193. Culture Shock: Life in London (Pt.2)

More explanations of some common complaints about life in London. For part 1, click here. To download this episode, click here.

Small Donate Button
In part 1 I talked about some common complaints made by students regarding life in London. I think many of those complaints count as just examples of culture shock. In this episode I try and explain these issues, to encourage a broader understanding of why Londoners live the way they do.

Here are the complaints I talk about in this episode:
8. “It’s too expensive”
Yes, it is. :(

9. “The beer is warm! This is ridiculous!”
Some types of beer are not supposed to be served chilled, but yes I agree – beer (particularly lager) is often not served cold enough. Often this is bad cellar management or just because the glass has just come out of the washing machine and is still warm – or the glasses are stored in a warm place next to a fridge.

10. “The houses are old and draughty”
Yes, I do agree with this actually. In many cases, old buildings are not very energy efficient. Many buildings in London are from the Victorian era, and therefore have the original windows. They let draughts in sometimes, and don’t keep out the cold as well as they should. It may be necessary to install secondary double-glazing, but it’s a bit expensive and plenty of people choose not to do it. Here are some explanations for the draughty window complaint:
a. It can be expensive to replace windows with modern ones. Some buildings are just cheap and poorly maintained because life in London is really expensive and people are attempting to make a living. Some landlords are greedy and don’t care about their tenants! Also, if you’re a student staying in ‘cheap’ short-let accommodation, you might get slightly poor facilities (even if it seems expensive to you – you might be renting property which is cheaper than the market average. Sorry!)
b. We don’t feel the cold as much as you because we’re used to it.
c. You are quite far north! It’s just colder up here. Blame geography!
d. There may be old laws protecting the windows in these buildings. Although these windows aren’t as effective as modern ones, they add value to a property because they are the original, traditional windows. In London, we value the tradition, and the craftsmanship of these old windows. Ultimately, that is perhaps more important than the energy efficiency of the windows. Changing them would somehow reduce the aesthetic value of the buildings.
There are plenty of new buildings in London which are constructed with excellent modern windows and insulation, so we are perfectly capable of installing good windows! So, to an extent I agree with this complaint.

11. “The people are so reserved – they don’t talk to each other on the train.”
One reason for not making conversation is because we don’t want to disturb the people around us.
The city is so big that you’re unlikely to see the same person again, so what’s the point in getting to know a stranger.
People are not unfriendly. They’re friendly enough. They’ll help you if you ask politely, but don’t expect to make friends right away.
The train or bus is not the place for this. It’s more likely to happen in a social gathering.
We don’t want to get stuck in a conversation for ages on a long journey.
We give each other personal space, and don’t invade each other’s lives too much. Don’t impose yourself on other people! If you’re cool, you’ll understand this.
It can be a bit stressful or even traumatic to be stuffed into a train, so close to everyone. Making eye contact or talking can be uncomfortable because people don’t have the option to ‘escape’ from the situation.
People don’t want to be forced to be rude (to stop a conversation or something) and so they prefer not to start the conversation in the first place.
People can be reserved, but we’re not mean. Just because people respect each other’s personal space it doesn’t mean we’re all cold hearted and unfriendly. In fact, it’s very considerate to not impose yourself on other people when they have busy lives to deal with.

12. “Why don’t people carry umbrellas even when it’s raining?”
13. “The internet is so slow here”
14. “You just don’t make any effort to speak other languages here. It’s just ENGLISH, and that’s it.”
15. “Why oh why do the pubs close at 11PM!?? I’m just getting ready to go out at 11!”
16. “English people aren’t civilised. They go to the pub and just drink and drink, standing up, without eating”
17. “Cigarettes are ridiculously expensive”
18. “People speak really fast here, and don’t try to help me understand”
19. “When English people do the washing up, they use too much soap and then don’t rinse the soap off when they’ve finished. That’s like leaving poison on your plates”
20. “They have carpet everywhere – even in the toilet sometimes”
21. “They don’t take their shoes off when they enter a house. That’s disgusting isn’t it?”
22. “The British have a weird sense of humour”.

At the end of this episode, I play the ukulele and sing a song called “Ape Man” by The Kinks. It’s at the end of the episode, so you don’t have to listen to it if you don’t want to! You can read the lyrics below.

Ape Man – The Kinks – Lyrics (video below)
I think I’m sophisticated
‘Cos I’m living my life like a good homosapien
But all around me everybody’s multiplying
Till they’re walking round like flies man
So I’m no better than the animals sitting in their cages
In the zoo man
‘Cos compared to the flowers and the birds and the trees
I am an ape man
I think I’m so educated and I’m so civilized
‘Cos I’m a strict vegetarian
But with the over-population and inflation and starvation
And the crazy politicians
I don’t feel safe in this world no more
I don’t want to die in a nuclear war
I want to sail away to a distant shore and make like an ape man
I’m an ape man, I’m an ape ape man
I’m an ape man I’m a King Kong man I’m ape ape man
I’m an ape man
‘Cos compared to the sun that sits in the sky
Compared to the clouds as they roll by
Compared to the bugs and the spiders and flies
I am an ape man
In man’s evolution he has created the cities and
The motor traffic rumble, but give me half a chance
And I’d be taking off my clothes and living in the jungle
‘Cos the only time that I feel at ease
Is swinging up and down in a coconut tree
Oh what a life of luxury to be like an ape man
I’m an ape, I’m an ape ape man, I’m an ape man
I’m a King Kong man, I’m a voo-doo man
I’m an ape man
I look out my window, but I can’t see the sky
‘Cos the air pollution is fogging up my eyes
I want to get out of this city alive
And make like an ape man
Come and love me, be my ape man girl
And we will be so happy in my ape man world
I’m an ape man, I’m an ape ape man, I’m an ape man
I’m a King Kong man, I’m a voo-doo man
I’m an ape man
I’ll be your Tarzan, you’ll be my Jane
I’ll keep you warm and you’ll keep me sane
And we’ll sit in the trees and eat bananas all day
Just like an ape man
I’m an ape man, I’m an ape ape man, I’m an ape man
I’m a King Kong man, I’m a voo-doo man
I’m an ape man.
I don’t feel safe in this world no more
I don’t want to die in a nuclear war
I want to sail away to a distant shore
And make like an ape man.
The Kinks performing Apeman on British TV in 1970.