Travel Tots: 4 things Londoners did better than you.

Alright, maybe just did better than me. Here’re the 4 most memorable ways UK awed my heart. (No, no Big Ben and Borough Market. It’s more than that!)

1. Saying sorry.

“Sorry bout that”. I hear that so often.

When they accidentally brushed past me, when I accidentally brushed past them. When they asked if they could borrow the pepper from my table. When I asked their staff if they could help me cancel my order at the cards-only self checkout because I decided to pay by cash (“Sorry darling to make you re-queue. We’ll make sure our machines accept coins soon!”).

In Singapore, we find it easier to blame someone else. We’re quite programmed to tsk at others, than to believe that we could be the cause of inconvenience. It’s almost never that Singaporeans blurt out “Sorry bout that”. Well, people could say sorry without meaning it. Nonetheless, can’t deny that the gesture, even if it’s a non-sincere reflex, made everything seemed kinder, and everybody feels better 🌈.

Borough Market: Bustling mid-day (beaminghamster)
Borough Market: Bustling mid-day.

2. Aloof but socially included.

In public spaces, the London rule is: Let’s mind our own business, and respect each other’s individual space. I would think that if I needed help, I should deal with it myself. How wrong I was proven. As much as Londoners appeared aloof, they are quiet angels.

Many times, I had to drag my huge luggage inside the London Tube. That place is a tiny obstacle course with Godzilla number of stairs. EVERYTIME. Everytime, I repeat. Someone will just come up, look at me, point to my luggage, help me lug the luggage up/down the clumsy stairs. Then they’ll put it at the end of the stairs, look at me who’s still lagging behind (perhaps recovering from the shock of the sudden kindness), gently point to my luggage at the end of the stairs, and continue on in the hustle to catch his Tube. I didn’t even ask.

And there were times when I was with my giant backpack at the Tube (again, no luggages though. just a giant backpack) during peak hour. Back home, I could well be photographed, uploaded online, and flamed for being inconsiderate of appearing with a bulky bag like a ninja turtle at busy train hours. Bearing that in mind, I stood at a corner to let people board before me, resided to fate that I should just keep on waiting for the next train hoping that it’s emptier. Nope nope. When the third train came, a guy nearby who had also missed a few trains saw me, extended his arms to beckon me to take his place, gave an assuring nod that seemed to say “Just go ahead, you little one.” I tried to deny embarrassingly. He insisted. And I got on the packed train, while they forfeited their spot for me, and my giant backpack.

That was nice, London. Thank you!

The notorious luggage + backpack. Non-peak hours on London’s Tube. The bags look harmless, but they’re probably somewhere around 35kg ++.

3. Patient enough to let streams of people walk safely across the zebra crossing.

When I was in Uni of Birmingham (UK), I had to cross this zebra crossing to get to the path leading to my apartment. The first time I was close to the zebra crossing and saw that there was already a long line up of cars, I hurried like a kan cheong Singaporean (kan cheong = A Cantonese/Hokkien term meaning nervous, harried or uptight) to power walk across so that the cars can move off. The driver in the first car saw me running, and smiled while gesturing me to slow down with my palms. He has already waited pretty long for a stream of students to cross the street. If this happened once off, I would take it as an anomaly. However, it always seemed to be the default road manner. In case anybody is ever curious, it’s at this crossing in front of the medical school. I’ll never forget.

4. A little flexible in the UK way

I know people might want to contest me, but I have my specific reasons.

I like how when there’s an ambulance driving through a congestion, the cars just drove up the kerb to open up a path. And at the Tube (again, I know. Just how many times am I bringing my luggage around), my friend asked if she can just pass through the gantry temporarily for free to help me carry my luggage down one crazy flight of stairs, and the staff said “Sure darling, go ahead!”.


Video taken on a normal stroll down Oxford.

This article isn’t meant to be those whiny “Grass is always greener on the other side”comparing-snob. I still love the quirks of Singaporeans, and nobody’s absolutely perfect. That’ll be too boring. These are just my observations, and really  wanted to point out nice things! Keep a look out for these when you’re in UK!


What you read is entirely up to you, but here’s some relevant next reads:

SAM_9348 edited
Praying at the peak
Click: A SECRET PART OF SEOUL WHERE THEY DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH ANYMORE. Praying at the peak: I thought he walked out of a movie. That white hair and white traditional linen hanbok.

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