All Turned Around
After a year of living in a non-English speaking country, I finally was able to take a trip to the birthplace of the English language: England. The Motherland. Home of such greats as Shakespeare, Bronte, Rowling. You might have figured out by now that I am a bit of an Anglophile. As a child, I was obsessed with British culture and literature, always dreamed of going to the UK, and have probably seen every British film made in the past 2 decades. But being there was completely different than what I had imagined.
Question: Can you get culture shock from hearing your native language? After a short flight from Germany, we arrived in London and began our journey from Heathrow airport into the city. People stopped to speak with us, asking about the trains, trying to help us (presumably), and I had no idea what they were saying.
“Bitte?” Oh wait… no… “I’m sorry, excuse me?” That’s better. 🤦♀️ I had to take my German head off and replace it with my English one. (I will say, I was not entirely successful… Someone did get a “danke” and there definitely was a “tschüss” said.)
Happy to be here
The plan for the weekend was to have no plans, just explore and do what we felt like doing: eat Indian food, go to museums, sit in parks, get books (in English!! It’s the little things in life, my friends), and meet the Queen.
We scheduled a tour for Harry Potter Studios, and I’ll definitely be telling you all about that in another post.
We took the underground and the double decker busses, walked the city and spent time looking at things without an agenda. It seemed like every street was familiar, like I had been there before, probably from watching so many films and Royal processionals. The feeling of being there for real had me literally clapping for joy.
Now, I realize, like all major cities, that London is not a true representation of the country as a whole. It is the largest city in Western Europe, and quite frankly, would probably do well as its own country. It’s overpriced, overpopulated, and overvisited (probably not as bad as Amsterdam though).
While it didn’t feel very crowded while walking around the city, the population density can easily be felt riding the underground during peak hours. These trains come every minute, with people 20 deep lining the platform ready to squeeze into a train car that’s already ready to burst. It’s insane. But it’s orderly and polite, and eventually everyone gets to where they’re going.
On the street, taxis and busses compete with pedestrians, everyone walking and driving on the… LEFT. My brain could not handle this. The UK must be used to silly foreigners jumping into traffic because every crosswalk had “LOOK LEFT” or “LOOK RIGHT” painted on the ground.
An Accidental Walking Tour
We spent the day in Downtown London, our first stop: the British Museum. The Museum holds famous items such as the Rosetta Stone, Parthenon sculptures and Hokusai artwork.
After the museum, we walked around London, seeing Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, St. James’s Park, Buckingham Palace, Westminster, and everything in between.
We didn’t plan on this, we just kind of started walking and pointing, “oh, look! What’s that over there? Let’s go see!”
Our walking tour continued with Downing street, the London Eye, Parliament and the Supreme Court buildings, Big Ben (under construction), and of course, Waterstones.
The Best Souvenirs
During our visit, we walked 66 km (41 miles). We ate accordingly, gorging on fish and chips, Japanese food, and the best Indian food I have had in my life. With full bellies and sore feet we were ready to make our way back to Germany, but not without some commemorative trinkets.
When in the UK, read British authors.
Might I also suggest some tea while you read? I hear it really brings out the character development.
This trip to London was a good introduction to the city. I am already planning other visits to explore more of the country outside of the typical popular tourist destinations. Plus, it would be nice to have a real Cornish Pasty.