Tag Archives: British

London vs. South of France

23 May

In my birth city, it is 15 °C; in the city I grew up in it is 20 °C; in my new city it is 28 °C. The weather is not the only difference between London, where I spent 15 years, and the Southern French city where I live now. The geographical distance between these two places isn’t spectacular, but the lifestyle is noticeably different.

The most obvious difference:

1) London: 8 million inhabitants. My new town: 200, 000 inhabitants.

London From Above

London - 8 million inhabitants

Amusing differences:

2) London: you’re lucky if you meet a British person in the city. My new town: I stand out for having a foreign accent.

3) London: everyone has an Oyster card. My new town: everyone (apart from me) has a car.

The differences that a Londoner, who is used to having anything/everything at any time, is finding hard to get used to:

4) London: the nearest grocery store was three minutes away from my house. My new town: the nearest grocery store is a twenty-minute walk away; add ten extra minutes if it’s a particularly hot day.

5) London: within a ten-minute walk from my house I had: a grocery store; 3 gyms (including swimming

Cat lying down in garden

My new neighbours

pools, dance/yoga/martial classes); 3 libraries; a dozen restaurants, bars and cafes; 3 bookshops; a park; several hotels; a museum; clothes shops, banks, etc. etc. My new town: within a ten-minute walk from my house I have: a football pitch, a small park, a post office, an organic food store…and hedgehogs, cats and owls.

6) London: shops are open from early morning until late at night every day of the week, including Bank Holidays. My new town: shops are closed at lunchtime, on Sundays and any other time they choose.

7) London: life never stops. My new town: everything stops between mid-June and September, when everyone goes on holiday. Students leave the city, all evening classes are cancelled and the sun drives the only remaining people into the coolness of their homes.

8 ) London: it would take weeks to count the number of galleries and theatres in the city. My new town: I can count them on one hand.

And the differences that a Londoner is greatly appreciating:

My new city centre

9) London: the buildings reach up to 253 m, soon to be 310 m with the completion of the Shard London Bridge tower, the tallest in the European Union. My new town: buildings are mostly around five-storeys, with a lot of houses in my area being bungalows or two-floor homes. Apartment blocks vary from two to six storeys, with only a handful of tower blocks on the edge of the city.

10) Following the point above – London: we appreciate nature through a square meter of sky directly above us. My new town: a 360° view of the sky!

11) London: you’re lucky if you get eye contact from…anyone, really. My new town: passers by not only look you in the eye, they actually smile at you.

12) London: you haven’t even put your change into your purse, but the check-out assistant at the supermarket is already screaming “Next!”. My new town: the check-out assistant makes a comment on the delicious food you bought, says thank you and wishes you a nice day.

13) London: with double-glazing and closed windows I could hear the incessant noise of traffic, fire brigades/ambulances/police cars, drunk people singing in the night, bus doors opening and closing, cars beeping, delivery

A cycling route in the area

trucks unloading, garbage men cleaning the streets. My new town: I can hear birds and the wind, and sometimes a rodent rustling in the bushes.

14) London: ride a bike at your own risk. My new town: ride a bike at your own pleasure.

15) London: after two years of living in the same place, I had no idea who lived in the flat opposite me. My new town: I know four of our neighbours; two of them helped us out during our move, the third gave us DIY advice, and the fourth invited us for drinks at their place on several occasions.

16) London: if you blow your nose after a tube journey, don’t be surprised if your handkerchief turns black. My new town: during the first few weeks here, I got lightheaded after every walk, because of the high quantity of oxygen in the area.

17) London: silence is golden in public transport. My new town: communication is appreciated and even encouraged.

18) London: complaining about the weather, the public transport, the tourists, the parking wardens, the queues and the prices is a daily practice. My new town: the weather is nice, everyone owns their own car, tourists are far and few, parking is permitted pretty much anywhere, there are no queues and prices are reasonable. No wonder everyone always has a smile on their face.

~

Every place has its advantages and inconveniences, and it is always an enriching experience to explore the rhythm, the rules and the visions of a life that is different to our own.

More about this change is lifestyle to come soon…

Life’s Beautiful Surprises

4 Apr

Crane Lifting Moon

We often hear that the greatest opportunities and our life’s most important moments come from being “in the right place at the right time”. This can also be called ‘sheer accident’ or, as I like to call it, ‘destined coincidence’. With no prior planning or intention, we meet someone, see something or participate in an event that overthrows our life. This comes as an unexpected coincidence, yet it is so perfect for us at that precise moment, that it puts us into a sort of ecstasy. We are overwhelmed with happiness at the beautiful surprise that life threw our way. We cannot believe that none of this was planned; as if we were getting the present we most wanted from an absolute stranger.

Yesterday, I happened to be “in the right place at the right time”. Through a series of coincidences and intuition hints, I found myself meeting one of the bestselling British writers of current times. Not something I was expecting on a quiet afternoon in a foreign country! I was part of a small group to attend the writer’s talk at a literary festival in town. The writer, down-to-earth and honest, talked about his new novel, and, at the end of the event, was more than happy to chat in his mother tongue to the only Brit out of the group (me!). Our brief exchange created the possibility of this author hosting an event at the London bookshop in which I used to work (and to which I am still greatly attached). And all I had planned that day was a walk in town!

This meeting with the talented modern writer completely disoriented me. I was ecstatic not only from having had the opportunity to meet this author, but to have met him so unexpectedly, in such a perfect coincidence. And this got me thinking: are perfect moments like this only possible as coincidences? Or are they perfect precisely because they are coincidences? I doubt that I would have been ecstatic had I planned my meeting with the author months in advance; in the same way as knowing what you will be given for your birthday takes away the joy and surprise of receiving the present. It is precisely the surprise of such a perfectly destined coincidence that made the moment so special.

I wanted to say thank you for this wonderful gift. But who was I to thank? Who do we thank for a destined coincidence? Who do we thank for a perfect moment? Who do we thank for life’s beautiful surprises? And how is it that we should show our gratitude?