst talking on your cell.
    3. You and Phil are pretty healthy Canadian specimens – the UK is lucky to have you.
    4. We know how to dress down here. We look awesome working out/camping/hanging out. As a matter of fact we look sooo awesome in our casual gear that we wear it to work/parties/dinner dates/weddings – you name it.
    6. I agree. I recently saw a homeless man talking on his cell.
    7. Should have listened to your Grandpa
    9. Maybe we Canadians are more segregated than we think we are. Interesting point Tara. I think the UK’s social housing is much more anti-oppressive than ours. One of the most difficult things working with marginalized families is finding affordable housing in a nice neighbourhood.
    10. You’re not getting old Tara. That means that I’m getting really old.
    13. They haven’t switched to pot there?
    14. Shawn is rethinking the trip to London.
    16. I would hazard to guess that the UK is just more open/honest/verbal about their judgements on ethnicities. Canadians are way to polite to say anything – just think it. Did the library forms actually say black/white? At work I’m not even supposed to use the term white. It must be of European Descent.
    17. What are they going to do, fire him (that’s our favourite saying at work)? I think he needs to start a new trend – at least casual Fridays!
    18. At least the UK integrates their residential communities. We segregate by affordability, leaving the lower income population living either on the street or in run down neighbourhoods.

    Love you Bear xoxo

    • Thanks for the comments Mumsy! I had to re-read them again. They do actually say black/white/etc. It’s so strange! Here’s what it said on one job application:
      Black Caribbean  Turkish/Turkish Cypriot
       Black African  Greek/Greek Cypriot
       Black Other  White
       Irish  Other
       Asian

      Then it went on to say that they don’t discriminate, blah, blah, blah. And I’m not sure what the difference is between being Irish and being White. On some forms it asks if you’re Gypsy. I’m afraid of what Grandpa’s answer would be on a questionnaire like that.

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