Outside the office, I’ve found the UK a very hospitable place for Americans. Obviously, there are a lot of values that the US and the UK share. Compared to any other country except Canada, the language barrier between Americans and Brits is minimal.
Many of the differences are “procedural”, such as driving on the left side of the road. Since most of the world drives on the right, the Brits have generously painted “Look Left” and “Look Right” at intersections to help you check for oncoming traffic.
Then there are supermarkets. Most people in London (like people in New York) have to shop for groceries with baskets instead of shopping carts purely for space reasons. This is fine for me since my fridge only holds so much anyway.
One of the few differences is that supermarkets generally make you bag your own groceries. This should theoretically save labor costs, but really doesn’t since the cashier can check out your purchases twice as fast as you can bag them, so he or she just winds up sitting there watching you bag (though at some chains, cashiers will pitch in at the end voluntarily).
Like New York City, London has a very developed mass transit system. Its most prominent feature is the double decker buses (alongside smaller, normal buses) that cruise the streets. Buses with two sections joined by an accordion segment are ubiquitous in the Seattle area, but most Londoners hate them, preferring double deckers. When “bendy buses” were introduced, numerous complaints were made about the amount of road space these buses took up as well as the allegedly higher risk of crashes due to the sheer length of them. Among newly elected London mayor Boris Johnson’s campaign promises was a pledge to get rid of the bendy buses by 2015. This all seems funny to me since in Seattle the accordion buses are not really very controversial at all since double deckers would be unthinkable—Seattle just isn’t built to accommodate such tall vehicles in the places they would need to go. Every city has its own needs, I guess.
Beneath the city streets, of course, lies the London Underground, or “Tube”. During rush hour, (more…)