Posted: June 5th, 2013
By: Ashley Waring (JD, ’15)
When I first arrived in London I did not know what to expect. I have never been to London (let alone anywhere in Europe) before, so I was excited to explore and experience this new culture. Friends and family informed me that London was a huge city and that I would have so much fun, so I was eager to see if they were right. All in all, as I was heading to the Worrell house, I realized that London is similar to New York City. It has its city center and the outskirts consisted of suburbs. Each neighborhood had grocery stores, restaurants and various sources of entertainment. In a way, I felt comforted, like I was home and felt as if I would not be completely lost in this foreign city.
Immediately, I noticed that London has a “do it yourself” attitude, but not to the extent of New York City. I hired a taxi driver and instead of the driver carrying my bags to the car and loading them, I did. When my classmates and I went to the local pubs, unlike in America, we sat ourselves and we had to order and pay for our food and drinks at the bar. We received our drinks from the bar, but the waiter brought the food out to our table. I am not saying that there is no customer service or hospitality in London, but those were the two things that really stuck out to me. Lastly, to my surprise, you do not tip the waiters, waitresses or bartenders here. I learned this the hard way because when I left a tip on the table at the pub, the waitress thought I had accidentally dropped my money on the table. I informed her that that was her tip and she had the most confused look on her face. I told her that we tip waitresses in America and she says that she, nor her coworkers, receives tips from customers because their hourly rate is not as low as American waitresses so they do not work for tips. I told her that I was sorry and she informed me that it was fine and that it was a good thing because we both learned something new that day.
Similar to New York City, many people in London walk, ride bicycles or take public transportation. As in New York, there is the same hustle and bustle in London, but people in London do not have an issue taking time out of their day to talk to people, friend or stranger, just to see how they are doing. This became apparent to me when there was a young man on crutches and an older gentleman was walking in his direction. The older gentleman stopped and inquired about his leg. Next thing I knew, the two men were comparing stories of their childhood, exchanging laughs every bit of the way. When the conversation ended each man said, “Well, it was nice meeting you.” This is only a snapshot of the many occasions on which I witnessed two strangers stopping to talk. I do not remember the last time I witnessed two American strangers taking time out of their day just to have a conversation. This will be one of the many things I bring back from London. It may end up brightening someone’s day. Who knows?
The only thing I found weird, which completely caught me off guard was the fact that you had to pay to use the restrooms at the train station in London. However, I was informed that there was a bathroom attendant was in the bathroom to constantly clean it. Still, I am happy that restrooms in New York and in the majority, if not all, of America can be used free of charge.