Thursday, 21 October 2010

Land of Plenty

Moving from New York to London leads to inevitable comparisons between the two metropolises. Prior to my big move, I read numerous articles (mostly British) from the past couple of years highlighting the growing rivalry between London and New York as two cities of the world -- a rivalry, of which, I'm afraid, New Yorkers aren't particularly aware. Each article smacked of a sort of inferiority complex held by London. Even in areas where London beats New York, there was such a desperation in pointing out the win by London, that I couldn't help but picture the rivalry between Marcia and Jan Brady from the Brady Bunch. Marcia Brady, for my non-American friends, is the beautiful and popular eldest daughter on the 1970s family sitcom, while Jan Brady is the attention-starved and "hopeless wannabe" middle daughter.

I feel that all those articles' attempts to match up London against New York are so frustrated because comparing the two cities is like comparing apples with oranges -- or, more accurately, comparing fish & chips with hamburgers. The comparison is simply a matter of taste and preference, and the one you prefer at any given time is subject to change. Sometimes you want the satisfaction acquired from eating a ground beef patty smothered in melted cheese, and sometimes you want a battered chunk of cod the size of a child's leg.

I'm sure the debate about which city is superior will continue until the zombie-squid apocalypse.

Until that inevitable day of devastation, I'm not going to engage in the debate. I love New York after living there for eight years, and I'm just now acquainting myself with London. Therefore, I'm simply going to recount the very personal observations I've made about London since moving here in May. I've divided them, not surprisingly, into likes and dislikes.


1. Richard is here!!
Yes, just when you thought we were past all that mushy crap about my gorgeous boyfriend, you were wrong! His well-spoken British self is the number one reason I am in London and, therefore, the number one reason I like London.

2. Expat Americans
My transition to a new country has been made infinitely easier because of all the wonderful expatriate Americans whom Richard and I have met.

3. Our Apartment
If our apartment in London were an animal, it would look like this:

In other words, small and incredibly adorable.

4. Double-decker Buses
I can not help it, but double-decker buses really bring out the kid in me -- and Richard, for that matter. I'm almost embarrassed by how much we enjoy sitting in the front row of the upper deck as the bus careens down winding London streets.

5. The History
London is obese with history, it's everywhere. I honestly feel that with almost every step I take my shoes are passing over some wedge of land where something interesting and consequential happened. Discovering the history of my surroundings in London makes even the most mundane tasks come alive with stories.

6. The Food
Despite all the negative flack that Britain gets for its food, I have had some of the most amazing meals of my life in this city. In the past five months, I have had only two meals that were sub-par, everything else has been utterly amazing.

7. London is not Svalbard
I'm so relieved that since I moved abroad for love, I didn't do it for someone who lived in the ass-end of nowhere. Essentially, all I've done is trade one major metropolitan center for another -- which is great! Although an arctic barren waste may be a cool place to visit, I doubt I could ever live in one.


1. The Tube
London's Underground is usually very fast and trains come regularly, however, it is also blighted by tiny train carriages, completely swamped with people, and not even remotely air-conditioned.

2. Tourists
This may only be a symptom of having moved to London during the Summer, but London is ridiculously lousy with tourists -- slow moving, confused, and obnoxious. Back in New York, if you avoid Times Square and the Empire State Building you don't suffer too much from tourists. In London, however, they are EVERYWHERE. At first, I thought Londoners didn't know how to walk with the same purposeful gait as New Yorkers, but then I realized that the dopey individuals who were plodding along without any regard for the people trying to walk around them were not Londoners, but tourists -- thousands, upon thousands of tourists. If there is any place in London even remotely interesting, I assure you, it is hideously overcrowded with this swarm.

Once, while waiting to meet friends at Piccadilly Circus, Richard and I decided to play a game:

At one point I thought I had heard English being spoken, but it turned out to be Dutch. Neither of us won.

3. It's Freakin' Expensive!!

 Enough said.

4. Plenty
Over the past few months, I have had to get used to a lot of minor changes from living an American life to living a British one. However, there is one seemingly minuscule difference that really gets under my skin. It is a uniquely British problem and, therefore, not confined just to London, but I'm so irked by it that I'm counting it as a mark against this fair city. I'm talking, of course, about paper towels. That's right, paper towels. Called "kitchen roll" in the United Kingdom, paper towels are sold over here roughly half the size of paper towel rolls in the USA. They are short, skinny little rolls that barely last a couple of days. This wouldn't be so terrible if it weren't for the fact that they have the gall to name these towels, without even being remotely aware of the irony, Plenty. Seriously, they are branded as Plenty -- as though calling the product something that it most certainly is not won't actually just highlight its glaringly obvious short-comings.


I'm sure these lists of likes and dislikes will grow the longer I live here, however, I take it as a good sign that the dislikes list is smaller than the likes list -- in much the same way as Plenty is smaller than it's American cousin, Bounty. Yup, I really do have a chip on my shoulder about that one.


  1. Mark Jones, you are freakin' hilarious.


  2. I love your blog Markles!!!!!!! What a riot!!!!!!!

  3. do you find London more expensive overall than NY?
    on day to day basis.
    I lived in London and I'm thinking of hitting NY next year...
    love the blog!

  4. Aw, I really liked the Tube. You never have to wait more than a couple of minutes for a train, people stand to the size on the escalators without you having to tell them to, and "mind the gap" is pretty much the most awesomely concise and adult-oriented warning ever. There is a gap. Mind it. And the insides of the trains are painted to match the color of the line they're on! Precious.

  5. Thanks for the lovely comments!

    Ana - London is more expensive on a day-to-day basis in terms of food, transit -- and, well, everything. New York is incredibly cheap in comparison, which, in turn, makes my small hometown in Florida seem like they're just giving away goods and services for free.

    Mark - The Tube isn't that bad when it's not crowded, but it gets SLAMMED with people during rush hour or at certain tourist hotspots. Beyond terrible. Sarah would NOT be happy in many of the situations in which I have found myself on the Tube.

  6. You are so hilarious. I didn't notice much of a price difference when we visited London, but that could have been because I was too busy walking slowly down the streets of London pointing at everything because it was old. Plus, considering things like museums are free, I thought I was in cheap-o heaven!

  7. Thanks Colleen! Don't get me wrong, London has a lot to offer -- but I run through money much faster here than in New York. Also, thank you so much for putting a link to my blog on your blog. Very sweet of you, much appreciated!

  8. As a brit who has moved to the US for the same reasons... I think it would be fun to compare stories!

    I can certainly relate to much of this.

  9. I knew God was Hungarian! :)

  10. I was an expat Canadian living in the US for a couple of years. I made a list of dislikes and things I missed. People got pretty pissy about it so I just kept it in a secret stash. Made me laugh to read your blog tonight. Seems we have a lot of the same stuff on our lists.

  11. @abritinthebay: that's dangerous ground, we could end up insulting one another's home country. So, definitely email me!

    @Anonymous: I'm glad that someone's going through the trouble of translating those sentences!

    @Laura: Keeping your list in a secret stash is probably wise. I, on the other hand, may now incur the wrath of any who disagree with my opinions of London.

  12. So fun! The London subway illustration was genius!

  13. Just thinking, wouldn't Anne Boleyn say "sceptical?"

  14. You're right, I've been living here too long and just can't keep these things straight...