lydy: (Default)
[personal profile] lydy
I think I will probably not write a lot about the big deal stuff we saw. I mean, there's a metric ton of words about, say Westminster Abbey, and either you've been there or you haven't, and if you haven't, pretty much everything there is to say about it has been said. We did a bunch of the Big Deal stuff, because, you know, they really are a Big Deal. It's just that in terms of adding to the conversation, mostly what I have to say is, "Wow, man. Just wow."

Kinesthetically, I found London very comfortable. People move at speeds that seem reasonable and useful, and their concept of personal space in public is very similar to mine. It took a couple of days to get used to the idea that one should use the left-hand stairs or escalators or turnstiles, and not the right-hand ones. I mostly got that right, although not always. I never did quite learn which way to dodge when on a busy sidewalk. I tried to pay attention, but there didn't seem to be a consensus of whether one walked on the right or the left. This may have had partly to do with the fact that I was in heavily tourist areas, so there were lots of people from parts of the world where right-hand is the default. But maybe I just didn't understand. I never did get vehicular traffic quite right. I was very grateful for the "Look Left" and "Look Right" signs painted on the street at intersections. DDB dislikes them. He says that one should always look both ways, and it discourages people from doing so. I think he's wrong. I did look both ways, but the information about where I should be expecting to see traffic come from was helpful in parsing the information. I never did get used to cars coming around corners the wrong way.

Quick Digression:

When I put in my request for PTO, my day manager, Lev, asked what it was for. I told him I was going to London, and he asked me what I wanted to see. I mentioned several things, and he said, "Ah, the historical London." I agreed. Then he said, "Well, I hope you are not too disappointed."

"Disappointed? By London? It seems unlikely"

"Well, you know, it has changed. Most of the faces, these days. Most of the faces are...black."

I blinked. "Well, London has had a stable African population for, um, 400 years? No, longer. Since the 1200s, I think."

"That cannot be true."

"No, really, it is. Also, London is a World City, so I wouldn't really expect it to be mostly white. And the really large influx of immigrants in the last twenty years, if I understand correctly, have been Southeast Asians, such as Pakistanis and Afghanis, and, of course, the Polish."

"Polish? Why would they immigrate?"

And since I am not a nice person, and because Lev is Russian, I said, "Too close to Russia, maybe?" Then I went on a very brief rant about how I was not going to the United Kingdom because I was looking to see a lot of people like me who had conquered the world, in part because that was kinda dumb, but also because it was completely a-historical.

End digression.

Jokingly, at one point during our stay, I said to Patrick, "I was lied to. London is mostly white." Which caused Patrick to blink. Then he said, thoughtfully, "Are you coding all those dark haired, pale-skinned men as white?"; My turn to blink. "Look again. Most of them are Asian, which by most accounts is not white."

So, huh. I started looking. And, yep. I was definitely seeing a lot of Asians as white. At one point, we walked by a table with about eight or ten computer geeks. Obviously geeks, talking in High Unix, and wearing the traditional clothes of their people. After we'd passed, Patrick pointed out that only one of them could reasonably be described as "white", the rest were clearly sub-continental Indian, Asian, or Middle Eastern. Yep, yep. I'd noticed that they were geeks, so one point to me.

I've watched enough British television to be completely unsurprised at a Cockney accent from a young black woman, or a clearly Scottish accent from a girl in a hjibab. What I did notice, though, is that people of color in London move through the city as if they belong there, in a way that I do not see in American cities. They neither try to take up more space, nor do they move in effacing ways. They move through their space as if they belong there. Which, of course, they do. But it is not so common to see that in the US.

Another very brief digression: There is this great Etsyshop which sells really nice tie-dye t-shirts for $10. I bought a lot of them. I like tie-dye. I also found, about a year ago, this marvelous thing called a "scrub skirt." I may have raved about how much I like wearing scrubs? Well, they make long skirts. Ankle-length skirts, with huge pockets. Which is what I wear instead of jeans. Without thinking about it, what I packed for my trip were tie-dyed t-shirts and long skirts, and a couple of jackets.

One of the things that I was a little surprised by was how very kind and welcoming random British strangers were. I didn't expect them to be rude, but I didn't expect them to be overtly friendly. They were. When I commented on that to Patrick, he pointed out that my style of dress had me coded as a known type, "American Female, benign." Which amused me, as that is pretty much what I am.

Date: 2017-06-09 07:17 am (UTC)
ckd: A small blue foam shark sitting on a London Underground map (london)
From: [personal profile] ckd
London remains one of my favorite cities in the entire world, in part because it contains so much of the entire world (and not all of it because the British stole it from elsewhere, though that is often the case).

As for the Polish thing, I am still extremely amused by the BNP campaign poster series that used a picture of a Spitfire and slogans like "Battle of Britain" and "British Jobs for British Workers" to promote their anti-immigration policies. Said Spitfire, of course, was from 303 Squadron - made up of Polish pilots who'd escaped continental Europe.

Date: 2017-06-09 11:03 am (UTC)
mrissa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mrissa
Here is why David is wrong: one should not look both ways, one should look three ways. The primary direction of traffic into which one is about to step, then the secondary just in case, then the primary AGAIN as one actually steps into it. I believe that this becomes habitual for most people who are moving into a bidirectional motor vehicle pattern, and what those signs are (successfully!) signalling is: change what your primary direction of checking is. Unless you are 5 years old and have never crossed the street without Mother before, you will automatically turn your head to your surroundings. The question is which direction is the one you check first-and-last because its traffic is about to hit you if you get it wrong, and which is the one you check in the middle just to be sure.

Date: 2017-06-09 10:04 pm (UTC)
quadong: (Default)
From: [personal profile] quadong
"there didn't seem to be a consensus of whether one walked on the right or the left."

When I was in London, I tried very hard to walk on the left, which is what most people seemed to be doing, but then I was completely baffled by a tube station which had a two-way pedestrian tunnel clearly marked "walk on the right".

Date: 2017-06-28 03:06 am (UTC)
thewayne: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thewayne
A friend of mine, sadly now deceased, was pure genetically Japanese with a Japanese last name. His first name was Jason. He worked in a comic book shop fulfilling mail orders. Born in Hawaii, growing up in Texas, living in Phoenix most of his life, he had zero accent.

One of his customers was an Aussie. Called regularly and spoke with Jason to order comics. One day he told Jason that he happened to be coming to Phoenix and wanted to know where the store was so they could meet and say hi. Jason told him how to get to the store.

The date and time came, and both people were gob-smacked. Both were pure Japanese, neither had a clue based on phone conversations.

My wife is an astronomer, and observatories (in my limited experience) are international organizations. We have Russians, Chinese, Japanese, I think we had Chileans, I seem to recall a Pole: as workers, not just visiting astronomers or students. One Japanese woman who worked on the other telescope, had perfect spoken English. One evening I asked her where she went to school. She looked a little puzzled and said 'Tokyo'. I'd assumed she was American, she just happened to speak excellent English. She said her written English was pretty horrible.

I think the biggest dissonance that I personally experienced was a week-long programming class that I attended in Atlanta back in the '90s. One of the attendees was a pure Chinese woman, 5'8" tall, with a pure Texas accent.

It's a very interesting experience.

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