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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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The fingers of the right hand spell L-O-V-E [20041203|09:31]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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Things I've learned to hate about London


Tourists. Oh, the irony! And the worst ones aren't even the Americans. It's the hordes of Japanese ones that spring fully formed from the sidewalks in packs of ten. Then they proceed to block all of the crosswalks while waiting for the lights. Jaywalking is a way of life here, people. Look around. Adapt to it. They also stop in the middle of the escalators in the tube stations and noisily ponder their lostness. Observe the signs, please. Stand on the right. Walk on the left. Londoners are busy people, and if you don't get out of the way, they might miss their train and have to wait a whole two minutes for the next one.

Antipodeans. Now, don't get me wrong, not every Australian or Kiwi is an antipodean. They're a very specific type. As our friend Ian, who happens to be Australian, puts it, "They come here, they make three quid an hour slinging beer in the pub. When they're not working, they're sitting in the pub drinking beer and bitching about how awful England is. When they're not sitting in the pub, they're outside being very fucking loud and puking on your shoes." Or, in the case of a girl that Marco and I had the misfortune to be sat near on the bus, repeating the three or four Spanish curse words that she knew over and over again and acting like it was the most novel thing ever that the only words a person should know in a language were the foul ones. Shut up, lady, and act like what you are. DUMB LIKE ROCK.

Mexican food. As in, there isn't any. Give it a couple of months, and I'll probably be willing to trade my left arm for a bean-n-cheese burrito from a –berto's. I don't even need the "hassase." We went to a Mexican restaurant here once. They served us supermarket crisps that had been burnt in an oven and pasta sauce. If anyone wants to win my love forever when they visit from California, they can bring a bottle of decent salsa with them.

Manchester United fans. I've met exactly one Manchester United fan who was living in London who was actually from Manchester. The rest of them? Antipodeans.

Crossing the Thames. The most major fault in the London public transport system. It's difficult to go south of the river without changing from the bus to the tube, or from the tube to the overground trains. And attempting to do it on the weekends or past about nine p.m.? Forget it.

Things I've learned to love about London


Public transport. I am so happy not to have to own or drive a car. The buses are buses are where it's at. They are frequent, reliable and cheap and they run all night. The tube is not as cheap or reliable and it stops at midnight, but it is faster than the buses when you need to go a longer distance.

Walking. I can walk to get just about anything I need for the house. I see so much when I walk. I can stop to take pictures. I can mosey, or I can charge off down the sidewalk and weave my way between the tourists.

Beer. All right, so I was fond of beer before I got here. However, the beer here is cheap, plentiful AND tasty. I also love the pint glasses with the official crown stamp, certifying its volume. My beer has been approved by the Queen! Same goes for the cider.

English food. It's gotten a bad rap. It really has. It's optimally constructed to maintain heat for as long as possible, and it delivers the kind of caloric punch you need after walking around outside in the cold all day. Take the pasty, for instance. It has fat layers of flaky crust. Even when the outside of it has gone cold, the meaty interior is still piping hot. Ahhh.

Malt vinegar. Specifically, malt vinegar and chips. Malt vinegar needs to catch on in the US, like, immediately.

Biscuits. Entire aisles in the grocery stores are dedicated to the mighty biscuit. In the US, they'd probably be called either crackers or cookies. There are sweet biscuits, savory biscuits, biscuits with creamy filling, crunchy biscuits, chewy biscuits, biscuits with nuts and even biscuits involving alcoholic flavorings. I have yet to meet a biscuit that I didn't like.

Diversity. Ethnic and cultural mixing is a reality in London. I can't speak for the rest of England, as I haven't spent enough time there to know. However, you don't have to go out of your way here to have friends and acquaintances from a multitude of nationalities and racial backgrounds. You can see a woman, fully covered except for the eyes, standing next to a teenage girl in a microscopic skirt, puffy jacket and ankle boots in zero degree weather. It's difficult to know which one is more provocative, or more appealing. I've had trouble walking into a bar or a pub and finding another American, aside from Marco. Also, dreadlocks are not unusual here, even among professional people. It's unlikely that I'd be asked to cut them for a job.

Free stuff. So many marvelous things here are free. The excellent library system (at least in my borough), a large percentage of the museums, the parks, the cemeteries, the churches and of course, if you get tired, you can always sit in Trafalgar Square. There is never a lack of things to do and see, even if you don't have much in the way of disposable income.

