LAST week marked a year to the day that I packed my backpack and moved to London. A year to the day when my best friend met me at Heathrow airport with an Oyster card in hand and said “Here. You’ll get used to it.”
What initially struck me as odd and unusual is now part of the everyday. What once stood out has now blended into the background, propped up somewhere between my lost keys and last night’s wineglass. I thought I would take the opportunity of the New Year to reflect on the oddities that make London and Londoners unique.
On the Media
Unless you watch TOWIE, Made in Chelsea, and the X Factor, you will have very little idea on who the ‘celebrities’ are. We’ve never met, but if this is you – I love you. If you have to Google what TOWIE means, I worship the ground you walk on.
The Sun’s Page 3 Girls are so much more than an inch of bad makeup and a sizable rack. They have brains, too – you can see this for yourself in the little quote box, where the naked lady comments on the current issues in the media and backs it up with her favourite Greek Philosopher, or perhaps a Shakespearean quote. Beauty and brains – how marvelous!
Everyone is disturbingly worried about being portrayed as ‘Middle Class Yuppies’. Particularly the Middle Class Yuppies.
The Greeks are generally blamed for everything economic-wise. Sometimes we tire of this, and move on to the Italians, the Polish, or once in a while the Germans. Consequently, British politicians are blamed for absolutely everything 100% of the time, so I suppose this is just in keeping.
News of the World might be dead and gone, but it still gets a lot of press. Usually through another paper reporting on updates from the Levenson enquiry.
English men say sorry. A lot. Sometimes for no apparent reason. Get used to it or find yourself an Australian, or alternatively, a boy with no manners at all.
All the hipsters roll their own cigarettes. So do plenty of other people – is this a desperate attempt to be ‘hip’, or simply a desperate attempt to smoke and afford the rent?
Old men frequently call each other ‘young man’. It is a sign of their age. Let them have their moment and save your eye-rolling for later.
Cockfosters is an amusing name – doubly so when it is announced over the loudspeaker on the Tube. The day you stop giggling at it is a sad day indeed.
My best kept secret for appearing as a cool, in-the-know Londoner, is the tube map application on my phone. Never again will anyone need to see you looking at a map! You’re just messaging a friend called Piccadilly, of course.
Anything that is not Heathrow airport is simply too far away to be bothered with. In fact, Heathrow is too far away. Maybe you should stay home this year instead.
Londoners have mastered the curious art of polite rudeness. That is to say, they will subtly elbow you onto the tracks to get on the tube first, but will never catch your eye and will pretend they are unaware of their actions. Master this art, and you will go far, my friend. At the very least, you will probably get a seat.
Fashion is quick. Very quick. Time taken from runway to street style (with a quick stop at the high street) is about three weeks. London ladies are almost too fashionable, so to be completely daring, you need to be completely drastic. With dip-dye becoming so very blase, the next step is to shave half your head – but for God’s sake, woman, be quick about it!
Everything you ever wanted in Chanel, you can find in Zara. With the small exception of the Chanel label, of course.
Coats are always in. From Burberry to Primark, military to trench, there will always be a need to arrive in a fabulous coat.
Topshop does not have the same status as back home. In Australia, we worship at the feet of Topshop. In London, it is the slightly quirkier cousin of Zara, H&M and New Look.
A truly stylish lady will make anything from Primark look freaking fabulous. This is no easy feat, and takes courage, skill and determination.
A pub is a perfectly acceptable place to meet your friend at 11am on a Tuesday morning. If you are unsure about getting sloshed, never fear – you can have a shandy.
A pint of bitter is never full enough. It can always be toppped up.
A Bloody Mary is for Sunday mornings, a Pimms is for a warm, sunny day, and Mulled Cider is for the prolonged lead-up to Christmas. If you wish to have any of these drinks at another time, be prepared: the quality will be less and your search may be long.
London is famous for its markets. Let me break down three of the big’ens for you:
- Camden: touristy, but fun. Not an every weekend experience, but once in a while. Every single person who visits London will want to be taken there. Learn your way around and impress your visitor ever more. You will find tourists, punks, tourists, ravers, hipsters, arty-types, and some more tourists.
- Notting Hill: open Saturdays and Sundays. The cheap shirts are tiring, the vintage cameras are fascinating, and there’s pretty much everything in between. Reach the end of Portobello Road and be rewarded with intoxicating foodie smells. The area, of course, is fascinating – so are the shops.
- Bourough: curiously, not open on Sundays. Expensive, but mouthwatering.
There’s a lot of us here. So many, we have our own publications, our own bars, and are spoilt for choice for Australia Day parties. I myself have, by utter chance, ran into three friends from university on separate occasions that I could have sworn were nestled back home on the other side of the world.
For the love of all that is holy, STAY AWAY from the Australian bars. Walkabout, I’m looking at you. Australians in London – if you want to party at Walkabout every weekend (or even worse, work there) – why move to London in the first place? I hear Manchester’s a lot cheaper, and the girls a lot easier.
Meeting another Australian is like meeting a long lost friend from primary school. That silly grin, the thrill of connection the overexcited way you say “OH! You’re from [insert small town from a different state]? Nope, I’ve never heard of it.” Low and behold if you meet a person from the same city. You’re from Sydney too? We should, like, totally be best mates.
On Tourist Attractions
The Tower of London is worth a visit. The London Eye is not.
A Boris Bike, at midnight, on a summer’s eve with a couple drinks and a couple mates is the best way to see London, in my opinion. All the streets belong to you, and just for a moment, so does London.
A West End show is a must see, and it doesn’t matter what one. The theatre of going to the theatre, of being thoroughly entertained, of huge carpeted staircases and the murmur at the intermission of a hundred people talking joyously about the same thing, of feeling glamourous for one night only – there’s nothing like it. A West End show in London is the pinnacle of unpretentious, fun theatre.
On British Terminology
Shandy – A drink consisting of half lemonade and half bitter or lager. For those who wish to drink without getting drunk.
The High Street – A term pertaining to a mythological place where all chain clothing stores are. Oxford St and High Street Kensington both fall into ‘The High Street’. In London, this is usually where these stores are located, so the terminology makes sense. However, it doesn’t matter where you actually bought that Topshop top – be it online, in store, or a friend – it’s a ‘High Street’ piece of clothing.
Cockney Slang – a language reserved for the less sane breed of Londoner. For example: ‘Apples and Pears’ means ‘stairs’. See what I mean? Total madness.
Loo – Bathroom/Toilet/Lavatory. A while back I caught myself saying it.
Ditto Telly – otherwise known as the TV, Television, or idiot box (thank you, Churchill).
On the Weather
Sunshine is rare, rain is not. It is almost impossible not to talk about the weather, because quite frankly, it is a big deal.
Days of endless sunshine followed by days of endless night is similar to a drug high and subsequent crash. One makes you want to do, see, be everything, and other makes you want to crawl under your blankets with a nice cup of tea and the box set of Downton Abbey.
A sunny day in London is like nothing else in the world.