Coming from a small country town in Louisiana where your car is your life and everyone knows everything about you, it was a bit scary to jump on a plane (two, actually) and fly overseas to live in a new country with new people. Now that I’ve been here for a while, I feel right at home. But there’re a few things I had to learn if I was going to survive in the city.
People can, and will, walk very slowly.
I know we’re relaxed in Louisiana and we like to take our time, but for a fast paced city, some people walk so slowly at what always seems to be the worst possible times. During rush hour in the Underground when you’re steps away from your departing train or taking the entire pavement as they walk along with their friends. But it’s only bad to walk slowly if you’re not the one doing it. I still haven’t completely understood that part, but I’m accepting it.
The Tube isn’t as scary as it seems.
Back home, we don’t have ‘underground’. Even our graves are above ground. Our ground is just too soft. So imagine how intimidating the thought of being beneath a city in a metal tube with people who are probably judging you because of your American-ness is.
Turns out, it’s nothing like that at all. Being underground is still a bit creepy at times, but after a while, you don’t even realise it. And the people you think are going to judge you don’t, mainly because there are people from all over the world in this city as either a resident or a tourist. It’s just not worth the effort to bring up. Plus, eye contact in the Tube is a carnal sin, so people don’t bother you in the first place.
There are cards more important than your bank cards.
While we’re talking about the Underground, let’s talk about the Oyster card. I quickly learned that this card is going to be my lifeline for the four months that I’m here, and without it, I can’t go anywhere. You know, unless I want to spend even more money. Your Oyster card is your freedom if you don’t have a bike or a car, both of which are pretty expensive. Never lose it. Never.
It’s possible to be a tourist and a resident.
During the week, I take my daily commute. I grumble and complain about people walking too slowly, I roll my eyes at tourists staring at the Tube map with their bags in my way when I just need to get around them to get to my platform, and I don’t care that I have to squeeze myself into the train with hundreds of other people (which is probably well over carrying capacity).
During the weekend, however, you can usually find me camera in hand searching for all of the sights. Granted, I’m not in comfortable trainers and sunglasses (really, why do you need sunglasses when it’s overcast?), but I’m still an excited tourist. Just one that’s been here longer.
Technically, I’m bilingual now.
As you may have noticed, I write in British English. I started for my job, but now I can’t stop. Everyone back home thinks I’m spelling things incorrectly and have no idea what I’m talking about when I tell them about the time I nearly got hit by a “lorry” or “this really cute jumper I saw at Camden Market that was only 5 quid!”
Similarly, my colleagues get a bit confused when I talk about this time the “coulee” in my yard flooded last winter, when a “y’all” slips out when I’m speaking to everyone, and when I explain the difference between a marsh and a bayou. On the bright side, I can now switch back and forth effortlessly (and non sarcastically) depending on who I’m speaking with. I’d like to call it Brimerican (Ameritish?) English.