Sunday. It's actually a day of rest! Most shops are closed and services unavailable. Only the pubs are open. You go to one of the open-air markets and browse. You have your pints and your Sunday roast, or, if you're lucky and you've got friends who make Sunday roast, you go to theirs and have your whiskey and roast. You watch footie or play video games or read. You go to bed early. That's how Sunday should be. I'm converted.
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[User Picture]From: ironed_orchid
2004-12-03 09:37 (UTC)
There's a particular breed of Australians in England, who are just as you describe. They live in Earls Court and their strine gets thicker the longer they stay there.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-03 10:07 (UTC)
Note to self: Do not move to Earls Court.
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[User Picture]From: mrtreacle
2004-12-03 09:54 (UTC)
Where do you wanna go south?

Lived here 15 years - tell me where you are going, and where from, and I'll tell you the night bus!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-03 10:08 (UTC)
There's a direct route from Camden to Battersea Park? That doesn't take 45 minutes to an hour? Spill!
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[User Picture]From: opheliablue
2004-12-03 10:14 (UTC)
You're becoming one of us!

Actually, I thought you needed a passport to go south of the river anyway. I've never been there. What's it like? I've heard strange stories about it. Ok ok I'm joking, I have been. But for us North Londoners "don't you need a passport to go south of the river?" is a common joke :P

The only thing I'm sure you haven't discovered yet is good Mexican food. I know there's a few good Mexican restaurants around London - but don't ask me to tell you what they are because I can't remember :) However, I do know that my mum's partner is an expert in the 'real deal' because he has spent so much time IN Mexico (and in London restaurants) so I will ask him.

Sundays....everything around where I am opens on Sunday! But I don't want to burst your 'Sunday feeling' bubble so I will remind myself that actually, Boots and Woolworths don't. And really, they are such major shops here that might be pretty much the same thing as everything being shut. Except that they'll probably open on Sundays over December :)

I so agree about the biscuits, the diversity, the free stuff, the food AND especially the vinegar and chips!

Give it a few more weeks and you'll be singing 'Maybe It's Because I'm A Londoner..."!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-03 16:56 (UTC)
The passport joke is new to me! I will remember it.

Someone else (ripperlyn) said that good Mexican food can be found in Greenwich. Can you confirm?

Also, I probably should have been more specific. London is a big city and I'm sure if you look hard enough you can find a good restaurant serving almost any type of cuisine. What I really miss is the 24-hour taco stand (kind of like a kebab stand) where you can get a beananchiss burrito for less than US$2. It's not classy food, but it's one of those tastes you develop when you live in a place for long enough and don't realize you're taking for granted until you move.

My Sunday feeling is helped along by the shops on my street, which are nearly all closed on Sunday. And even the major shops don't open until 11.

Vinegar and chips are brilliant. I also like chips and curry. Mmm.
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[User Picture]From: seismic
2004-12-03 10:27 (UTC)
It sounds very much as if the latter list makes all the things in the former list more than worthwhile. Have I mentioned how deliriously happy for you and utterly green with envy of you I am?

Here, have a tutu. =)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-03 16:51 (UTC)
I think I just saw Sol Campbell, a very large English football player, lighting a Christmas tree outside Mornington Crescent tube station.

I think he would look just lovely in a tutu.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-03 16:46 (UTC)
It's terrible. If it weren't illegal, I'd ask for someone to mail me a burrito from a -bertos in SD.

The rest is, indeed, incredibly awesomely awesome. :-D
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[User Picture]From: nationofsheep
2004-12-03 11:26 (UTC)

yes

Lack of Mexican food is a common problem in my travels. Boston and the Northeast in general suck for Mexican food. Europe too. And Hong Kong, fucking forget it. The first symptom of homesickness for me is a general craving for fajitas or a decent burrito. Next thing you know I have dreams about pickled jalepenos and fresh corn chips and salsa. Oh no...
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-03 16:45 (UTC)
Yup. I know what I'm going to be doing as soon as I get to SD for a visit. I'm so desperate, I may even go to the El Torito next to the condo.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-03 16:42 (UTC)
Yeah. Especially not a California-style 24 hour taco stand where you can get a beananchiss burrito for under US$2. Not a chance.
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[User Picture]From: 3g0
2004-12-03 14:50 (UTC)

Re: Lack of mexican food across the pond

You KNOW it's bad when you're in Paris and, just past Bastille Square, there is a restaurant called Indiana Tex-Mex.

