Our graduates| Tereza Kroupová| The 3 things I still get wrong
13. March 2015 Tereza Kroupová

The 3 things I still get wrong

This is my third year in London. I have learned a lot about the culture here and I am sure there is still a lot more to come. However, there are some things that I have recognized over my studies here, but never was able to become comfortable with despite many efforts. Here they are:

1. Pavement traffic.

Well, it is clear that getting used to the left-hand side road traffic can be quite difficult for a European. However, with months of practice, one can actually manage to look on the correct side when crossing the road or at least read the signs 'LOOK RIGHT/LEFT/BOTH WAYS' at the crossings. In some cases the adaptation is so perfect that a trip home for holidays can result in very dangerous adventure.

This manageable change of rules for road traffic is definitely not the case for walking on pavements. The main reason is – as far as I understand – there are no rules. Some people walk on the left and some people walk on the right and I always end up switching the sides of the pavement every few seconds in order not to bump into anyone. I studied this phenomena  extensively and led statistics, but I have not discovered a single rule for walking on streets yet. I have even considered the dependence of the side upon the hour and the day in a week, the weather, pavement surface etc. - all that with no success.

2. Lack of rubbish bins.

There certainly are parts of London (and I am now lucky to live in one) that have bins. However, this is definitely not the case for most of them and certainly not for underground stations. You may manage to walk for an hour with an apple core in your hand without finding a single rubbish bin.

3. Greetings.

I spent my first two years at UCL wondering what is so repulsive on me that people do not say hi to me. For example when I was walking on a street I met my peer, who shared a tutorial class with me and we knew each other names. He would not say a word and just continue walking. In such situations, I always end up taking a breath for a greeting but at the time I open mouth the other person just looks away, which leaves me with me in quite embarrassing situation.

I recently opened up with this feeling to my Italian colleagues in the laboratory and they shared my experience. It seems to be normal to for example enter a room full of people you see every Thursday and not say a single word and not mean it bad in any sense. On the other hand, it is usual to ask a shop assistant you see for a first time about his weekend and have a nice chat. This is another thing I cannot get my head around.

I know that these are little everyday things, but they keep surprising me all the time. Mostly because despite them, London is a city with nice and friendly people, clean streets and tube stations, and its citizens are able to flow through crowds with no problems. It just proves how great, complicated and different this city is and that I still have a lot to learn about it.

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