All Things Bright and New to Me

As I stood in the shower this morning, I thought about the fact that I just pressed a button and a torrent of hot water jetted instantly out of the shower rose. “Power showers”, as they are known here in the UK, were such a novelty for us when we first got to London.

I then thought about everything else in our day-to-day lives that fascinated me when I first arrived here. Two months after we arrived here, I emailed my family a list of things that were different from what I knew. I had another look at the list today, and thought I would post it here.

Please note that this is my perspective and my opinion; some of these things might be familiar to those who live in South Africa, and perhaps not everything I have seen is typical of London. These are purely my observations of things that I found different.

Interesting, as I read through it, I realised how inured I have become to most of the items on the list. I found myself thinking, “Oh, right – that was new to us back then”.

We call this guy "Neil". Long story
  1. We saw a fox in our car park the other evening.
  2. We have heaters in both of our bathrooms, and even in our kitchen. (And in the lounge and bedrooms, of course.)
  3. We have power showers in our bathrooms: you turn on a power switch on the bathroom wall, and then press the “on” button on the shower, and out comes hot water, instantly.
  4. At Tesco (supermarket) you pack your own groceries into bags. And you get “green points” (like extra loyalty points) on your Tesco card if you bring and re-use your own bags.
  5. The shopping trolleys at our local Tesco have a sign on them that reads: “These trolleys are programmed to stop automatically when pushed beyond the red zone.” The perimeter of the shopping centre (i.e. the car park) is colour-coded, with the red zone being the outermost zone. If you push a trolley over that line, it will literally stop. We discovered through experience, and wondered why the trolley stopped suddenly, jarringly, and would not budge a further inch.
  6. [I did see a shopping trolley on top of the bus stop a few months ago – not sure how it got beyond not only the “red zone” but how it was lifted to such a height. I think drunkenness might give you extra powers and imagination.]
  7. Despite commonly held beliefs, Londoners can be pretty friendly and helpful.
  8. It seems to be OK to swear on television (not on the news though).
  9. It’s a crime to beg. [The crime is “Begging and summoning alms.”]
  10. You can get arrested, or at least a warning, for peeing in public.
  11. Some buses won’t stop at the bus stop you’re standing at unless you flag them down.
  12. If you’re travelling on the bus, you need to ring the bell for it to stop at the next bus stop. Unless someone flags it down from the bus stop or a passenger rings the bell, it will not stop.
  13. Some bus drivers will wait for you if they see you running for the bus.
  14. At some shops you can scan and pay for your purchases yourself – i.e. no cashier involved.
  15. Sometimes it costs you 30p to spend a penny [go to a public rest room].
  16. You can buy booze on Sundays and you can buy wine and beer and spirits in the supermarkets. [In South Africa you cannot buy alcohol in a supermarket on a Sunday.]
  17. Wherever you go in London, you will encounter people from a huge variety of nationalities. It is truly a multicultural society, quite remarkable. I thought we lived and worked in a multi-cultural world in Cape Town, but honestly – we know nothing compared to a city like London.
  18. You can’t buy green (Sunlight-type) soap, and the local mayonnaise generally tastes junk. You can’t buy margarine in the UK – it is an illegal product. And you can’t buy cane spirit in the UK because it destroys your memory.
  19. What was I saying?
  20. You can get about 80 channels on Freeview television. But a TV licence costs about ZAR1,500 a year [£145.50].
  21. On weather reports on TV and the radio, they use terms like “bright”, “breezy” and “dull”.
  22. You can get free daily newspapers (Metro and the London Evening Standard) at the tube stations – with the result that most commuters are up on the latest news, like “has Simon Cowell shaved his hands?”
  23. We have mobile phones, from which we send texts. (Not cell phones, nor sms’s.)

I continue to notice new things, as you know, and I usually blog about them. I’ll never be a Londoner, but I can now make my way around a city that initially felt so wildly “forrin” to me.

Sunshine signing off for today!


50 thoughts on “All Things Bright and New to Me

  1. Interesting list! Especially #1 – I’m always amazed how wildlife can adapt to urban environments. Are animals like this allowed to stay or do they get relocated? Would love to hear more about “Neil”.

    1. Thanks, Lisa. I don’t know what the regulations are regarding urban wildlife, but we’ve seen plenty of foxes in our area and other areas around London. We see Neil – and others – quite often, running across the road, scurrying into hedges and sneaking over walls. I think they can be quite a menace, and there have been stories in the media about foxes attacking people.

  2. A power shower sounds great. It’s a lot more efficient than letting the water run until it’s warm enough.

    Why is margarine illegal? Here in the States, hardly anyone uses real butter.

    1. A power shower is a great invention, Todd! Is it not commonplace in the States?
      I remember seeing a news item on TV, soon after we got here, about margarine. I don’t remember the details of why it was illegal – but there are plenty of “spreads” on the market (blends of margarine and butter). So perhaps the product is available, it’s just not allowed to be called margarine.

