Top of the morning to you – politeness in London

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Midway through October I took myself off to London for a whole week.. It felt a little indulgent but it was awesome to spend a decent amount of time there. I am impressed with how many trips I have managed to fit in the last little while (including a weekend in Florence not too long ago). But to be fair, I booked London many a month ago when the fairs where cheap and I didn’t yet know I would be spending most of my August elsewhere and I have a new job starting in a couple of weeks, which means (practically) all of my travel is over for a while.

It was both a novelty and a treat to be surrounded by English speakers and to understand everything that was going on around me. Even if with understanding (and eavesdropping) comes disinterest, because most other peoples’ conversations aren’t really that interesting anyway..

The English are often described as being a rather polite nation, but it wasn’t until this trip that I saw how some things, that I had previously taken for granted (and now miss a little), might be seen as being rather polite.. I know I shouldn’t compare Rovereto to London (or any other big city), or project anything I’ve learned about Italians here across the rest of the country, but I do anyway. My list, or things I found different:

Cars stop for you at pedestrian crossings. It was actually quite beautiful, considering this is London and such a busy city, but cars (including taxis and buses) would always stop, even at the shortest notice if I popped up from somewhere and arrived at the curb edge. If the occasional car did speed through, it was accompanied by an apologetic and bashful wave from the driver to acknowledge that really, they should have stopped, but had hurry or whatever.

Fellow public transport users sit at the window seat, leaving the one next to them open and accessible to someone else. Oh how polite. Though maybe it’s not so much that Italians aren’t polite, just that they don’t want to sit next to anyone else. Either way, when you board a bus in Italy you will find the aisle lined with people and many a window seat empty and blocked.

This one I quite like, as I find the Italian way a little strange, in shops/at supermarkets/in restaurants, your cash change is handed to you, instead of being plonked down on the counter. Not such a biggy, and i’m sure people like to avoid hand contact with strangers, but it felt a little more personal. That’s not to say that any of the shop attendants were polite, I think half of the ones I was served by didn’t even say a word to me..

The one thing I couldn’t get over is how much food there is in London. I loved the variety, and ate at all types of restaurants and bought all kinds of supermarket snacks, but it was crazy to be constantly surrounded by so much food. Even the big pharmacy chains sell sandwiches, chips and snacks, and there are food chains, convenience stores and mini supermarkets full of ready meals everywhere. No wonder the UK is estimated as wasting close to a third of food produced as it is so easy to buy so much of it.

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