|| Print ||
|Written by Emily Goodacre|
|Friday, 09 October 2009 00:00|
In the course of my life in Canada, and my travels abroad, I have come across many a British person. I've noticed that most Brits who do not reside in London openly deride the city. I've heard complaints about how loud, dirty, and expensive it is, but the most common complaint I've heard is about Londoners being rude, snotty, unfriendly, and "stroppy" (whatever that means).
As someone who has had a long-time dreamy obsession with the city of London, these complaints upset me deeply. Perhaps the romantic, sophisticated, and, admittedly, Victorian London of my daydreams was a myth? Upon finally travelling to the storied city, I must say that the stereotypes regarding Londoners were not entirely unfounded. My best friend/travelling companion and I met several perfectly kind and friendly Londoners as well, but it is the rude encounters that stand out most in my memory.
Our first evening in the city, Lynn and I took a walk around Oxford High Street and SoHo to soak up some posh London charm. Three young men shuffled toward us, the one in the middle clearly vertical only due to the aid of his friends on either side. He managed to break away from his friends/crutches for a moment, stumbled a few steps in our direction, took a deep breath and yelled "uuunnngghh...giirrlllllls!" at us, bits of his hamburger falling from his mouth in the process. As his friends collected him and led him away, I turned to Lynn and asked, "Did we just get hit on?"
"I don't think so," she answered thoughtfully. "I think he just managed to identify us as female."A few days later we were poking around the exhibits at the British Museum when we saw a sign inviting us to "touch artefacts!" Being dorks, we excitedly ran over to a display probably meant for children. A museum staffer invited us to examine some small objects set out on a table. I picked up a small, shiny, elaborately decorated ceramic tile. "Pretty!" said my feeble brain. The woman asked me if I could identify what religion used these 8-pointed star-shaped tiles with lusterware surfaces. Taking a stab in the dark, I guessed Hinduism.
There was a lengthy pause. "Nnnnnnnnnnno," she said, clearly disappointed in me on a personal level. "The answer is Islam," she added slowly so that I would be sure to understand despite my apparent developmental delay.
Undaunted, Lynn reached out and picked up what appeared to be a piece of rock. "Why did you pick that up with your left hand?!" asked the extremely agitated staffer. Lynn shrugged, but the woman went on that the rock was in fact an ancient knife, and if it had been sharp, Lynn would have severed the arteries in her hand "and covered me with your blood!," added the woman, clearly more offended at the idea of her uniform being soiled than with Lynn's violent death. Lynn caught my eye, and we beat a hasty retreat.Still later in the week, we hapless Canadians were lost in the theatre district, looking for a particular restaurant we had passed earlier in the trip. The streets offered no benches for us to sit and regroup, and so, at the risk of looking like clueless tourists, which we obviously were, we headed for some building steps to sit and open our map. We walked to a small law firm's doors, and seeing that one of the two doors did not open, elected to politely sit in front of it to examine our map for a few moments. No sooner had we opened the map than a man emerged from the functioning door to admonish us for our inconsideration.
"You can't sit there, girls. It's a blinkin' doorway, in'it?!" he bellowed at us. We mumbled apologies and quickly walked away, hastily stuffing our map in my purse. Either oblivious to the fact that we were clearly lost and pathetic tourists or not caring, he continued to rant at our retreating backs until we turned the corner at the end of the street, "You can't sit anywhere you like! It's a business! Jesus, some people, I'm tellin' ya!" Bear in mind that this was not a crazy homeless person screaming at two young women but a be-suited professional, possibly even a London barrister. We were flustered to say the least.
It must be said that our trip around London was exceedingly positive and my crush on the city has been not at all diminished by the experience. For every drunk, smug, or unreasonably angry person we encountered, we met ten who were perfectly pleasant and sane. But it has given me some stories to tell when I meet Brits who want to London-bash in the future.