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We stepped out of the King’s Cross underground station and were met with the sight of Victorian and Georgian buildings; narrow buildings composed of rough brick in all hues and clock towers soaring overhead. We looked up at the buildings as we wheeled out luggage along uneven, cobbled sidewalks and tried not to bump into the people rushing past.

Suddenly, the light reflected off of a metal surface. A flat fronted metallic building was nestled amongst the buildings of brick and stucco. This modern building stuck out like a big silver thumb, but at the same time, it fit in with the feel of the city as a whole. London is an ancient city that is also incredibly modern at times, and this blending is what makes London so unique. It is a city full of juxtapositions.

The people here are just as diverse in their appearances and behavior as the buildings surrounding us. People of all ethnicities and races call London their home and choose here to visit. An average of 300 languages are spoken in London every day. On any given day here, it is not uncommon to hear French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and many more languages. There are some days I hear more “foreign” accents than British accents. So there is no stereotypical Londoner. Some stereotypes of Londoners I’ve heard or thought of myself are that Londoners are very proper and everyone wears a bowler hat and walks with a cane or parasol.

I’ll admit, I’ve seen a bowler hat or two atop the head of a subway underground street musician, but Londoners are much more complex than that. In some aspects, they are very proper; while traveling up or down an escalator, it is proper to stand on the right side of the elevator so that people who want to pass you can do so on the left. I was promptly warned of this rule the very first time I stepped on the escalator, and a native Londoner kindly told me to please stand on the right.

However, once on the street, all bets are off. No one adheres to walking on the left or the right sides, but everyone proceeds to pursue the fastest route for them. It is chaos on the sidewalks. It is also not uncommon to see a couple French kissing on the sidewalk, causing traffic to diverge around them.

So while Londoners can be proper at times, they are very lax about other things that we in America would find strange. So while we think of London as an ancient city full of people who speak in British accents and act very proper, London is actually an incredibly diverse city full of ancient and modern, propriety and discord, and white and all the other colors of the rainbow.

–Hanna Larson