There are many things we take for granted in the United States, not realizing how much we utilize or interact with these items in our daily lives until we travel to a new country.
We have come to find that there are many little things that TripAdvisor doesn’t cover in its travel to London reviews. Here are six things that we noticed:
1. Sources of Free Water are Few and Far Between
On our trip to London, it has been quite a struggle to locate any sources of water in public places. The airport and transport stations do not have any drinking fountain and worse, if you go into a restaurant and do not request tap water, you will be charged for a bottle of H2O. So, note that if you decide to do some walking tours, it may be best for you to bring your own water than rely on an outside source.
2. I Always Feel like Somebody’s Watching Me
There is video surveillance all over London. Businesses hang signs up in their windows that CCTV is being used in them. A person can play a cyberpunk version of “Where’s Waldo” by spying all the signs to be found in the streets. Or spend a day counting cameras on a walk through the city if counting up to the millions is something you can handle. CCTV is an acronym for closed-circuit television and it’s the type of video surveillance security that is used here in the United Kingdom. With the generous sprinkling of cameras everywhere, the ideas that birthed shows like Black Mirror make more and more sense.
3. Being Hygienic can be Tough to do in the City
In the UK, hygiene is a very different story than what we see in the US. In all the eateries we’ve been to, many of the quick eats do not provide napkins for one to wipe their hands on. This could be because in the UK straws are made of paper instead of plastic, making them good for the environment! They are, however, stringent on how many straws can be taken when eating. After a meal, one may want to use a restroom to freshen up. Still, you better be a paying customer to use it and you will be lucky if there is even have a hand dryer. Many locations do not even carry this, and you are forced to leave with wet hands.
4. A City Alive with Sound
The number of musicians in London’s public venues is magical. In the tunnels of the Underground, outside the stations for the buses and trains, among the trees of gorgeous parks, at random street corners, on the front steps of an art museum, and in any shaded space they happen upon there is a musician playing on their instrument. While guitars are common, a person can also hear the sounds of an accordion, a saxophone, bagpipes, drums, and various other instruments that are sometimes even accompanied by singing filter through the air. The prevalence of street music almost entirely eliminates the need to wear headphones as a person walks through the city.
5. Oh, Whereeeee is My Trash Can?
London in the 80’s and 90’s went through a scare of trash can bombs due to the IRA protesting the government. Since then, many trash cans throughout the city have been removed for safety reasons. So, don’t be surprised if you end up wandering around holding your trash for a solid twenty minutes until you find a disposable bin. Not to mention, there is less recycling in the city which is contradictory to many of their clean movements.
There is a special kind of jealous someone from a small, rural area gets when visiting cities. London has a truly wondrous system of public transportation. Trains, planes, and automobiles are all well and good, but subways, bikes, and buses are fantastic. The Underground, shockingly, cuts under all the bustle of the city as a first-rate network of tunnels for the subway system. People can rent bikes from random sites all over the city with ease, though in this heatwave that might not be as popular at the moment, and most streets even have bike lanes painted on them. Buses, though slower than the Underground, are lovely in their bright reds and blues. Double-decker buses thrive still on the city streets.
There is a plethora of things to notice that are different from what we find normal in our society, especially good old Winona, versus what is the norm in London or other places in the world. Things like trash cans or video cameras might seem rather mundane or inconsequential to most in their day to day lives but when a person is abroad in foreign territory those differences can feel glaring.
– Co-written by Angela Gifford ’18 & Nicole Tompos ’20