Inspired by a podcast I have recently found I decided to relate to the issues experienced when living in London and share some of my personal thoughts on the topic. The podcast was prepared by Luke from Luke’s English Podcast – a great resource for those of you wanting to practice British English, by the way – and it’s called Culture Shock: Life in London (part 1 & 2)
Luke is an English teacher who has plenty of international teaching experiences and he collated the complaints that the students were often flagging to him after moving to London. I must say most of them I have been complaining about too! It’s actually very interesting that so many people might have so similar impressions about one place although they are coming from various parts of the world. Do you remember the post about why people complain? Definitely by using the complaints below you can use it for many of those purposes.
So let’s get to business, let me share some of my thoughts on these common complaints about London.
What the students said to Luke: Why do you have a separate hot tap and a separate cold tap? I’m always scaulding my hands.
I swear I could not understand this at the beginning. How on earth do you use such a tap? It’s either hot or cold then, doesn’t make any sense. I usually ended up jumping from one under another to get some cold and some of the hot water. Ridiculous 😀 But ok, I was not doing it right. I feel like filling in the sink and then washing the hands is so not time-efficient though. Maybe it’s because I am used to mixed taps that we have in Poland? I get it that it’s a historical issue, that it’s hard to exchange all the taps in the whole city, but we’re in the 21st century – let’s be more modern!
To be honest, the above was the first thoughts that came into my mind when I moved to London. It was just something different that needed commenting on. I just had to comment on it as it seemed so different from what I know from home. It’s sort of like… that in some places in Greece you still can’t flush the toilet paper in the toilet, but simply put the paper in the bin next to the toilet. With the temperatures there… well, let’s just say that it would be a hard thing to get used to for me on a long-term basis.
Now, I don’t really comment with so many emotions on the tap issue anymore. It is how it is and in case there is a tap like this at someone’s house or restaurants or hotels – I just deal with it, accept it. The initial emotional response to those was due to the culture shock though. It could actually be counted as one of my Oz moments.
Electrical sockets in the bathroom
What the students said to Luke: Why don’t you have electrical sockets in the bathroom? How am I supposed to dry my hair after I’ve had a shower and look in the mirror at the same time?
I’m a bit guilty of that one too although not because of hair-drying. In some houses even the shaver sockets are not there. Now that can be a pain. But overall, I guess safety comes first, so I can understand that one and I’m not complaining.
What students said to Luke: The weather is miserable. It’s always raining
Well… it is actually pouring rain since yesterday, when I’m writing this post for you… But it’s not a l w a y s like this. There are many sunny days in London, there are also plenty of days when the mornings are very sunny and then the weather suddenly changes. I guess that’s just the part of the geography and we can’t change it, so there’s no point complaining 🙂
The biggest thing when living here is I think that whenever it is nice outside, there is a strong urge to spend as much time outside of home as possible – you never know how long this nice weather is going to hold. This is why whenever it is a sunny day in London, you can see lots of people in parks, cafés, outdoors in general.
The houses are old and draughty
The above is exactly the complaint that Luke has been hearing a lot. And I do agree. I must say that flat hunting in London, especially when I first moved here, was a very stressful experience. That, combined with another complaint about London being too expensive (so true!) made it a dreadful experience. The good thing is that you will always manage to find something decent in the end, but it might take time, and a lot of your patience, and money.
I’ve just been on a flat hunt recently again and I must say that some of the flats we have seen were just… unimaginable. The pictures – very nice, bright, lots of them, nothing really seemed very wrong on the ad on Zoopla. When we arrived there it turned out the walls are damp, the windows totally old and draughty, the flat not clean at all. Someone in this letting agency was clearly very good at photoshopping… I mean really very good… Anyway, we managed to find something that meets our needs, which is not damp or extremely draughty. It took time though. I think the most important tip, even if you’re moving somewhere from abroad is: don’t rent a flat/room not seeing it previously! Ask a friend to see it first, make this trip to actually do a viewing, ask a letting agent to Skype with you live at least and show you around – don’t rely on pictures or descriptions by any means as a lot of them might be really inaccurate.
Carpets, carpets everywhere
What students said to Luke: They have carpet everywhere – even in the toilet sometimes.
I didn’t initially even think about it to be honest, but listening to the podcast made me do that. So whenever I was entering anyone’s house, I was taking my shoes off. Especially if it was raining outside and there were carpets everywhere. I can’t imagine doing it differently. I remember my mom always telling me off for walking into the living room [with carpet] in my shoes when I forgot something and just quickly wanted to grab it. This is how I was taught. Although I understand that in various parts of the world the customs might be different. Still, I also remember trying to clean these carpets at home once in a while and even though people were not walking in shoes on them usually, it was a hard task.
Remembering the above makes me think – why do English people actually don’t take their shoes off when they have carpets in their corridors, living rooms, bedrooms… For me that still is a bit disgusting to bring all of those outside dirt into the house. Especially knowing that carpets are such a good environment for various germs.
So yes, I do identify with this complaint and still haven’t gone over it.
Standing up in pubs
What the students said to Luke: English people aren’t civilised. They go to the pub and just drink and drink, standing up, without eating.
That was a surprise for me as well when I first arrived here, seeing all those people outside of pubs on a Thursday or Friday night, all dressed up in their corporate clothes, with a pint in their hand. I was used to going to pubs, sitting down, maybe getting something small to eat.
Here I very quickly learnt that most of the pubs are really small anyway, so there’s no point in looking for a place where you can sit down, it’s just not what usually happens. And I actually like that to be honest. You don’t have to walk around the area for ages, looking for a place to sit down and get a drink. You just walk into the first pub you see, order a beer and then walk outside, enjoying the fresh (well…London) air and conversation with your friends. How easy is that? 🙂
With the not-eating part… that might be tricky sometimes, because some people have the tendency to get drunk faster because of that. The good thing on the other hand is that most pubs close before midnight anyway, so the pub owners don’t care as they just close and don’t have to deal with the drunk customers anymore.
Speaking foreign languages
What the students said to Luke: You just don’t make any effort to speak other languages here. It’s just ENGLISH, and that’s it.
That is a topic that I have discussed with my British colleagues multiple times. And actually, I would like to disagree with this complaint. Language is a tool to communicate to other people. It so happened that English became a global language to a certain extent and it is true that native English speaker do not n e e d to learn another language, really. Unless they want to live in a foreign country – then as we’ve previously discussed, it is encouraged to learn the local language to enhance your expat experience. Or if it’s their hobby or something. Otherwise, there really is no point and they can focus their efforts on some other skills. I know a lot of people from Poland, for example, who have obviously had to learn English and now they are fluent in it. Asked about why they don’t learn any more languages, they answer that they don’t need to – they know English, they can communicate to many of their clients/work colleagues and use this language during holidays. They wouldn’t be able to learn all the languages of the world anyway and they don’t travel that much so why bother?
Exactly, that’s the point. If you don’t need another language, why should you put your effort and energy into learning it?
The above are just a couple of the complaints mentioned in Luke’s podcast. Make sure you listen to all of it, especially if you’ve had an experience of being in London at any point – it will make you laugh!
Let me know what other complaints you’ve got about the place you live in right now – I’d be interested to hear what were your pain points right after moving to the new country and how did you adjust to them.