  3. Margarine is truly illegal! I assumed that was a joke. Guess I shouldn’t have laughed. However, I wouldn’t agree that hardly anyone in the US uses real butter. I think it’s very mixed. Personally, if I’m going to eat either butter or margarine, I’m going to eat the “real” thing and have butter–can’t tolerate the taste of margarine. (Sorry, Sunshine, I kind of got of track here.)
    I truly loved this post. Don’t know that I have ever had a power shower, but then again I live in Haiti, where we are lucky if we even have hot water.
    Hugs from Haiti,

  4. Wow, I hadn’t heard most of these. I love the shopping cart thing. The butter is so amazing there, it’s a wonder anyone would want to use margarine anyway. And when I go to London, I love the hard flush/soft flush on the toilets. #19 is my favorite.

  5. Hot water instantly with the push of a button? Wish I had one of those. The shopping cart red zone is one I’d never heard of along with margarine being illegal…butter is better anyway…LOL. Great list. ♥ Diane

    1. The showers are amazing! I think they are also called electric showers. I don’t know how the shopping trolley thing works, but it does – I’ve been winded a few times when I forget I’m approaching the red zone! Glad you enjoyed the list, Diane.

  6. Great list! I wish I had made one when I moved to New York City. I would have included: Don’t leave your mail in the post box at your house. The postman will never take it. If you want a letter mailed you need to drop it off at the the post office.

    BTW – We have those shopping carts here too, but people find a way around it. Where there is a will there is a way!

    1. Thanks, jacquelin. Wow, I have never heard of leaving mail in your post box for the postman to take – does that actually happen somewhere? I’ve only ever known taking letters to the post office or dropping it in a red post box. I’d be so interested to know what else would be on your list?

      1. When I lived in Atlanta, I could leave outgoing mail in my box, put up a little “flag” and the mail carrier will take it back to the post office. So when I moved here, my mail sat in the box for days. I’m sure the mail carrier was laughing at me.

        Another thing on my list: when driving through New Jersey I stopped at the gas station to fill up, but when I got out of the car the attendant came running over and told me I wasn’t allowed to pump gas. I thought he was making some remark that women shouldn’t be allowed to pump gas and was offended. But that wasn’t it at all. It’s illegal to pump your own gas in New Jersey!

      2. Wow, that’s a fabulous postal service you describe, jacquelin! And so interesting you weren’t allowed to pump gas in New Jersey … “Step away from the pump!”

  7. That was a great idea to make a list before everything became so ordinary. Very novel idea to come up with a red zone for shopping carts. Here in the States, we have a grocery store franchise that has another idea. All the carts are chained together, and you pay a quarter to release your cart. You get your quarter back when you return your cart. No more shopping carts all over the parking lot. It would be interesting to know the story of the shopping cart on top of the bus!

    Interesting that margarine is illegal. I read an article once that margarine is so full of artificial stuff that bugs won’t even eat it! Of course, if it happened over here, they would most likely make butter illegal. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s already” in the works”. They are already trying to take salt away from us.

    Thanks for the interesting post.

    1. Thanks, Darlene. The payment for trolleys idea is a good one – I’m sure it works. I imagined a bunch of youngsters after a night out deciding it would be a brilliant idea to put the trolley on top of the bus stop! And they probably fell about laughing about it! Not sure who would have got it down from there, though…
      I think margarine, in its original form, is completely disgusting and toxic!

  8. Loved Neil…how did you first meet him? I could use one of those power showers just about now! Here in Goa…we could have the showers but there wouldn’t be enough water in them! And the buses here in Goa are different in that they stop just about anywhere!

    Enjoyed this post!

    1. Thanks, Harsha. We met Neil in our car park – he seems to wander around here quite a bit, not sure what he’s searching for, but he’s pretty sneaky.
      I remember the buses on Santorini being like your Goan buses – they would stop and pick up anyone along the road, even if they didn’t want to get on the bus! 🙂 In South Africa, minibus taxis are like that too – they stop just about anywhere to drop off or pick up passengers.

  9. I love that little fox! He looks like a forlorn dog waiting to come inside. Those little black stockings on his feet are precious. He looks hungry, though. Wonder what foxes eat? Oh, and that shower sounds perfectly lovely!

  10. Love your list, Sunshine! We could use that “power shower” at our house…with the number of people at our house, the chance of someone flushing a toilet or running water while one is in the shower is very high…

    Interesting about the margarine prohibition…it was illegal in Canada between 1886 and 1948, except for a few years during and after WWI (during a butter shortage). When I lived in Ontario, margarine could not be the same colour as butter…it was illegal to sell yellow margarine until 1995!

    Our cities are full of raccoons and a few deer…the foxes still prefer the country!

