For two countries which share the same language, England and America can sometimes seem like a world apart (well, they are an ocean apart, I guess). I noticed this most acutely on my recent trip to New York with two friends from London. Whilst in London, shop assistants acknowledge you briefly if you’re lucky, or watch you through narrowed eyes suspecting you of shoplifting if you’re not so lucky.
In New York, it was a completely different story. Everywhere we went, we were greeted by friendly staff asking us about our trip, and recommending things for us to do. The friendliness extends to people on the streets — someone found me the name of a restaurant in Williamsburg and then actually called up for me, and a couple stopped to Google the nearest subway station for us when we got slightly lost. Of course, not everyone is unfriendly in London, but New York seems so much warmer in terms of customer service at least.
This being said, the tipping culture stateside seems crazy to me — in London I wouldn’t hesitate to leave a cafe or restaurant without tipping if the waiter had been especially rude. In New York, one waiter went out of his way to follow us as we left the cafe, muttering “You’re unbelievable” under his breath. It’s not like we hadn’t left any tip at all — it wasn’t 18 percent, but we’d only had a small snack and he had been unfriendly and brusque throughout.
The most fascinating difference between England and America for me as a British visitor lies with the language (ironic, given we’re meant to be speaking the same one). From foods (“Aubergine? Wait, that’s eggplant right?”) to clothes (“Trousers? Do you mean pants?”), there are different words, different pronunciations and different expressions. We say “lift,” you say “elevator,” we say “get in line,” you say “get online.” The weirdest of these for me is “restroom” — why restroom? You don’t exactly go there to rest… “toilet” seems like a much more logical word.
New York and London are two of the world’s most visited cities, and it’s not difficult to see why. The fact off the matter is, both England and America are great countries, and it is their individualities which make both so intriguing to visit/live in.
The Tate Britain is one of my favourite places to visit in London, mainly because it is mostly free, but partly because the building is so beautiful. There are, of course, paying exhibitions on all the time, but it’s not always worth it. The Gary Hume and Patrick Caulfield exhibitions are on at the moment, and while they’re great to see if you have a pass which lets you in without paying (as I do) I wouldn’t recommend paying £14.50 to go. Probably the best thing to visit at Tate Britain is the “BP Walk through British Art” – and this is what the gallery has to say about it:
The BP Walk through British Art offers a circuit of Tate Britain’s unparalleled collection from its beginnings to its end. This ‘walk through time’ has been arranged to ensure that the collection’s full historical range, from 1545 to the present, is always on show. There are no designated themes or movements; instead, you can see a range of art made at any one moment in an open conversational manner.
Basically, it’s a collection of British art from the past 500 years, laid out in a way which means you’re walking through time. It’s so interesting to see art curated like this – it’s so easy to see how the styles evolved over the centuries, and how everything from painting techniques to subject matter has changed. As well as paintings, there are also sculptures on display, by leading artists like Henry Moore. The great thing about the Walk Through British Art is that it’s so massive, you don’t have to spend much time on each painting. And because you haven’t paid to get in, you don’t feed bad zooming through until you see something which really catches your interest…
If you’re ever bored in London – which is basically an oxymoron anyway – go to Camden Market. It’s probably one of the coolest, craziest and most interesting places in the city. Contrary to popular belief (actually I don’t know what the popular belief is) Camden Market is not all goth clothes and piercing studios. Apart from the fake designer (sorry, you’re not fooling anybody) handbags and Union Jack print sunglasses, there’s actually a ton of really nice, cheap and often handmade jewelry on sale in the crafts part of the market. It’s also a good place to get unique ornaments and stuff like vintage posters and Beatles records. My favourite part of the whole place is, of course, the food. Outside by Camden Lock, there are a bunch of food stands where you can get more or less any cuisine you want. There’s often a paella stall, a Jamaican curry stall, an Indian stall, a Chinese stall, crepes and waffles… Extremely popular with foreign teenagers on school trips, Camden Market is just as much fun for those of us who live here, and even if you don’t buy anything, it’s still fun to go and have a look around. If you have time, go to Cyberdog, which is probably one of the weirdest places I have ever been in my life. It’s like walking into an alternate universe with music so loud you can’t hear the person next to you speak, and ‘dancers’ dressed in silver covered in neon paint ‘dancing’ in cage things attached to the walls…..