5 misconceptions about London
Written by Barbara Oliveira (Astor Museum)
PEOPLE ARE COLD
One of the things I hear foreigners complain about the most is that Londoners are cold or rude and it seems to me that a lot of people come here already expecting that and it sort of ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. English people are indeed shier and less open than, for example, those from Latin cultures, but it doesn’t mean that they are being rude or that they don’t care about their fellow humans. They just express it differently, with a mixture of terror of embarrassment and sarcasm that might seem unpleasant to a foreigner but is just part of who they are.
Once you learn more about their culture and show some patience, they will eventually, albeit gradually, probably, begin to show that they are actually really nice people. Another issue I have with this statement is that a great part of Londoners are not even English. They are Spanish, Korean, Portuguese, Chinese, Pakistani, and so much more. Often, foreigners who have nice experiences with Londoners tell me: “Oh, but they weren’t Londoners, they were Spanish!”. Well, London is not really an English city, it is a global city and you will find many Londoners that weren’t born here, or even in this country. These people, so incredibly different from each other that it is ridiculous to generalize, they are all fellow Londoners. So if you have a good experience with one of them you can go ahead and say: “Wow, what a nice Londoner!”
And last, but not least. London is a city, which means that most people are very busily trying to go on with the stress of their lives and don’t always have the time or patience to chat or to smile. However, with that said, I have been approached very often by Londoners that have offered me interesting conversations, a piece of their precious time and helpful advice. And, most of them were actually English.
LONDON IS VERY DANGEROUS
Well, yes and no. The centre of London is actually rather safe, as long as you employ some common sense. Of course, a city always carries with it some dangers, so it is important to pay attention to your surroundings. It is true that London has been having its own unique issues, such as terrorism and moped thieves, but as long as you stay informed and take any necessary precautions, these things are really rare. When you are travelling you should always do your research to find out which areas are considered safe, which are not and what is going on in the place you’re travelling to. As long as you do your homework, you’ll be fine.
THE UNDERGROUND IS VERY COMPLICATED AND YOU HAVE TO USE IT ALL THE TIME
The underground might be a bit overwhelming at first but it is organized in a rational way, which actually becomes rather easy to navigate if you just give it a second look. However, rush hour is indeed living hell on Earth or, in this case, under the earth, and I would recommend you avoiding it at all costs, and the underground is a bit expensive, especially if you want to use it to go everywhere, every day. But why would you? The bus system in London is one of the best you’ll ever encounter and at a fraction of the cost compared to the tube. Sure, if you’re going far away the tube might be more convenient, but for touristy purposes, most attractions are half an hour away at most by bus. Not to mention that you can also walk through the beautiful streets that London has to offer and explore all the little gems that are often hidden to those who instead choose to hit the road.
THE WEATHER IS HORRIBLE
Well, that kind of depends on what you consider to be good weather. If you live in the south of Spain then, yeah, the weather here is horrible, but when compared to other UK cities, it’s actually not that bad. The summers often carry with them some pleasant heat waves that drive everyone to sunbathe in the parks, and the winters may be cold and rainy, but you’ll also have some nice sunny days thrown into the mix. If you think this is bad you should try living in Scotland, the land that makes all umbrellas inconsequential under their rain due to mind-boggling winds.
YOU CAN GET TO KNOW LONDON IN A WEEK
I know that most people can’t really come here for longer than a week, or a few days, but the point here is, you will soon discover that London is a world of its own. Even people who stay here for long periods of time might never fully know London completely. I’ve met people who lived here for several months but who never left their borough, and didn’t realise that many areas of London are as different form each other as night from day.
London is a city of contrasts: the incredibly wealthy and the incredibly poor are not that far from each other; the hard science academic is right next door to the boundary-pushing artist; the Asian community lives a few boroughs up from the Spanish community; the grey, concrete-filled city is only a few streets away from the nature wide parks. There is science, arts, cultures, exhibitions, festivals, languages, food, drinks, fashion, books, film, theatre, there’s city, country, animals, robots, high-tech, vintage, and so much more. London is like trying to fit the whole world into the head of a pin. It’s all here. You just have to look.