Thoughts on London…
Carla, who, in her own words, is, “an American who lived in London for 15 years” has posted about Americans on Britain on her own blog. You can find it here: http://coffeetableyears.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/an-american-on-britain/
For me Carla captures some of the essence of London, that huge, complex, thriving metropolis that seems to exist both with and apart from the rest of Britain – there is so much more outside, and yet from the inside it’s almost impossible to see. Here she is again:
Funnily enough, I don’t even think of London as particularly English. What I remember is this huge multicultural melting pot, defined largely by the number of immigrants who end up calling it home. There are over 300 languages spoken in London and you hear them everywhere. I believe it gives the capital its vibrancy, its constant movement and flux. I remember the excitement of being part of this pulsating throng of humanity who passes through this extraordinary city that has seen it all – and, yes, it can seem indifferent and cold. No matter what, London will always just be.
What I enjoyed best is London’s mixture of old and new, of innovation and tradition, of history and propulsion, its constant transformation and yet the feeling that certain things will never change. It’s not so much English as belonging to the world. What is Britain? I can’t condense it into a statement because it would mean reducing it to a cliché. But if I judge it by London, I think Britain is more innovative and forward-thinking than people give it credit for – and it’s a damn good place to get a drink.
In 2005 London had its attractions, but it was an eye-opener for many Americans. I collected many comments back then but the four below seem to sum up opinion pretty well.
Susan: As for London, I was appalled that a city I had thought would be on a par with Paris was as dirty and paranoid as the worst of the American cities. I found it sprawling compared to Paris – more like Los Angeles than like Chicago. If I ever return to that part of the world, I think I would like to see more of your countryside, since from what I have read, I believe that would be more to my liking.
Lydia: I overhead young Londoners on the street make disparaging remarks about Americans, mostly how fat, rude, etc. we are, and I was ashamed. Then I wandered into the Grosvenor Chapel and saw the dedications to American servicemen from World War II. You used to love us over there, for a short time, at least.
Christine: It’s hard to really say what I think, other than it is my favorite place outside the U.S. London within the city limits kinda sucked, but once you leave the sprawl, you never want to go home. The people are pretty strange there, the culture I found a ruthless tenacity cloaked in sheer civility. As a lover of all things strange, it is enough I am marrying a native and moving there.
Mike: I was blessed to have spent a whole day in London, back in 1999. I was flying back to the states from Bahrain, and had a one day layover at Heathrow. I rode one of those big black British taxis into central London; my hotel was on a side street near Marble Arch. I must have walked 10 miles that day, just walking around London trying to see everything. The strangest feeling I had was that I was returned home, because everything I saw was in one way or another, part of our shared culture.