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 saw a fox in our car park the other evening.
- We have heaters in both of our bathrooms, and even in our kitchen. (And in the lounge and bedrooms, of course.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- [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.]
- Despite commonly held beliefs, Londoners can be pretty friendly and helpful.
- It seems to be OK to swear on television (not on the news though).
- It’s a crime to beg. [The crime is “Begging and summoning alms.”]
- You can get arrested, or at least a warning, for peeing in public.
- Some buses won’t stop at the bus stop you’re standing at unless you flag them down.
- 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.
- Some bus drivers will wait for you if they see you running for the bus.
- At some shops you can scan and pay for your purchases yourself – i.e. no cashier involved.
- Sometimes it costs you 30p to spend a penny [go to a public rest room].
- 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.]
- 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.
- 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.
- What was I saying?
- You can get about 80 channels on Freeview television. But a TV licence costs about ZAR1,500 a year [£145.50].
- On weather reports on TV and the radio, they use terms like “bright”, “breezy” and “dull”.
- 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?”
- 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!