Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sleepless in London… Again

2:50am now and I can’t sleep. One of those night when so many thoughts are running through your head that you’re just trying to keep up.

So first, about the second half of today… really did nothing much. Spent a couple of hours playing my guitar at the garden next to the hotel, and then went to have some pizza at a chain called “Pizza Express”.

I am a huge fan of pizza, however very picky. Sure I can eat Pizza Hut, Domino’s however what I really appreciate is good, quality pizza. So far in my life, the top three pizza’s I had were:

“Wooden Heads” in Kingston, Ontario

“Libretto” in Toronto, Ontario

And some other place I can’t remember, in Tel-Aviv, Israel.

Seems a bit peculiar, huh? as if I never really went too far to try pizza’s. Well, surprise – I did. I eat pizza pretty much everywhere I travel to, and I travel a lot.

So anyway, that Pizza Express thing turned out to be, well, OK. First of all, nothing in it was “express”: the service was friendly but very slow, and the pizza took forever to arrive (the best pizza place I’ve been in, “Wooden Heads” in Kingston, serves your pizza within 5-8 minutes and I guarantee that it’s one of the best – if not the best – pizza you had in your life).

The crust was relatively good, but the sauce didn’t appear to be very fresh, and so were the toppings. Wouldn’t go there again unless I’m really hungry and all other dining options have been exhausted.

Went back to the hotel and crashed for about an hour. Being in a big city for a few days takes some mental toll – noise makes me tired. So after about an hour, I went for another walk in the Oxford Circus area, some dessert and back to the hotel.

A pint of “Foster’s” to end another good day in London, then went upstairs to the hotel room and simply couldn’t sleep.

I received a very surprising email today, from a guy named Alex Flagg. I met Alex during the KTGC tour – he’s from San-Francisco but flew to Boston to attend another MK show. A super-nice guy. He emailed me today to ask me with regards to my plans for the Get Lucky tour in 2010. As it turns out, he’s planning on attending a few shows in the West Coast. Would be great to meet with him again.

So, time to summarize my London experience.

First, this city has a vibe that is very hard to ignore. I find the atmosphere here comparable to that of New-York City. There’s always something going on, and you can feel the busy life in the air.

Transportation in this city is very efficient and altogether amazing. Going back to Canada is going to be a huge disappointment when it comes to transportation. Unless you live in a big city such as Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, you pretty much must have a car; and if you live in a big city, still, public transportation is rarely a delight to use.

The architecture in this city is stunning. Everywhere you go you see and feel history.

The people – well, that’s very complex and I’m actually trying to figure it out. It’s very hard to describe people, not only because it may get people upset but also because it’s all very relative. So obviously, whatever I’m writing here is not intended to hurt anyone’s feelings but instead just provides my own viewpoint, how I felt amongst the residents of London.

If I compare people in London to people in, say, Toronto, I can confidently say that people in London smile and flirt much, much, much less. Striking a conversation with a stranger in Toronto isn’t something that out of the ordinary, however I simply can’t see it happening here in London.

While it would be very “easy” to categorize the people in London as rude, I think that it would be a major overreaction. It boils down to cultural differences. In Waterloo (Ontario, Canada) for example, when you walk down the street and someone is coming from the opposite side, usually your eyes will meet, and in that case, it is very customary to greet each other (“hello”, “good morning” etc) and, in most cases, you can see that it’s not a “fake” greeting; people want to greet each other.

This simply doesn’t happen here. I walked the streets here for hours after hours; people simply avoid looking at you in the first place. Now I may not be the sexiest most attractive human being in the universe, but I’m pretty sure that external appearance has nothing to do with it. People just avoid eye contact here.

That’s how they were taught, that’s how they were raised. They’re not rude, they’re not bad. They’re just themselves, that’s how they are and it has nothing personal against you.

Smalltalk in Canada is extremely common. You’re in line waiting for coffee at Starbucks, and there’s somebody next to you – in a lot of cases, that’s already a topic for discussion. It is just extremely easier to strike-up a conversation in Toronto. That’s why they say that Torontonians (and Canadians in general) are extremely friendly people, I guess.

I don’t see small-talking happening here, in an extent even close to the extent it’s done in Canada.

What I usually like doing when I’m going to new places is to observe people, try to learn about them from their body language; listen to the way they speak, see the way they move. May sound freakish to you, but for me, spotting and recognizing such cultural differences is a very interesting exercise, not to say fascinating. So what I gather about people in London is not that they’re mean; they aren’t. And even though I initially thought they’re snobs, after some thought I decided that it’s not the case. They’re not snobs either. They are simply very occupied, I think, with the fast pace of living here.

Not only London is the “core” of England, you also have to remember that there’s a recession going on, and the UK is said to be the European country hurt the most by it. The economy here is not in its best. Also, there seems to be some friction between natives and immigrants here. What the source of the friction is – that I don’t know, but what I do know is that the very existence of immigrants in a big city is not necessarily a reason for friction to happen. Case in point being Toronto, which is (if my memory serves me right) the most multi-cultural city in the world, when almost (or more than?) half of its population isn’t Canadian-born. The natives-immigrants friction in Toronto is nowhere near as close in its severity to what’s going on in some European capitals, including London.

Some people here claim that the terrorist attack in the London Underground a few years ago has raised the friction to record levels and that the friction didn’t really lose much since then.

So to sum it up – if you’re a Canadian and you’re visiting London, don’t be alarmed by what you think is “unfriendliness” of people. I think that the “problem” is less with people in London being “too rude”; it’s actually the other way around – Canadians are just way, way nicer than average. :-)

OK, time to sleep now. I have to. Big day tomorrow.


1 comment:

dee said...

good analysis:
true that terrorism and econ.difficulties have affected westener's lifestyle and that's to me is very unfortunate in the long-term.
true that Britons are not famous for their public friendliness, so as for instance their neighbours, the Irish, commonly are: maybe they are simply shy.
in particular I do agree with your last comment :-) daria