Walking down London streets for the first time, even through a haze, a jetlag, symbols of British/English/London culture can be immediately recognized: amazing red doubledecker buses zip by on the “wrong” side of the road while pub banners advertise the “Best Fish and Chips”. Beyond the sight of these icons, the British/English/London identity can be heard: “Straightaway for the tube.” “Wait here, I’ll queue for the bitter.” “Where’s the loo?” Theses simple sights and sounds immediately identify a specific culture. Its amazing how one can feel so at home in a place where their immediate reaction is to converse about all the differences to their home culture. These simple sights and phrases, among many others, have been a jumping off point to beginning to understand a new place and a new culture.
After a few days, the once foreign sites and sounds that marked this new place become familiar, as unexpected aspects of London culture become easier to identify. Beyond the quintessential British icons, diversity within London becomes its largest identifier. People, architecture, languages, foods, within twenty minutes walking the street, you can experience a vast variety. Everything is immediately at your disposal. Difference seems to be what brings everyone together. Intrigue at the diversity within the population fuels an excitement of new experiences. Conversations with locals often begin with a joke or inquiry about diversity.
In a single night on the town, one can start their own miniature Europe Union or United Nations within their contact list. Dancing with Hungarians, chatting with Germans, queueing with the English, singing with the Swedes; this is my strongest impression of the character of London as a new inhabitant. London is a character of diversity, united in its differences, strengthened through diversity and intrigue.