Monday, 25 April 2005 (Personal Development Journal): Cultural reflections of London on the tube

This is a section from my personal journal entry (2005).

Cultural Reflections: The tube is a good starting point to see how strangers interact.

Personal Space Issues

A sweeping statement could be (concerning morning/work public transportation) that Americans are more insistent, or the British less amenable to shared personal space. In standing areas people will cram themselves into every space possible. If you look at the seating arrangement, however, there are often large gaps between people. I think that in New York, when a seat is available, people are first to fill up seats. Additionally, I have noted that some people on the tube have contrived small power games with one another – I was tisked at when I asked to handle a low bar, instead of reaching up for high bar. Tube etiquette is clearly different.

London: A City of Readers

It is perfectly normal to travel with a book in London. I am amazed that some people are able to keep their books in such good condition – mine continue to get weathered at the edges.

I have found that books are preferable to the News Media. When I first arrived, I had the expectation of great news reading and have been sadly disappointed. The major newspapers seem to carry the same content; articles lack an investigative edge and too editorial in “prose” style, lacking the “economy of words” and wit that once impressed me about British papers. With the long tradition of British Print, I am concerned that it is selling out to cliches and low journalistic quality. I am tired of reading about writers “grand ole days” at Oxford and would appreciate a less conservative stance on current events, or innuendoes that may be witty, but seemingly, unfounded. That said – that Tabloids are very good and highly trashy, witty and amusing. I am happy to read over the shoulder of my neighbour on the tube, even happier that this is okay.

British Friends vs American Friends

There is a different perspective on shared time and cash. When my British friends and I drink, go out or travel – there is tendency to share food and drink. It is uncommon to ask one another for cash, or reimbursement for small snacks. In contrast, most of my American friends (not all) have strict notions regarding cash expenditures. They are sure to ask for half of the money upfront (if sharing a bottle of wine), or tell someone when it is their turn to pay. My American friends are also more likely to borrow things and forget to bring back/or repay. I find the generous/sharing nature of my British friends more natural.

Phone etiquette it completely the reverse. My British friends are very conscious of phone costs and we keep our conversations on mobiles short (or text) while allowing longer conversations on landlines. My American friends are often aware of the cost differences, and will discuss/talk about those differences, but are comfortable with long conversations on both mobiles and landlines.


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