After living the last few years in America, getting used to the UK is not going to be hard by any means, but I do find myself catching a thought every now and then that goes like, “In the U.S., this would be…”
- The pedestrian walk signal only button activated at least on suburban roads, likely because being one-laned, a traffic light would only back things up. At the same time, it lasts such a short time, and beeps so ferociously all that while, that you feel inclined to dash rather than amble across. If you walk slower than 10mph, you’d better be holding a cane.
- No one stops a fair distance away if they see you crossing or are rounding a corner. Clearly, pedestrian isn’t king here!
- If you’re in the habit of smiling as you walk past someone on the street or share a table at a Starbucks, you’d better lose that grin or risk being stared down. Apparently, even new moms aren’t that desperate for company that they’d just smile at any old person they pass, so better zip it. The only places that encourage small talk are small bakeries that you buy coffee from.
- Food just tastes better here. You first notice the normal size of produce: no giant green peppers, strawberries the size of small melons or red onions to feed a small village. Even in big supermarkets, labels inform that most perishable food is coming from within the island, maybe as far as Ireland, but no further. No Mexico or Colombia or Guatemala labels here. There is still the illusion of abundance without the green bananas or rotten raspberries on display.
- Coffee isn’t as ubiquitous as in the U.S., but even the cup at a gas station tastes of something other than dark hot water.
- But, alas, washrooms! Like I do in India, I have to remind the kids to use the restroom before leaving the house or else. Stores typically won’t have one open to public. Not even a fast food place like Subway. Not the local library. Not the tiny mom-pop bakeries that are a dime a dozen. I miss just walking into a shop close at hand to take a quick leak. “Public toilets” aka porta potties are your only option when out and about. Quite discouraging.
There’ll be more — this is only week 2.