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Oh, he must be late for class

May 31, 2011

photo credit: Jamie Kamen

 

Sometimes I watch people on the tube and wonder about their story. What kind of job do they have? Do they have pets? What song are they listening to on their iPod? What game are they playing on their phone? Did they play a lot of videogames when they were younger? Do they have kids? Do they want kids? Are they visiting, or from London? Maybe, they’re here for a football match? Did they ever play football (soccer)? I could ramble questions for days; it’s just crazy that I may never see this person again.  I’m sure it’s the same in any big city, but this is my first experience being immersed into such a large population of diverse people. At school in Bloomington, I see familiar faces every day. Here, I see similar faces that are not familiar at all.

Is it weird to say “hi?” Is that acceptable in the realm of British social norms? Speaking of which, I’ve referenced social interactions and formalities a couple time, but I think that it’s time to discuss some perceptions I’ve had in my almost four weeks of “being British.”

First of all, it is no surprise that people in America are fast-paced. We like our food fast, our cars fast and our internet fast. However, the Brits put our fast-paced lifestyle to shame. Take for example someone bumping into you. It is common courtesy and normal to stagger/stutter/ stop for a second to face the person you just collided into – maybe even say a half-hearted, automatic, “oh sorry!” In London I have realized that usually when someone is speed walking they are on a mission and if you are in their way and obstruct their mission…man down. They want to get to where they are going and if you are in their way – literally in their path – they will run you down. It is almost like you are invisible, but it’s not a lack of sincerity or compassion for others, it is a complete autopilot.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that in the Brit’s fast-paced lifestyle, there does not seem to be the constant need to be on a cell phone. Walk around any mall in America and you’ll find 12-24 year olds, phone in hand and attention completely focused on texting, BBMing or e-mailing. Walking around London, I don’t see that. People don’t seem to use their phones like we do in America. The weirdest thing about that whole concept is thinking about actually having my “real” phone again back in the states. I’ve become so used to my Barbie-inspired go-phone, and the fact that we all rarely text or call each other because it uses too many minutes (and minutes mean pounds), that I feel my mentality towards my phone and consistent, and sometimes useless, communication will have severely changed. I guess we’ll see, but it’s definitely not a negative change. As much as it pains me that I can’t text, call or send funny pictures to my friends and family of life here, it is also kind of freeing. I’m able to focus on people more, on the reality and the actual conversation I’m having without thinking of a text or mindlessly logging onto Facebook on my phone.

Unfortunately as I type this I have been mentally counting all the times here where we have complained about wanting “our real phones” when we see someone on the tube with a Blackberry or an iPhone. However I’m just going to consider that homesickness and not an unhealthy obsession with technology.

photo credit: Jamie Kamen

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