Five Unimportant Things You Must Know About London

by Kate Stoltzfus

1. Everything is cuter.

I want to use the word quaint every twenty seconds, and this is coming from a girl who had used that word maybe five times in her life thus far. The crammed brick houses, with their red front doors, are quaint. The double decker buses are quaint. The winding streets lined with outdoor coffee shops and old pubs and ancient curtained theatres are quaint. The women wearing galoshes, the children splashing in fountains in their underwear, the absence of garbage cans, the rum ball I bought for 70 pence…no other word describes it all so well.

2. Brits know how to relax.

And not just on Sundays. It seems all of London is out with sunning on towels in Hyde Park. They hold wine glasses in public. The green lawn chairs you pay to sit in are set up all the time, waiting to be filled, and there is none of that American half-relaxing-while-simultaneously-watching-TV-and-answering-work-emails relaxation. I think we should take cues.

3. London lives in the name of art.

The city seems to be eating and breathing and sleeping art. It is the absence of food and clothing ads in favor of plays and books and music. The long escalators in the Tube are lined not with posters for McDonalds burgers but for Wicked, new EPS, Chris Cleaves’ new book.  I would much rather eat a book anyway. And you can go to the theatre for — get this — ten pounds, where girls walk around selling popcorn and chocolate and drinks, and there are little binoculars you can pay to use. I’m sorry, but I have to — how quaint!

4. Everyone is speaking English….but it’s another language altogether.

It’s not just the accents I am in love with. I have always secretly wanted one, but now I wish to adapt the words they say, too. Sandwiches are for take away, instead of to go. TP is loo paper. I have been made fun of by a man on the tube for the way I pronounced the word “what.”  Those young dads at the park are making me swoon, and all they have to say to their curly-haired little ones is: “No, dahling, you can’t take your shoes off.” Oh, the quaintness.

5. Bathroom privacy is priority number one.

For those who have always abhorred gaps on stall doors, you should probably just move to London. Public toilets (at least all the ones I’ve encountered) put the room in bathroom — the stalls are walled and doored in such a manner that you cannot hear your neighbor, or even the noise outside your stall. Peeing in privacy has never been so easy.

6. Yes, they really do eat beans for breakfast.

How to eat the full English breakfast remains a mystery. Each morning I am served a plate of toast, an egg in the shape of a triangle (to fit perfectly on the toast, of course), a stewed tomato, a puddle of baked beans, a perfectly encased sausage, and a piece of meat appearing to be a cross between bacon and ham. Do I put the beans on the toast, and then the egg? Do I eat the beans separately? And where exactly does the tomato fit in? All I know is that the tea, with milk and cream, is the best I’ve ever had.


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