London is in a country that speaks a language similar to ours, except if you're talking about lorries, loos, lifts, petrol, and gloveboxes, just to name a few of the myriad words they use for the everyday things we call something else.
Despite what we seem to have in common from here, life is quite foreign in actual practice over there. From the money to the different spellings we use for the same words.
Offence and defence v. offense and defense, for example. They use a "c." We use an "s." Since we're talking sports, we both have the same word, football, for two different games.
On the other hand, when they use an "s" we use a "z." Organisation v. organization. If we use an "o", they up the ante to "ou." Color vs. colour. Their computer keyboards are different too. Quotations marks are switched with the @ for starters.
Pronunciation also takes getting used
to. Encephalitis, if you ever have a need to use it corrrectly in a
sentence over there, has a hard "c." Aluminum is pronounced
The British drive on the other side of the road, something most of us know. But you may not know it can kill you. For instance, you will probably die if you step off curbside [they spell it kerbside, by the way] without first looking right, instead of left. The odds of your demise increase exponentially when you're driving.
The innumerable English/Welsh/Scottish/Irish accents which change from neighborhood to neighborhood and town to town are delightful to listen to but almost impossible to decipher at times. Meanwhile, the English do a rather passable imitation of New Yawkers and claim they like to visit Chicago.
Have I mentioned using the phone?
Instead of the number ONE in front of their numbers, there's
a ZERO. That wouldn't be so bad except that we do our numbers in a
three-three-four sequence, leaving the one by itself. Theirs is a
four-four-three sequence beginning with the zero. Think it doesn't
matter? Just having the first set of digits in a group of four makes it
impossible to remember the rest of the number.
There are shops in the UK that sell only one thing -- nothing but meat, nothing but fish, nothing but wine, nothing but gloves, nothing but cheese, for example. Unlike here, the butcher, the baker, and the candlestickmaker still have their own establishments. The term fishmonger is still used when you're going to buy fish from the guy that sells gilled creatures. It's not just a word in a Dickens novel.
There are no Wal-Marts. No Costcos, Sam's Clubs, K-Marts, Targets, etc. While Marshall Field's, Hudson's and the like have become homogenized or extinct in just a hundred years or so here in the U.S., there will always be Harrod's and Selfridges over there. Count on it.
There are no strip malls as we know them. Just charming little shops, one after another, lining both sides of the thousand-year-old roads in that two-thousand-year-old city.
How can I express my happiness that London exists?
One morning I made French toast for breakfast. My daughter provided me with a wonderful loaf of thin sliced English white bread, perfect for the task. Like everything else, the bread was different. It had a homemade, not polymer texture, with the ample girth of sandwich bread. I made a batter of eggs, milk, a little sugar, and lots of vanilla. After soaking the bread I shook a bit of cinnamon on each side as it cooked. We ate it with real maple syrup from English sugar maples, along with servings of thick, smoked bacon, sliced by the butcher, which he then wrapped in white paper. Bacon as we know it in the U.S. is called striped bacon for that strip of tasty fat that travels down its length. Nothing I've tasted in the U.S. has ever been so good. Traditional English bacon on the other hand, looks more like Canadian bacon with a skirt. We had some of that, too.
While we're at it, yogurt tastes like it's supposed to -- made with whole milk so it's rich and sour creamy, not sweet like Jello pudding.
The evening after we had had French toast for breakfast, one of my daughter's friends said he preferred his eggy bread with catsup folded up in asandwich. Being an American who can appreciate the cultural differences between our countries, I said, "EWWWWW!! What's eggy bread?"
Thank goodness it turns out that the batter for eggy bread doesn't include anything like vanilla or sugar. Just eggs and milk. So the catsup doesn't sound quite so disharmonious. Or inedible. Apparently while visiting the U.S. for some cycling event in Utah, there was French toast being offered to the competitors and hot dogs to the spectators. So my new eggy bread aficionado friend took some of the American French toast and walked over to the hot dog stand to slather catsup all over it to make himself a reasonable fac simile of his English hometown favorite.
As for figgy pudding? This traditional English Christmas dessert is made with figs for starters. Nothing mysterious there. You can find any number of olde tyme family recipes for it, using a new fangled modern invention: Google. That's what I did -- centuries of information kept in a wooden box in a countryside farmhouse have been distilled into a click of a mouse on the internet. What's old is new.