When I first started planning my semester abroad in London, I had no idea how far-reaching my love for London and the people I’ve met here would be (and Pret a Manger, can’t forget my love for Pret). There are so many beautiful things about the British culture and the city of London itself.
Courteousness seems to be a cultural characteristic and it ranges from schoolchildren to fellow Tube riders to hotel concierge. When I visited my first art museum, I was shocked to see huge groups of little 1st graders peering up at paintings and sculptures, being asked by their teachers “but what do you see in this painting?!? what is the artist trying to say?!?” (um flowers! i see flowers! he was happy!) and scribbling notes on their little clipboards. The pitter patter of a group of elementary school kids meant a polite incoming chorus of “excuse me, pardon me, sorry” as they maneuvered their little bodies through the museum and its patrons. And to think taking my middle school classes to the zoo was an ordeal…
There seems to be an innate kindness in mostly everyone I’ve met here. Example: a hotel concierge who watched my giant suitcase on a street curb while I went to an ATM, then hailed me a cab and proceeded to lift my giant suitcase into the cab when I wasn’t even staying at that hotel and she had no reason to be so helpful. Locals are quick to give directions and lend a guiding hand. Store clerks are businesslike but considerate and often helped count out the coins in the early days (pence and pounds, both in coin form) without annoyance. Londoners are friendly and warm and even on a cold, rainy day London is a kind, comfortable, bustling metropolis.
As I wrap up a month long semester here, I realized that it’s easy to come to a foreign country, spend an extended amount of time and slowly catalogue each and every cultural difference that presents itself. But I’ve found that in each country it’s more important to take notice of what makes people universally similar and to do so by immersing yourself in the culture and talking to and making friends with locals. In London, as a respectful and friendly visitor, you can expect the same warmth and hospitality that you would from a fellow American (and maybe even more so…).
More updates coming soon from mainland Europe xx