I had the opportunity to break away from work for a week and visit one of the most important cities on my I-Have-To-Go-Here list, London.
I found many similarities between London life and New York life, but as I went outside every day I tried to put together a small list of things that I found curious from the perspective of a 4 year old New Yorker.
CCTV, CCTV, CCTV! From the moment you step foot in the city there’s a very clear message put into your head. CCTV!, Big brother’s watching!. The scare tactic seems to work, all my friends seemed to tell me, don’t do this, don’t do that, they’re watching. I personally think it’s more of a deterrent than anything. Nobody can possibly be watching so many cameras, they are probably used for “forensic” purposes.
Pound Currency design FAIL. I understand having different widths for blind people, but they made them way too wide to fit on a wallet. Also they don’t have their denomination shown on all 4 corners, for the tourist, if you insert bills backwards you have to take them out to see how much each bill is, slowing cashier lines with tourists.
They just don’t fit on my “American Sized” wallet. I guess you have to either have a bigger wallet, or fold them twice. Notice how you can’t tell what bills are what (If you’re a noob with the currency of course), no numbers on all corners.
One thing I loved though on the 10 pound bill, freaking Charles Darwin is in it!
Now see the mighty dollar (Euros have the numbers on all 4 corner) how good the “user experience” is (at least for the non blind)
London.Underground = NewYork.Subway;
London.Subway = NewYork.UnderPass
What the New Yorker calls the “Subway”, the Londoneer calls the “Underground”. Whoever designed the Logo of their system was a genius, it’s a very versatile logo. Now, here comes a weird thing, Waht we New Yorkers call an “Underpass” The Londoneer calls “Subway”. This little detail had me J-Walking a couple of big avenues with all my luggage right after I came out of the “Underground” , and I couldn’t find for the life of me a pedestrian area to cross, and I kept thinking that some parts of the city weren’t that pedestrian-friendly… Me and other tourists just had gotten out of what we call “Subway” when we saw a sign for the “Subway” again we didn’t use it and we J-Walked it baby. Then it was easy to cross big avenues. In london Underpass = Subway.
Nokia > iPhone
Most people have Nokia phones there. Didn’t see a single iphone among my friends. Saw an Android though
When you cross the street they always make you waste time on this buffer zone, many of the times lots of pedestrians end up waiting in the middle. Maybe its a combination of making car traffic flow faster, and also to help tourists remember cars are coming the other way.
It seems that the city is a very democratic place and that it has lots of issues, during the 6 days I was there I saw protests from very different groups. It also seems that there’s this love for Rollerblading like nowhere else, saw big crowds of Rollerbladers (wearing funny customs some times) in several occasions. Not sure if they were also protesting.
Maybe I’m just used to it, but I think the water in New York tastes 1000 times better than the water in London. There’s something in the London water after you swallow, it never seems to quench my thirst, it has to be extremely cold for it to feel the same way, and it was my experience that everywhere that I went I had to ask for a lot of ice. It must be an european thing (my wife doesn’t drink iced water either, nor does her family, they can even drink room temperature beer, yuck) drinking water at its natural temperature, maybe it’s part of the energy culture in America that we don’t give a crap to spend energy in cooling water?
Overall, I loved the experience, the night life seems very much alive and real. Heard some stories of pickpocketing and of areas that I shouldn’t dare visit and this made me think that it may be a city a little more dangerous than New York.
Maybe it’s the week dollar, I don’t know, but everything felt to me that it was double or triple the price than in New York. I only spent money on food, transportation and internet connectivity, other than that I don’t think it was worth it for someone who comes from New York to do any shopping over there and I certainly didn’t spend a “p” on anything outside my most basic needs.