    We can buy liquor on Sundays, but unless you live in a small community, you generally have to go to a government-run liquor store to buy it (in small towns, the local convenience store/gas station is often the liquor outlet). Just recently, one of our large grocery chains installed liquor stores on some of their premises, but they are still separate from the other merchandise…


    1. Thanks, Wendy – it was fun looking back at the list. The shower is great, but it is still affected by toilet flushes and running water…
      Local liquor stores here are called “off-licences”, fondly known as “the offy”! I love it.
      It’s so interesting to hear how things work in Canada – thanks for that.

  11. I love your list, Sunshine. Some of the things you listed would have been surprising to me, too. Now a question: I’ll always take butter over margarine…but why is the latter one illegal?

    1. I wrote the list after we’d been here two months, and I’d just heard something on the TV about margarine being illegal. Now that I try to verify it, I can’t find any information, but it seems that it does exist, de facto, but it’s just not called margarine. I should have written the facts down at the time – sorry!

  12. Sunshine, can relate to your list and it brought a smile to my face. At least you don’t have to do it all the other way around like have to. There is no such thing as a trolley here it’s a CART. I often get strange looks when I ask for a trolley. It’s not a packet either, it’s a bag and then when it’s all said and done and you are on your way to the car you are likely to get in the wrong side of the car but then you just pretend you were dropping your shopping off in the passengers side and sheepishly move to the drivers side and hope no one saw you. The water even goes down the plug hole the opposite direction ;-/
    Love to you x

    1. So you’ve been through this on your side of the pond too, getting used to the US quirks! I can imagine it must be tough getting used to driving on the other side of the road (I won’t say the wrong side of the road!) and all the new terminology. Lots of love to you two too xx

  13. A trolley? You must mean a shopping cart. We have uncountable nationalities in Miami, Florida, USA as well. I don’t mind the ridiculous multi-cultrural thing but it seems like only me and 23 other people were born here.

  14. What a fun list. Your fox is gorgeous!!!!

    I learned in 22 yrs in NY that one stands “on” line (not in line, not in a queue, certainly or queuing); a black and white is a gross, huge, glazed cookie (about 6 ins in diameter!) that is half choc/half white icing; that NYC subways that say “express” and “local” are often not, and you can be late for a date or job interview as a result; that driving in NYC is sort of like bumper cars, scary fun.

    I live 25 miles north of NYC and we have red hawks circling all the time. One landed on our terrace railing (!) and we even have a photo to prove it.

    1. Thanks, bsb! Your list of NYisms is great – it’s so confusing getting to grips with the quirks, isn’t it? But it feels good to know them.
      I’d love to see the photo of your red hawk – how amazing that one landed on your terrace.

  15. I love Neil, what a dashing young gentleman; I feel margarine should be illegal everywhere , eurgh; and I aways wondered whether that shopping trolley warning was just an elaborate old wives tale. Now I know.

    You never fail to brighten the day, Sunshine 🙂

  16. I loved reading the list. How interesting!! And Neil. I live in West Virginia and I have never seen a fox in the daytime. I saw one drinking out of our swimming pool one time at night, and that was about it. I would never dream that they are in London. Great post!

  17. I love your list, Sunshine–all the little and big things that are different…
    I also love that you used the word “inured”–I just used it today, too.
    YOu can’t buy MARGARINE in the UK??? What would all the Lutherans use?

    1. Thank you, jane. Isn’t “inured” a funny word? I haven’t read your post where you use it – I’m off to check it out now!
      You can buy vegetable spread and stuff that is the same as margarine but not allowed to be called so.

  18. Loved that. (Sorry only catching up now- been a littel useless the last few weeks.)
    2. Wish we had heaters in teh bathrooms and kitchen, and the lounges and bedrooms. We dont cope well in winter!!
    3. No geyser?
    4. Good initiative from tescos.
    5. The reason why is because people steal them. (We arrived in London in 1999, fresh out of school. Serious budget- due to the fact that we did not have jobs yet and had arrived on waitress savings. Well, when we arrived at the till and discovered we had to PAY for bags- we were gobsmacked. Pay for bags? Well we didnt, we decided to walk home with the trolley. Needless to say, when we got home (a communial place still fresh to us), we discovered a pile of trolleys in the back yard. Our trolley had a friend!!) Yes, now and for a number of years we have been paying for bags.
    10. Good stuff!!
    14. No stealing?
    15. I love that. It always means that the toilets are clean. BUT had a similiar situation in hermanus a couple of weeks ago. Left my bag in the car… with my purse. Rushing around, found a toilet- was literally about to burst, and suddenly a sign that says i need to pay R1 to wee. Well, it is not a lot of money at all….. it is nothing- but when you dont have it, and you need to pee there and then, it may as well have been a million. Haha.
    16. In jhb you can purchase alcohol on Sundays. (I think for about 6 years now.) Did notice though in the Cape recently that many shops were not even open on Sundays? Never mind supplying Gautengers with beer.
    Loved your post!!!

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