London Diaries #3

Mornings in London

This post was actually long overdue. Picture this: I’m a people watcher. Not the creepy kind, though. I just like observing people around me. Hey, maybe I should have studied anthropology!

To be honest, I don’t get to do this quite comfortably in Brussels, where people seem to have radars screaming “SOS, a stranger’s looking at you!”. I don’t mean to criticise, it’s just my opinion. I think people in Brussels tend to be more self-conscious somehow, which is perfectly fine and I respect that. But let me tell you guys: this does not make public transport a very friendly environment. How many times have I genuinely smiled at a stranger, out of sheer kindness and got shot with an angry or awkward look? You might say that everyone’s got problems and a stranger smiling at you isn’t necessarily called for. But hey, nothing wrong with that. It’s just a smile, for goodness’ sake. To be fair, there are also lovely people on the bus or the metro… but those seem to get pretty extinct.

Where am I going with this? No panic, this isn’t a post to criticise Brussels, nor to brag too much about London. After all, I realise London is not perfect. No city is, let’s be honest. Plus, Brussels is my second home and so far, I have lived beautiful and memorable moments there. However, if there is something I can easily do in London is people watching, without feeling oppressed or being frowned at. And what better place to observe people that on the tube?

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The tube is a true phenomenon, especially in the morning. True, it’s crowded, narrow, invaded by newspapers (an ecologist’s nightmare) and with this heat it makes a sauna look anything but luxurious. I remember my first morning as a commuter. A real commute, meaning a one-hour commute, not 20 minutes by tram when I go to uni in Brussels.

The first day of work, I had absolutely no idea how fast everything was going to be. Everything and everyone in London is fast. You have no choice, actually, you have to be fast in order to seize everything. Or seize the day, basically. Every morning, I get this adrenaline rush before diving into this city’s fever. But this is what makes it so exciting! Not to mention my work which gets me out of bed every single day with a smile on my face.

Now I actually realise how a routine makes you discover a city in a different way. I’m not just a tourist now, I actually live here and get involved in everyday things. You get a different feeling and perspective about the city, its vibe and its people. For example, the tube used to be an intimidating labyrinth that made absolutely no sense. I figured a good way to make this easier: wandering aimlessly and take a random tube makes you develop a remarkable sense of orientation. The more you experience the underground, the more fun it gets.

A funny thing about my “routine” is that I still get to see different things. I may take the same bus and tube but there is always something new to see. The most fascinating thing about the London tube is diversity. You get to see all sorts of people, all sorts of styles, all sorts of attitudes, all walks of life. You may see a corporate grey suit next to a colourful hipster listening to loud hip hop. You may see a shy girl reading an old edition of “Wuthering Heights” next to a hi-tech guy holding a Kindle. Or even a Sainsbury’s bag next to a classy Mulberry bag. Diversity is amazing.

What makes people-watching so easy is that everyone minds their own business. Everyone is either absorbed in a newspaper, their phone or their Kindle. Tourists are usually absorbed in their maps, trying to sort it all out. I know the feeling… However, at the same time, people are very considerate towards each other. Even the slightest accidental nudge and people apologise. I have heard many stories about British people hating chit-chatting with strangers. Honestly? All the people I’ve met here are into random chatting, which makes waiting for the tube less long and less stressful. But hey, maybe I’m just lucky! 🙂

I feel blessed for everything I get to do and for every adventurous minute I get to live here. If my future job will get me out of bed every morning like this internship, I will be forever grateful! I think everyone deserves to feel like this. Sometimes, I still think all of this is just a dream. I’m still starry-eyed and inspired by this city’s energy. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been affected by the routine… maybe it’s too early for that, who knows? You know what I say: better make the most of it! 😉

P.S. To compensate the lack of pictures, here’s a song that matches my mood: “Take Back The City” by Snow Patrol. “I love this city tonight. I love this city always!”

Enjoy and have a great week! 🙂

London Town

“Ladies and gentlemen, please mind the gap and the closing doors!”

Oh, how I’ve missed this! How I’ve missed the beautiful St-Pancras Station, the tube, the double-deckers, hearing English in all sorts of accents everywhere, “Cheers, mate!”, “Here you go, darling!”, “I mean, oh my Gawd!”… London, I am here so be ready to take my breath away!

After this first full and surprising week, I’m… overwhelmed. In a great way though! I’m overwhelmed with feelings I can’t describe: I’m happy and puzzled at the same time but I wouldn’t change this for the world!  

Fact of the day 1: London is huge. No, really. I think nobody realises that when you’re only hanging out in the city centre. But best part about that? You have thousands of places to explore! No complaining there.

Fact of the day 2: London is absolutely crowded, at every hour of the day. If you think Brussels is crowded, come and change your mind about it in London!

Fact of the day 3: despite of facts 1 and 2, London is fantastic! But that’s not new, is it?

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(You better not be claustrophobic when getting on the tube).

Also, my intern job at the Media Diversity Institute is everything an intern can dream of. After only a week, I can say I’ve learned a lot and feel fulfilled. I also happen to have met the best colleagues there can be: we are always helping each other out, even for little things and that’s what makes the atmosphere in the office really cosy.

For the first time in my life, I feel independent. There were other times when I felt like a grown-up (for example, in Siena, last year) but this time, it’s ten times different. It’s a different context, a different city and new experiences are awaiting! I believe it’s Bob Moawad who said:

The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins”.

Feeling like the luckiest girl alive? Oh, you bet!

Have a great weekend, everyone! Stay tuned for more London updates (pictures and all)! 😉