Starter for 20 in London

When I first started blogging, I wrote about all the things in London that were new and different from what I was used to. Having grown up in Zimbabwe and Zambia, and having lived in South Africa, I still find many things fascinating, while others have become part of my everyday life in this beautiful Big Smoke.

Thames in sunshine
London – new, old and under construction

In addition to all the huge and obvious differences between life in the northern and southern hemispheres, here are 20 everyday things in London that still feel new to me:

  1. In the winter, I dress in layers. With central heating everywhere, as long as I have a warm coat, boots and a scarf to keep me warm when I walk outside, I’m OK if I wear light clothing when I’m inside (indoors, as they say here). By contrast, in southern Africa when it’s cold enough to wear a jacket, I’ll keep my jacket on even when I’m inside.
  2. On hot days in the middle of summer, my friends and colleagues rather love going out in the midday sun. We southern Africans are the ones who sit in the shade.
  3. When the weather is warm, it is a rare and special treat to swim in ‘an outdoor pool’ or ‘lido’. For the rest of the year, swimming will be in heated, indoor pools.
  4. People here tend to talk in terms of seasons, which I find quite unusual. Probably because seasons aren’t so remarkably defined in the southern hemisphere. So, while someone in London may say, “We’ll probably go on holiday again in the autumn,” in South Africa, you might say, “We’ll go away again when the rand is stronger.”
  5. When someone offers you ‘a drink’ here, unless you’re in a pub it usually means ‘tea or coffee’.
  6. We have power showers in our bathrooms here: 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.
  7. At supermarkets here you pack your own groceries into bags (not packets, as we call them in South Africa).
  8. At petrol stations here, you pump your own petrol, whereas in southern Africa there are paid petrol attendants who do this.
  9. At many shops here, you can scan and pay for your purchases yourself at a self-service checkout area.
  10. You can pay for your shopping here with a ‘contact-less’ bank card – which means you merely touch your card on a machine for any purchases up to the value of £30  (ZAR750).
  11. Swearing on television talk shows here seems to be OK.
  12. It’s a crime here to beg. The crime is ‘Begging and summoning alms’.
  13. You can be arrested here, or at least get a warning, for peeing in public.
  14. It costs you 30p (ZAR7.50) to use a public toilet at a London train station.
  15. Public transport in and around London is expensive. My commute into central London costs around £11.20 a day (ZAR280).
  16. There is a difference between a tube (underground) and a train (overground), and between a coach (inter-city) and a bus (within a city).
  17. You can buy alcohol here on Sundays, and you can buy wine, beer and spirits in the supermarkets. (In South Africa, you can’t buy alcohol in a supermarket on a Sunday, and you can’t buy beer and spirits in a supermarket.)
  18. You can get about 80 channels on Freeview television here, and a TV licence costs £145.50 a year (ZAR3,500).
  19. On weather reports on TV and the radio here, you’ll hear the weather described as ‘bright’, ‘breezy’, ‘dull’ and ‘disappointing’. Usually all on one day.
  20. There are a number of free daily newspapers and magazines available at tube and train stations: the Metro and the London Evening Standard, the Timeout magazine, and NME.

Sunshine signing off for today!


4 thoughts on “Starter for 20 in London

  1. So true in many ways as a comparison, with minor differences, here in Ontario! I miss drawing in to a petrol station (gas station) here – no smiling attendants to check tyre pressures, clean windshield). Ah me – to be able to have the best of the two worlds!

  2. Hi Sunshine. Enjoyed this. Fortunately, over the years, lots homes and offices are being properly warmed up in our winter months. I too remember when it was often colder indoors than out!

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