The city on the Thames, and the people who live here permanently, have lots of wonderful qualities. From their signature male haircut (the quiff), to the cab drivers who actually know their way around the city, to zip codes that correspond to individual streets (yeah, I know, my mind was blown too) – Londoners have gotten more than a few things right. However, after five months of temporary residence, there are a few things this American still doesn’t get.
1. High heeled sneakers
We’re not talking about a cute wedge. Or even one of those trendy Oxfords that looks like an old man’s shoe with a chunky heel popped on. No. I’m referring to a full-fledged, athletic sneaker (“trainer”) with a multi-inched heel attached to the back. What is the function of said eyesore? Where, oh where, is a shoe like this appropriate? Certainly not when wearing actual athletic clothes (which, by the way, Londoners are intelligent enough not to do in public). Not at any formal affair I’ve been to. And, not with a stylin’ new pencil skirt. If someone would enlighten me as to how (and why) these became an acceptable form of footwear… that would be brilliant.
2. Use of the word “LEGEND”
The word “legend” seems, from my experience, to be some sort of all-encompassing slang word to indicate that someone’s actions, or existence, is impressive to you. Okay, so your friend did something cool or impressive. But legendary? Really? Walking on the moon seems pretty awesome. Cure for polio? Down right impressive. Ending segregation, without a doubt legendary. But your friend’s completely “sick half pipe stunt?” Uhhh I’m gonna say he’s a little out of his league.
And — at the decibel this word is usually pronounced — perfectly respectable grown men are reduced to sounding like drunken frat boys whose next story will involve chronicling how someone chundered after getting pissed during freshers’ week. But maybe that’s just the American college student in me, looking for any excuse to make parallels to familiar incidents from my past.
3. Hating hairbrushes.
Okay, so maybe hate is too strong a word. But there is definitely a large cross-section of the young female population in London that, for whatever reason, don’t seem to be a fan of the modern detangling tool. Imagine a 20-something fashoinista. Great body, beautiful face, and a killer wardrobe. She’s one of a handful of university students who makes the extra effort when she wakes up in the morning. She wears heels to class. It’s not unusual for her to show up with bright red lipstick and an outfit that makes her look like she just stepped out of a magazine.
(Personal aside: While I’m all for embracing the fact that college is one of the few times you can get away with wearing sweats on the reg, I’ve come to love how many girls dress up for classes here.)
But then I get a look at that HAIR.
Girls who have obviously spent time primping every part of their body in preparation to sit in a lecture hall listening to a teacher drone on about “Globalisation in Modern Europe” (with an “s” not a “z”) have somehow made a conscious choice to leave their hair in that rat’s next of a messy bun atop their head??? Maybe it’s a fashion statement I’ll never understand, or maybe they’re just more environmentally conscious and choose not to shower every day. Who knows? Certainly not this kid.
4. Mushy peas
England has always gotten a lot of heat for their food. And, while not entirely deserved, there is one food (if you can even call it that), that needs to be done away with immediately. It’s often served with Fish and Chips or other seafood dishes and the fact that someone hasn’t enacted a law to cease production of this stuff is down right alarming. But I’m not going to try to convince you with words. Go ahead and google it — one look at this stuff should be argument enough…
5. Public transportation that is not 24/7
If you’re a New Yorker, as I have become over the past three years of college, you know you’d be lost without the (generally reliable) New York subway system. Now some of you are already protesting. I can hear it now, “Apparently you’ve never taken the F train… Try getting on the Q after work… I swear the L just doesn’t exist.” Or, God forbid, you have to take one of those trains outside of Manhattan to one of the surrounding boroughs. As someone who’s spent the majority of her time in New York residing in the Bronx, I feel your pain. But let me let you in on a little secret you may not know if you’ve never dealt with public transportation in the UK.
The subway system in London SHUTS DOWN at midnight and does not reopen until 5:30 am. That’s right. Stranded in Williamsburg at three AM? Well, if you were in London, you’d be shit out of luck. Unless, of course, you wanted to take a night bus. Which, by the way, if you’re ever forced to do, will assure that you never ever complain about having to wait 10 minutes for the C train again.
6. Non 24/7 anything, for that matter…
On a related note — what is this having “closing hours” business all about anyway? No 24 hour pharmacies? No 24 hour groceries? Hell, not even a 24 hour diner?! This is especially disconcerting on “bank holidays” (random days when everything shuts down for what I can only presume serves as another excuse (on a long list of excuses) to day drink). What’s a girl supposed to do when it’s 4am and she NEEDS some movie sized candy, a pint of ice cream, and some chocolate chip pancakes? Huh? Answer me that.