The UK vacation – the closing gap

So, we are back from the UK vacation. Am listing down here some interesting things I noticed – some differences still do persist between western countries / civilisations and us (Indians in India). However, the gap in life-styles is closing fast.

  1. There is high degree of consciousness of personal space, mostly felt during public travel and while walking on the gold-paved streets of London (remember Dick Whittingon ?). People do not want to bump into each other and want at least 6 inches between themselves and others at any point of time. Can afford to do that with their population, some would say, but the 7.5mn population in London city is not exactly a small number.
  2. Closely related to the above is people giving way to others. This is mostly seen during getting into and out of the London tube (except during office peak hours). This is also seen during palace tours when lots of people have to cross each other in narrow palace doors. Coming from a pushy existence in India (and possibly pushier in Mumbai), one wants to rush past the others, but there, people wait for the other party to cross over before starting to enter the door.
  3. More number of Tube trains and buses in peak hours to accommodate the office peak hours, thereby encouraging people to use public transport. A steep congestion tax on driving in Central London helps. (I saw a hoarding of Lexus which spoke about a three-year No Congestion Tax if you bought a Lexus. They had tied up with the City govt. and bought a waiver for their users).
  4. British people being in the minority in central London – I mean, commuting around. Perhaps, among people living there, this might not be true. But the high tourist population in central London skews the national and even the lingual divide – one can hardly hear English been spoken on the Tube in central London. German, French, Russian, Japanese can be heard in abundance. Most of the Indians either speak English or nothing (mostly) on the Tube.
  5. Baby-nappy-changing facilities in men’s wash-rooms !! Most ardent liberal men in India might swoon at this thought. I think Palladium Mall and Emporio Mall should start this practice.
  6. Credit card swiping machines are wireless and are brought to your table in all restaurants (each joint has 2-3 machines). This saves 5 mins of taking the card to the counter and swiping it (and also the worry for some that their cards might be swiped twice or copied or something like that).
  7. Most of the apparel & some departmental store brands are already in or are coming to India – Mango, Zara, MnS, Debenhams, H&M, Benetton, Hamleys. Ikea and Walmart should add to the list. Harrods and Selfridges should be here by 2020 (my guess). So, the elite Indians who used to fly to London to shop in the 1990s might not find too much new stuff to buy there (anyways, clothes in all these stores in London or in Parel or Greater Kailash are Made in Bangladesh / Philippines / China). Finally, I suspect there was more variety there.
  8. Eating out facts:
    1. Most of the Indian restaurants I saw were run by Bangladeshis or Pakistanis. Woodlands near Piccadilly is still one of the few authentic South Indian joints in London.
    2. Vegetarian stuff on menus of cafes and Quick Food Centres has increased a lot over the past ten years. There are at least 3-4 options for vegetarians now as compared to 1-2 in the past.
    3. Chinese in ChinaTown still sucks as compared to the “Chinese” food we get in India.
  9. With absence of dust, rains wash all the stone buildings clean. Of course, dust-bins / trash-cans at every 100m help. So do the CCTV cameras at the same frequency.
  10. The Black London cab can take 4 good-size suit-cases and 4 people…easily !
  11. No one uses the Red Telephone booth – wonder why they are there ? Some developer should have built some buildings in that space…
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