Living in London: The Awesome Truth

tea&crumpets
(from http://teawithfriends.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/tea-crumpets.html)

There are a lot of stereotypes tacked onto living in London, which somewhat amazes me – how can one stereotype a city that has over 6 million people residing in it of almost every culture and creed? With over 300 different languages spoken, it’s the most diverse city linguistically in the world. When you get on a bus you are just as likely to hear a conversation in a different tongue to English, if not moreso to be honest. Some of the broader cockneys or gangstas practically have their own languages in themselves. 

The people are from all over the globe, the country, the universe, who knows? There are more people living here than in the entire of Scotland.

That’s right. An entire freakin’ country. How insane. 

And it’s not just nationality. There’s a huge variety in age, background, financial standing, passion, jobs. So when out of interest I was reading up on London stereotypes…I couldn’t help be a little gobsmacked that even the most eclectic, mad, bustling and thrown together city in the world could have a stereotype in the first place. I guess we just like them too much. 

It’s often specific to areas, and I will admit, to an extent these can be true. Some of the poorer postcodes can be a bit rougher, and not necessarily somewhere one would want to wander through at night. That is true of any city though, and I’m not even sure it’s a stereotype. What really grinds my gears though, to use an old term, is – as I ranted on about before – the people that we stick labels on.

The rich people, bankers and investors, are snobby, posh, and either growing children with wild abandon with an army of nannies and maids or spending their hard earned cash on the stereotypical rich drug, good ol’ Charlie Sheen. 

This irks me. I’ve met some lovely people who are wealthy because they worked damn hard to get there. They have a lovely family, one nanny, a nice home and they don’t rub it in anyone’s faces – but they have the suit and the shoes and the fancy haircut, so they’re stuck with that label immediately. 

If you’re young and – god forbid – wearing a hoodie, you’re a gang member who is imminently going to stab someone or try to sell drugs. I mean, come on. I love hoodies. And yes there are problems with gangs in London, but they tend to be contained to specific areas and frankly if you stay out their way they won’t affect you. NOT that I’m saying it’s okay and we should just ignore it, I’m just saying that the Capital isn’t crawling with gangsters who’d rather shoot you as look at you – as certain newspapers and fearmongerers would have you believe. Like I said, I love my hoodies, and I’m as soft as they come. Don’t assume folks. They’re just warm in bad weather, it’s like having a hat attached to your top!

Let’s see, if you’re unemployed you’re a scrounger. That one’s rife, especially since the current government came into power (don’t even get me STARTED on David Cameron and his bloody circus). They’re cutting benefits left, right and centre to people who really need them, and acting as though it’s their own fault that the employment rate is so low at the moment. 

But the reverse of that, is that all millionaires are selfish, pompous, cigar smoking money gobblers who are blinded by greed and don’t deserve the tax cut. I’m not a fan of the tax cut. In fact it makes me furious. And I’m sure some millionaires do fit the above description, just as some people on benefits won’t really need them, some people in hoodies actually are gangsters and those in nice suits could be yuppies. But not all of them. Look at J.K. Rowling, she lost her billionaire status from donating so much to charity. A surprising amount of the wealthiest folks give more than we think. Sure, there are plenty of greedy gits out there. But not all. It’s a stereotype for a reason.

And of course, the regular English stereotypes…that we love to drink tea (we do) and eat crumpets (also true). That we’re more reserved than other nations perhaps are (actually, now I think about it that’s true too. We’re a very awkward race when it comes to hugging. I think many of us all feel a bit better with a good old handshake until we know the other person. I always wonder how long to hug someone, it makes me feel very on edge if I don’t know them well enough.) We don’t talk to strangers, we’re dry, we have bad dental hygiene and we eat kippers for breakfast. 

The last few are a bit of a mix. You’d be surprised how many strangers one can speak to on a night out. We are very dry humoured, I think that’s why there’s sometimes a clash between American and British comedies where we don’t always get the jokes! I like to think on the whole our dental hygiene is pretty good, I know the Elizabethans were famous for black teeth but come on now, that was a while ago. And I have never, ever eaten a kipper. Especially not for breakfast, I don’t think I could face it at that time of day. 

Finally, London is stereotypically thought to be busy, rude, cold, and lonely. All can be true. But once you’ve lived here, you really will break past all these stereotypes to the city that so many see – a beautiful, multicultural, melting pot of fabulousness. With the occasional pigeon to boot. 

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4 thoughts on “Living in London: The Awesome Truth”

  1. Every place/person can be a stereotype if you’re looking for evidence to support the stereotype. It’s only with open eyes and open mind that we can see exceptions everywhere. I’m enjoying your observations and traveling vicariously!

  2. I remember reading once that stereotypes are useful until you meet someone (included in that stereotype) then you should forget it 🙂
    It’s great that you are taking in the variety of the city and keeping an open mind.

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