The little quirks I continue to notice

I’ve continued to notice things that are different about London to back home in big ol’ Oz. They’re not the jump-in-your-face obvious ones, but rather, the kinds of differences you slowly notice when out and about regularly…

1. Water fountains. Call it a bubbler, or whatever. When I’m wandering around, I’d like to be able to find free water. Australia has water fountains all over the place; at the beach, at the airport, at the museum, everywhere public. In London you can walk for hours without seeing one. I don’t want to buy your damn bottled water!

Water, water, everywhere, but hardly a drop to drink!

2. Public toilets. While I’m at it… thank god for fast food shops, because you’re outta luck if you rely on finding a public toilet in this city. Yes, there are some, though it’s pot luck as to whether they’re (a) open or (b) require a specific coin to get in that you don’t happen to have. Got 10p and 50p coins? Nope, this toilet only takes 20p!

3. Light switches on cords. I can’t remember the last time I yanked on a rope to turn on the light in Australia, but here, it’s commonplace. I may have been inebriated at the time, but I recall a moment of horror when I shut myself into a dark bathroom and couldn’t find any light switch. The cord had gotten trapped outside the door when I closed it. A moment more fumbling and I could see again. Phew.

4. Sideways plungers for the toilet flush lever. What’s wrong with a button on the top?

5. Seasons. On the Gold Coast, we pretty much didn’t have seasons. Oh, yes, you could kind of tell, but right now, flowers and shoots are appearing where previously there were only bare skeletons. It’s exciting! I even walked to uni through a mini-twister of flower petals the other day. I was practically skipping.

A flowering tree, late at night in York.

6. Chocolate bars are cheap. This is extremely dangerous. In Australia, I’d be paying at least $1 for a standard size chocolate bar; at a service station, it’d be more like $2. Here, they come in 4-packs for £1 (=$1.80), and cost 50p at service stations.

There must be more, but it’s all the small stuff I happen to keep noticing. Have you had any such ‘travel shocks’ when relocating or tripping around a new place?

Categories: Thoughts, Travel | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “The little quirks I continue to notice

  1. Kostas

    Ha nice one!
    In comparison to Greece, I second cord light switches and chocolate bars!
    – Separate hot and cold water taps: I will never understand why I have to alternate between burning and freezing when I wash my face in the morning!
    – Bins: To find a bin in London you probably need a smartphone with a special google service! If I ever get something to eat at Earl’s Court in the morning I usually end up carrying the rubbish all the way to campus to throw it away! And that’s a 15 minute walk! (btw the service already exists for public toilets!
    – Silence on the tube: If you ever try to travel on a bus in Thessaloniki, you’ll know what I mean!

    And the (stereotypical but) absolute classic:
    – Snake-queueing: What’s wrong with a lump of people elbowing their way through to the ticket office/till?

  2. Ha! Yes! Trash bins! The other day on a train platform in Melbourne, I ate a banana, and thought “crap, where am I going to throw this?”, thinking about the leftover peel. Then I saw a trash can nearby, right on the platform, and remembered how in London, there is no such thing. Trash goes on the ground.

    While in Paris, I once freaked out in a cafe toilet when I closed myself inside, only to be in complete darkness. After a few stressful moments of my bad French and broken English with a passing (and impatient) waiter, I realized that the bathroom light came on as the lock in the door was turned. Who knew?

  3. I love this post and plan to spread the link on my facebook. I moved from one state (Michigan) to another (Wisconsin), and even just a short 8 hour car drive away, I was astounded by the differences similar to the ones that you’ve noted. In particular, in Michigan, we drink “pop”, though in Wisconsin it’s “soda”. I thought that only in Wisconsin would we find a “bubbler”, so I was shocked that you had heard that terminology from so far away. (My first experience with bubblers included me taking what I thought was a confused elderly patient to the restroom. Imagine her surprise when she thought I was suggesting she drink from a toilet. It was my best guess…) I love your blog. Thanks for the post.

    • No way! Bubblers… not sure where I’ve heard that one from, it’s not common though, you’re right. And the soft drink/soda/pop/squash change is a good one as well.

      One that’s caused me problems here is that “pants” are generic in Australia for “trousers”, but here in the UK they mean underwear. So “I’m going to wear my best pants” has a very different meaning! Also “vest” over here is what I’d call a singlet, when I consider a vest to be a very formal thing. So “I’m wearing a vest with my suit” doesn’t make sense here, but it does at home!

  4. Chris

    Your English mother was lax in sharing her heritage with you, David. Are you sure she didn’t call ‘singlets’ vests?


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