I nearly wept when I saw that. Deplorable Tex-Mex food is forgivable, but Indiana???? What-the-what, now?
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-03 16:41 (UTC)
Ooh. Right near Trafalgar Square, where all the embassies are located, is a restaurant. Called "The Texas Embassy." *thunk*
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-03 16:33 (UTC)
I read through my 2003 entries shortly after I arrived here. I was blown away. It wasn't until I got away from it that I could see how miserable and angry I was. I'm very glad I didn't decide to stay. That would have been incredibly stupid.
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[User Picture]From: sekl
2004-12-03 15:38 (UTC)

Chocolate Digestive Biscuits

Sainsbury's used to have 'em. Of course, I horrified my friends by saying something raaaather American, "With a bit a of peanut butter, these would be fantasic."
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-03 16:30 (UTC)
For some reason, it hadn't occured to me to look for peanut butter. Since then, I've learned that even if I do find it, I shouldn't buy it. One of my JPL friends is coming to visit later this month and is bringing peanut butter for us.

Oh, and Sainsbury's still has chocolate digestive biscuits. They have all kinds of flavors of digestive biscuits. The name is a bit off-putting, though. I've stuck to the non-digestive biscuits so far.
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From: ripperlyn
2004-12-03 15:52 (UTC)
Someone else has probably already pointed this out, but THERE IS MEXICAN FOOD IN GREENWICH.

Go there.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-03 16:28 (UTC)
Yes! I will go and find it. That will be good.

I guess I should have been more specific, though, because although I bet I can find good Mexican food with a little more hunting around, I will not find a 24 hour taco stand, where I can get a beananchiss burrito for under US$2. *sigh*
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[User Picture]From: chibaraki
2004-12-03 16:45 (UTC)

re: Japanese tourists

They also stop in the middle of the escalators in the tube stations and noisily ponder their lostness.

The weird thing about that is that Japanese subway escalators have the exact same etiquette, and if you block the walking side people are liable to get irate. (Of course, in Japan getting irate involves standing there and staring sternly, or going around. This is JAPAN.) Point being this would be just as much of a faux-pas in Tokyo as in London.

Then again, I'm not sure Japanese tourists are actually from Japan, at least not the same way as normal people are... they seem to be some sort of special creature that, despite being Japanese, exists only outside Japan, and does unlikely things like walk around American national parks in slacks and a tie.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-03 16:48 (UTC)
Then again, I'm not sure Japanese tourists are actually from Japan, at least not the same way as normal people are... they seem to be some sort of special creature that, despite being Japanese, exists only outside Japan,

Yes! That's why I said they spring from the sidewalks. They can't possibly have flown here from Japan. It's kind of like the antipodeans. The Australians I've met have all been lovely people. I think they grow the antipodeans in Earls Court.
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[User Picture]From: greyface
2004-12-03 16:59 (UTC)
Just a quick addition... Indian food isn't bad here in California... but they seem to go the extra mile in London. I guess it's like the significant Indian population, and a whole city full of people who can't stop eating it.

See, there are benefits to being an imperial power... one of the most important is called Vindaloo.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-03 17:13 (UTC)
Yes! You can even get regional Indian food here. There's a restaurant called Kerala here which serves food from, you guessed it, Kerala. It's quite different from what you'd get in most Indian restaurants in California. No naan. No papadums. Lots of dishes involving plantains and mangoes.

The terminology for people from Asia here can be confusing to an American at first, too. "Asian" refers to Indians and Pakistanis. "East Asian" refers to Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, etc.

I think I need to have a vindaloo this weekend.
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[User Picture]From: enterlinemedia
2004-12-03 17:09 (UTC)
I always wanted to visit London and the United Kingdom. Your stories about living there makes the city seem more interesting to see.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-05 12:07 (UTC)
Very cool. There's a lot to do in the city, so if you do plan a visit, my advice is to give yourself at least a week.
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[User Picture]From: repoman
2004-12-03 17:55 (UTC)
Antipodeans are cockroaches. If you look hard enough anywhere in this world, there they are doing whatever it is they do for fun. In Northern Ireland, I met so many it made me wonder if they closed down the country for fumigation.

I've met some very nice folks from down under, but they really don't make up for the Antipodeans...
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-05 12:05 (UTC)
I have the suspicion that they don't actually come from Australia or NZ. I think they're manufactured in the UK (ironed_orchid suggests Earls Court as the breeding grounds) and then sprinkled around to help keep tourism from spiraling out of control.
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