I’ve noticed some things that are just generally different between cultures like you do, and I just wanted to put them into writing as they come to me…. so here’s the first instalment!
1. Tattoos and Piercings.
It was a little thing at first, but I began to notice that there were generally more people with nose piercings. Just small studs, in ages and professions I am not used to seeing. Teachers are allowed to keep their studs in, and I met a woman in her 50s who had just gotten her nose pierced, because she “finally got the gumption to ask her boss if it was ok”. Same goes for tattoos. Visible tattoos, on the most unlikely people, like teachers or business professionals.
Now, there is still a fair amount of judgement towards people. I watched two women literally turn their nose up at this couple sporting bright blue hair and facial tattoos, and for a moment it was like I was back in Sherman, Tx. But on the whole, there is a better air of acceptance towards people with piercings and tattoos.
2. LGBT everywhere.
The first time I saw a lesbian couple walking down the street hand in hand (looking adorable btw) my heart froze slightly in fear for them, before remembering that this was not Texas. While my girlfriend and I back home feel free to walk around campus, or at the local Wal-Mart late at night with our hands clasped, I honestly wouldn’t feel really comfortable holding her hand during the day in places like Arlington or Forth Worth. Not for our safety (well, depending on the city that is) but mainly because of the reproachful stares, whispers and the thick air of judgement that would follow us. But here in London (much like New York) the air is clear with acceptance. People feel comfortable being themselves and are happy to show PDA like any heterosexual couple. So now, every time I see an LGBT couple being completely adorable on the streets of London, my heart swells in happiness. I can’t wait until Texas is like that.
This is where London reminds me of New York, but not Texas. In Texas, people are polite. Sometimes overly polite. Our southern hospitality requires us to smile to strangers, open doors for others, and call everyone “sir” or “ma’am”. Not the case in London. It’s true, that if you bump into someone in London, both parties will immediately apologise profusely. But there is a difference between apologetic and polite. In central London, there’s no mercy. No one smiles at each other, it’s every man for himself. If I’m going into a shop and hold the door open for people behind me, they stare at me in confusion. If I smile at someone as I pass them on the street, I’m met with a startled expression. I don’t think a person could meet their true love in London by bumping into them on the street (a la Nicholas sparks novel) because London is made up of millions of people living in their own impenetrable bubbles. Seriously. I don’t have a bubble. I don’t even have a concept of a bubble. And yet everyone here has one. The only difference between here and New York is that in New York, the Bubbles are lined with an air of intimidation. People don’t get in your face here if you invade their bubble, they just do everything they can to avoid you.
Then of course, there’s things like differences in Food, Television, and reactions to weather, but I’ll write about them next time.