The media and movies have created a few preconceptions about London. Is it full of rude locals eating bad food? Or, is it bursting with polite-but-inept, townhouse-dwelling Londoners sitting around in quaint pubs bemoaning their love lives? However inaccurate the generalizations may be, you might find the tiniest glimmer of truth in a few of the stereotypes.
London is like a movie set
Red double-decker buses, perfectly untouched snow and row upon row of townhouses in Zone 1 inhabited by regular citizens like you or me. The movies make London look idyllic, but in reality, the snow often resembles grey mush and it’s – who’d have guessed it – wet and freezing cold. The beautiful townhouses are owned by the city’s wealthiest residents or else divided up into disproportionately expensive bedsits. At least the buses are red.
Thanks to the Richard Curtis effect, movies like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually, and Bridget Jones’s Diary present a strangely genteel and twee London landscape. This fairy tale version of the city spreads the fallacy that it’s not only always Christmas, but it also consistently snows at Christmas. Never mind, the charmingly bumbling characters can regularly travel through the non-wet snow in cute cars or black cabs.
This idealized image has overseas viewers putting London on their bucket list while Londoners think, “Wow, I wish I lived there…wait a minute, I do!” Of course, there are gritty London dramas but they disappear next to Downton Abbey with its debutante balls at Buckingham Palace, and Notting Hill, which makes bumping into Julia Roberts seem like a distinct possibility.
It’s ridiculously expensive
Yes, pretty much. But there are some great freebies to be found in London’s lovely streets and gardens. For one, those gorgeous Royal Parks like St James’s, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and Regent’s Park are all free and unmissable for their views and iconic history.
Not only that, but most of London’s major museums are free. The government scrapped entrance fees fifteen years ago to ensure the country’s cultural attractions were accessible to everyone. That means the British Museum, Natural History Museum and amazing art galleries like Tate Britain, Tate Modern and The National Gallery are more accessible than their counterparts in cities like New York and Paris. So go ahead and buy that outrageously priced sandwich and coffee guilt-free, you’ll need your energy for all that culture.
The food is truly awful
British food might not have reached the levels of culinary sophistication of its continental neighbours, but is it really so bad? This is subjective, so you should ask yourself if you like bland, greasy food. Only joking! If unpretentious but hearty is your thing, you’ll like the traditional pub food.
Where else can you find such intriguing (hopefully harmless) names as toad in the hole, bubble and squeak, and spotted dick? It doesn’t have the variety of spices and flavors that other cuisines have, but it does have famous chefs like Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay flying the flag for British cuisine and jazzing it up.
The great thing about London’s diversity is that you can find food from all over the world; from Indian to Ethiopian, you’ll find flavors to suit your taste. Besides, who doesn’t love fish and chips?
You need to take the Tube everywhere
The London Underground is world famous and is an integral part of the capital’s transport system but as any commuter knows, using it can sometimes waste money and time. Tourists mistakenly think the Underground’s map is drawn to scale, but actually a lot of the routes are walkable.
For example, the tourist hub of Leicester Square is located slap bang in the middle of Covent Garden and Piccadilly Circus. You can walk to either of those in about five minutes. This makes their Tube alternatives some of the most expensive (£4.90) and pointless subway journeys when you include the time it takes to enter and exit the Underground.
Londoners are either posh or cockneys – there’s no middle ground
We don’t all sound like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, in fact cockneys don’t even sound like the cheeky chimney sweep he portrayed. Similarly, we don’t talk like royalty or BBC presenters in the 1950s. England is a country full of regional dialects and even within London there are huge variations. On the same note, London is not England; get out and explore the country beyond Oxford and Cambridge. Of course, you’ll probably meet some right proper geezers at some point.
Londoners are rude
Some Londoners probably are rude, but the same could be said of people in any big city. Most locals are busy and might seem abrupt, but when you’re on a rush hour commute and have oversized backpacks stuffed in your face it can make people a little impatient. It’s true that people tend to be in their own little worlds on the transportation network. Conversely, the tragic London bombings in July 2005 and the optimistic 2012 Olympics certainly showed that Londoners can join together when it counts.
Also, the rude Londoner stereotype might be a side effect of the otherwise polite yet standoffish reputation bestowed upon London’s fine citizens. We have an unparalleled devotion to etiquette and you don’t want to mess with our queuing system. Seriously don’t step out of line…or into it, we might have to passive aggressively tut at you under our breath. Again, you need to head out of London for a more rounded view of the country and the people.