Lon-don Eng-ga-land: How to smile without teeth

Monday, March 15, 2010 | 6 Comment(s)

Have you guys missed me as much as I've missed you?
I hope so.  Cause I'm an attention whore.

I will begin with a quick story from this morning.  I went with my friend Matt (yes, all of my friends have the same name as me, it's how I know they're mine) to his work at the London School of Hyper-color Tropical Fish and Infectious Dysentery (no no, its the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine [much better]).  This means i woke up at 7:30am today, which means I'm exhausted (i don't get up "in the 7's" at home).  Suffice to say, coffee was non-negociable.  Being that my gf works at the local coffee shop back home and a significant portion of my friends work in and around the coffee profession, I have a better than working knowledge of this particular substance.  Because of this, after ordering a double espresso at the quaint coffee shop across from the school, I was shocked when the server almost immediately handed me a cup that was a little more than half full of espresso.  It was certainly piping hot, but both the volume and the speed of processing were disconcerting.  Usually it takes about 30 sec. to pull a double shot.  Was this magic coffee?  Did he give me the leftovers from all the previous shots?  I'm not sure, but I suspect something was lost in the American to English translation.  And how big are their shots here?  In truth, you should drink your shot shortly after it's pulled (at nicer places, espresso to go is frowned upon [but putting it over ice is even worse fyi]).  With the amount of coffee in my cup, and my inability not to finish any food or drink i'm given, it was difficult to get all the brown gold down my gullet in the minute or so I had in the shop.

The Moral of this Story: London has magic volumous coffee beans.  Or, coffeeshops hate Americans and give them hot mess leftovers.  Take your pick.

I have just completed my first weekend in London ever and I am flush with over-generalizations and mis-categorizations to share and perpetuate.  Let's get right to it.  Hell, let's even make a list of them just for the hell of it.

1.  London is not an attractive city. People-wise.  Now I know this may sound harsh off the bat, but attractiveness is actually more of an objective measure (on the whole) than one might think.  In psych. research, you can get fairly reliable measures of what we conceptualize as subjective attractiveness.  And these people don't have it.  The men: Pasty, lanky, with swatches of hair placed Alfalfa-like atop their heads.  The women: Also pale, rotund, and with a brazen lack of modesty.  I'm not sure if it is a statement of liberation or bad taste, but I've seen more spandex bottoms and utter-like exposed cleavage then my brain can handle.  But, with the caveat that I hate to perpetuate a stereotype, I really do believe that the awful state of the dental work and hygiene probably does the most to accentuate the lack of attractive Brits (their teeth are second only to the gnarled madness of Japanese "dentistry").  Without getting too "Hitler's pure race," the British look like Scandinavians who have had all the strength-juice squeezed out of them.  I am pretty sure the reason the drinking culture is so prevalent here is to ensure the propagation of the country.  Cause honestly, if you were sober, you probably wouldn't wanta get down with most of the people in the pubs.

2.  i think I better go with a positive after how harsh #1 came out.  In my opinion, London's biggest draw is it's multicultural nature.  While NYC and America claim to be melting pots, London really has the stew cooked right.  Walking around you hear multiple languages interwoven into the fabric of passing conversations.  No heads jerk around (besides mine) at the utterance of a foreign language, as the accessibility and fluidity of the EU allows all Europeans to feel welcome in the UK.

3.  I find the smells of Britain to be incredibly distinct.  And it's not a good or bad distinct, but rather very different from what we consider the perfumes of America.  My friend's shower gel was a prime example of such a smell, and I spent a good amount of time (in the shower mostly) trying to figure out how I could describe its "nose."  Matt (my friend, not me in the 3rd person) suggested that there is a lot of lavender in things, and that smells like the grandmothers of Americans, thus its distinctiveness.  That rang true in a way, but i knew there was something else.  And this morning it came to me.  The smell that the Brits love is exactly the same as the Jewish Spice Box my synagogue used on Shabbat growing up.  This box is filled with essentially a mix of potpourri and cinnamon and is supposed to remind us of the sweetness of the weekly holiday.  Not in England.  In England, this smell is used for soap, deodorant, perfume, Fabreeze (UK version) etc.  In sum, England smells like my hometown's Torah.  Go figure.

4.  London is old.  In the best possible way.  Everything is teeming with history and scaffolding.  It produces that cobblestone village feel, even in the big city.  Quite a feat.  I would probably be able to say more about this if my last European history class wasn't 16 years in my rear-view mirror.

5.  I would be remiss not to comment on the bathrooms (it's kinda my thing now).  Generally, compared to the other toilets of the world, England is fairly similar to the USA.  The main difference being that the water level in the toilet is much much lower.  The trade off here is that while you save water you also get a mess stuck to the walls of the inner basin.  Tough call.  

I'm all typed out for now.  We'll do this again soon.


  1. Do it soon! I'm all hyped up to hear more bout London:)


  2. amco george wishes you well on your london adventures and *highly* recommends the star of india restaurant in kensington :-)
    looking forward to hearing more stories, hehe, just thought about the tube and the recorded woman's voice repeating "mind the gap"

  3. This sounds all wrong, are you sure you were actually in London? I think you met the wrong Londoners, there are some attractive British people I promise, Gordon Brown doesn't do a very good job of representing us but we do exist.

  4. @Stephanie Obviously these are just my generalizations of a few days. But I've seen stone washed tights, and more women dressed like they were travelling to go ride horses (those boots!) than ever before. I have, admittedly seen some style (one of my friends is in love with the short coats), but overall I'm forced to stand by my post. All of this said, I am sure you are extremely gorgeous inside and out (and most of the Brits I've befriended through the years have been spectacular human beings and partiers).

  5. um, commenting on toilets has ALWAYS been your thing. FYI.

  6. @Arthur You both know me too well, and potentially have known me too long. I miss those rest-stop bathroom reports.