I've returned from England after a short week-long vacation there this Monday. I really don't intend going into details on the banal things, but rather the small or big things which caught me by surprise.
- Finding an Englishman in New York is probably easier than finding one in London. The city just looks like one big tourist attraction, or an airport. I was eagerly expecting to hear a bit of that English accent since I got off the plane, and the first time I did was in the reception of the Ritz Hotel near Green Park on the third day. Uncanny.
- Everything is in one language. This probably holds for any other English speaking nation, but it is interesting to notice there are no two-language signs as in other countries. Even the French have signs in English. The English on the other hand, do not have signs in French.
- There are a TON of warning signs everywhere, about everything, and mostly about the Closed Circuit Television - or CCTV as they call it for short. The signs say you're caught on camera at least 300 times a day.
Safeguard your wallet. Don't go out the bar with a drink. Don't steal or you'll be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. You're being watched by a closed circuit camera. Don't put feet on the seat next to you. Report the police if you anyone vandalizing anything. Don't wear a helmet here. Be good to others. Mind the damn gap. We're watching!
The amazing thing is that the signs are very hypocrite, and try to twist the logic as if they are doing everything "for your safety". For your safety, please don't steal. For your safety and comfort, we created a queue to help you wait. For your safety, we're recording everything you do. You should thank us.
The signs are phrased a bit differently, but this is what the meaning is. I didn't take pictures of the best signs we saw though, and only collected some at the last day there.
And all this "security by fear" is not really working, as some English friends of ours said - "Well, yeah - it's very effective - you can now watch yourself getting mugged, or your car getting stolen and say - Hey,that's me on the TV!"
- The loudest places are quiet. I was walking in the Underground during rush hour when it was completely packed with people. All I could hear was feet walking. No one was speaking at all. Maybe it's because there is no cell-phone reception underground?
When we took a coach from London to Manchester, the bus was nearly silent. No one was speaking with anyone, except the occasional phone call here and there, and me and my friends chatting about rural England.
The streets are not quiet at all - but I'm so used to public transport to be loud, that it was a pleasant surprise.
- The "known" fact that there is no such thing as an English cuisine is a lie. There is great English food, it's just not that complex. I bet the French spread that rumor. I ate some amazing simple yet delicious food there. Lamb with Mashed potatoes and steam vegetables may be simple, but it's tasty nonetheless.
And how about the other English dishes like black pudding? Yeah, it's simple - cooked congealed pig blood. So what? It's yummy. Kidney and Steak Pudding, Game (pigeon and other birds) Terrine... Great stuff.
- The grass is always greener on the other side. I've heard more than once that England is terrible, has bad public transportation, devoid of culture (??) and that the government is screwing the people. Hating where you are is something universal I guess.
- Opel Astra + England = Vauxhall Astra. Weird. Although Vauxhall sounds so much cooler than Opel.
- Britain is obsessive about fire safety. Apparently the big fire of London left this society scarred for life. In every building there are fire doors every some meters, and we experienced a fully fledged fire drill when we were at the hostel.
- Getting money from privately operated ATMs is very expensive. The cost is a whopping 1.99 pounds! This is about $4. Just makes no sense. In Israel it's 4 NIS, which translates to roughly $1.
- Everything has a license. The scaffolding on the streets is licensed. It's crazy.
- Tabloids. They are wonderful. Disguised as real newspapers they very much consist of naked women, sports, and silly exaggerated stories. Fun to read, and professionally written - I still don't understand if it's for real, or it is just some huge inside joke.
Now, if I could only stop making lists of everything... Not very much of a story teller am I?