I spent 7 days in London, England last week. It was incredible and exhausting and overwhelming and magnificent. I’ve never traveled to Europe before, so when Context Optional offered me the opportunity to work in London for a week and help build out our relationships abroad, I jumped. How high? High enough.
London blew my mind.
Let’s start with the obvious: the English drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheel is located on the right side of the car. Needless to say, every time I got into a taxi, I was certain I was going to die. This also makes crossing the street a threatening experience. I learned to just look both ways about four times and then run to the opposite curb.
It’s difficult to decipher a hotel from an apartment from a restaurant. The buildings look like (and most likely are) one giant building the length of an entire block, with identical (and symmetrical) door and stair placement in front of each “separate” building. The similarities of each block were straight out of Pleasantville.
Speaking of buildings, the architecture is amazing. The attention to detail is incredible — there are gargoyles and angels and designs carved on each building. Some buildings are decorated with different colored bricks creating striped patterns above entryways. The Cathedrals and shops and alleyways are breathtaking. Each building was designed and built with intention.
London has, hands down, the best public transportation. We used the Tube to get us to and from meetings and explorations every day. We never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a train. The trains are on time and fast. Inside the Tube Stations, it’s pure efficiency: rat maze style. Every option you have for a train transfer or to exit the train is explicitly shown via arrow. There is only one way to navigate through a Tube Station. Follow the arrows. Each Tube Station is equipped with an endless amount of stairs and pathways so windy, you surface and are so disoriented you don’t know which way is up.
Not to mention, the escalators. Never have I ever seen so many escalators. So many long, long escalators. Depending on the Tube Station you could spend a whole 10 minutes on an escalator.
I’ve only been back 3 days, but I’ve already been asked about my favorite places I visited while in London. So, I list: Covent Garden — the shopping, cobblestone roads, quaint area yet enflamed with the city-life hustle and bustle; Camden — rich with culture and London grunge, yes steps away from the gorgeous Regent’s Park (Avenue Garden and Queen’s Garden); Angel/Islington — what beats walking alongside a European canal on a path littered with wild flowers and cafes offering steaming lattes and pastries. But, my real favorite place in London can be found in any city — the Beer Garden. Now, we did find the most amazing Beer Garden I’ve ever been to — Edinboro Castle — which is located near Regent’s Park, but Beer Gardens are everywhere in London. And they are fantastic. I’m not generally a beer drinker, but I’ve recently decided that’s because American beers…suck. In London, I fell in love with ciders, and the idea of drinking them outside, in the sunshine, surrounded by blooming flowers, amidst other locals (and some tourists), was incredible.
Being immersed in the British culture for an entire week was such a learning experience. I’ve traveled outside the U.S. before on vacation, but nothing has been quite like the culture and language spoken in the UK. There were so many colloquialisms the British use that took some getting used to (and are really awesome). Here are a few:
- “Toilet” instead of “Bathroom” or “Restroom.” This took some getting used to. Awkward.
- “Sorry” instead of “Excuse me.” England is the most apologetic country. Ever.
- “Lifts” instead of “Elevators.”
- “Aubergine” instead of “Eggplant.” Thank God for fashion or I’d have no clue what that would mean.
- “Bespoke” instead of “Custom.” We, of course, had to implement this when talking to customers about Facebook applications. Wonder where it derives from…
- “Mate” instead of “Friend.” And not always in the “G’day Mate” sense of the word.
- “Cheers” as well as “Thank you.”
- “Daft” instead of “silly” or “weird.”
- “Holiday” instead of “vacation.” I like this one. Every time I go on vacation I want it to be a holiday.
- “Jacket potato” is really a “Baked potato.”
Also, Jamie said it best when describing the fashion in London, “It’s unfair that these Londoners not only have THE ACCENT OF ALL ACCENTS, but also have style that makes me look at my Old Navy sweaters with such disgust that I might as well be walking around in Wal-Mart clothes head to toe.”
I even went and bought some lipstick and enhanced my eyeliner while I was there just to fit in.
I still feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have the job I have with a company like Context Optional. The neatest part of my trip to London? Feeling like I’m a part of something huge. Something that’s growing and expanding internationally. Something that I’ve worked so hard to even define is succeeding and I’m doing my little part to help it. My job continues to be incredibly rewarding and I’m certainly blessed to have been given the opportunity to travel overseas. I’m sure I’ll be back in London very soon, and I can’t wait.
If you’d like to read about each day of my trip, check out my Lifecast.
P.S. If anyone knows where I can find Fruli Strawberry Beer in San Francisco, they’ll be my best friend forever.
P.P.S. Another thing I learned in London? Don’t talk to Aussies about eating a Kangaroo Burger.