Observations: We're not in Kansas anymore, part 1

I find life in London fascinating. I LOVE it here. But just about every day, I encounter something that makes me stop in my tracks and take notice.  So now, after almost a year of living in London, it's high time I give you a glimpse into some of my observations. Here are some things you probably won't see in the States.

Let's start with the obvious--red phone booths--and get that right out of the way. Most don't have actual phones in them any more, but they are awfully fun to take photos in!

And adorable red mail boxes...

And red double-decker buses and regular buses...

and red double decker buses that sell ice cream.... (fyi, to "snog" means to "make out". hmmm)

Then, there is just the sheer age of London, compared to the 200+ aged USA. It was actually founded by the Romans in AD 43, which means there are some OLD buildings here.... which, of course have a sign telling us so.

It's hard not to be impressed when coming upon an actual Knights Templar Temple in the middle of the city. Oh ya, it was built in 1185.   Before I was born.

Even keys look old and unique here. When we moved into our temporary furnished flat, this key was in a glass bowl. We thought it was for decoration. Jeff and I had a great laugh when we discovered it was the key to the trash area!

And these my actual house keys. cute, huh? The long one is to my front door.

And how about the London taxis?  In what other city would you find 13 green taxi huts that serve coffee to drivers?  This I want to know...

And ooooh, the decorated cabs. I love them. The question is why wouldn't we all put pink Flamingos on our cars? It's such a nice pick-me-up (literally).

While we are on the topic of automobiles--big difference in cars here. In California, I see so many sporty cars, and many in bright colors. Here, there really aren't really many sporty cars (to be fair, I might live in the wrong neighborhood for that). The fancy ones are quite elegant. And not many in bright colors, although I have seen a bright gold Roll's Royce, and here in my neighborhood, this blue Bentley. 

And there is a lovely silver Bentley parked next to our spot in the parking garage, cordoned off with rope so that our non-existent car doesn't touch it. (lol, we do not have nor need a car here)

One of the very first things I noticed when I arrived in London was that there are almost NO TRASH CANS in public places (Rubbish Bins in Brit-speak).  Unfortunately, this is because there have been so many "bin-bombs", that London has all but done away with metal rubbish bins. If you see one, it will be in a tourist area. If you can spot any trash receptacle in the tube station, it will be a clear plastic bag hanging from a metal hoop. We actually have a trash can in our area on the Southbank near the Tower Bridge. Whoo Hooo!!!

But last summer, I did see this small wastepaper basket outside of an outdoor bar. Literally, it could hold maybe 6 beers... and I'll bet there were a hundred people at the bar. But it wasn't filled, and there was no trash laying around it.  Just sayin'.

So where do Brits put their trash? I honestly do not know. 

I'm guessing people carry it until they get home because you will never ever see a spec of rubbish or trash on the streets. London is CLEAN. Even the Underground stations are free of debris.

While we are somewhat on the topic of roads, I think London does a great job with their road signage. First, there are the "Zebra" crossings (pronounced zeh-bra) to identify crosswalks.

It took me a long time to figure out what the zig zag lines mean, but now I know that they are warnings that there is a pedestrian crossing up ahead. Waaaay ahead.

And I love that they have reminders of where to look. It is so hard to get used to looking right. And just when you get that part down, there is a different sign telling you to look left.

So it's best to follow the childhood adage of looking both ways, because here, the drivers will run you over if you are in the wrong place. I find it interesting that in the USA, pedestrians have the right-of-way, but tend to obediently follow the do-not-walk signals.

Here, it is abundantly clear that the drivers have the right-of-way, but people cross the road everywhere and at any time. It could be because jay-walking is legal, I don't know. I once saw a woman with twins in a double stroller, scurrying across busy Oxford Street against the light. Seriously, you take your life in your hands when crossing the street. So, yes, it is definitely good to follow the written signage.

On the topic of signage, I just love the outdoor pub signs. Some are so creative. They make my day.

And somehow, I just don't think you would ever ever see this sign outside an American pub. (Lisa Underwood will probably say that she's seen this in Boston...ok, that might be the only place in the USA)

Then there is the whole "drinking outside" thing.  It's an interesting concept, but I just do not think it would work in America. Americans would just start wandering off with their beers in hand, and everything would quickly get out of control. 

British people are much more law-abiding. They stay within the region just outside the pub, and I've never seen a pub brawl (although I'm probably just not in the kind of pubs for that to occur).

11am anywhere

It still amazes me to see the huge crowds outside just about any pub on a Thursday night. Or Friday.  Or Saturday if the weather is nice. Oh and also Sunday if the weather is nice....

Nor would one ever see self-serve food and pastries in the USA.  Here, it is quite common and always beautifully presented. Just, for me, it's hard not to think that someone might have spit on the food or touched it with their grimy fingers.  

But they don't do that here....

do they?

It's all because of "Health and Safety". Brits talk about "Health and Safety" ALL the time. There is not a day that goes by that I don't hear about it (even as we take our lives in our hands by jay-walking across busy streets). What I do love is the great care that the city implements in making sure that we do not trip on any misguided stone,  concrete crumb or loose pebble. 

No matter what the issue is, there will be a fence around it, and a sign telling us exactly what is wrong and when it will be fixed. I love it. 

And then there are the "Port-a-loos"!!!!! No "Port-a-potties" here in England.

London is a city with a lot of cyclists, with almost a million cyclists riding 5 days a week. It is quite an amazing sight to see during commute hours, or when they cross the Tower Bridge after the drawbridge comes down. The bicyclists here are great at obeying the traffic laws and they even queue at intersections. So polite! Surprisingly, though, for a country so concerned about "Health and Safety", there is no helmet law.

I also find it odd to see bikes locked on fences. 

Almost done with my first pass at this. I'll surely do another blog on this topic though, so do not despair!

I've gone through many sights that one would find uncommon in the USA, but here are 3 that are uncommon even for London residents!

First, the QUEEN. You might think it would be pretty easy to see the Queen, after all, she resides at Buckingham Palace during the week. But a sighting is quite rare, and usually surprising when it happens. It's because she is still, at age 93 working, and then she is off to Windsor Castle for the weekend. And she is gone for  Christmas through Feb 6 at Sandringham House, returning on Feb 7 after the anniversary of the death of her father, King George VI.  And in August and September, she is in Balmoral, Scotland hunting and riding her horses.  So you might say, we felt very lucky indeed when we saw her on her balcony last June, just 4 days after we arrived here! 

Come on! I knowww you can see her. She is the spec in the blue dress. On the balcony.  Actually it was quite easy to see her. It just looks sooo far away with my camera.

Here is another sight that even Londoners don't see very often. I bet you don't have cannons fired outside your window, but I do.  It actually happens here quite often and quite loudly. At the Tower of London, generally 62 rounds are fired.... the "basic" 21 rounds, then an additional 20 because the Tower is a Royal Palace, then another 21 because it is in the City of London. 
But no firings on Sundays. If you are around on any of the below dates, come to my balcony at 1pm and bring earplugs! (2019 dates --Feb 6, April 22, June 3, June 8, June 10, Nov 10 and Nov 14... plus additional dates every month, for just about any reason)

And the strangest sight of all. There is actually a Mobile Gull Appreciation Unit that roams the Southwark district of London, promoting the health and safety of seagulls. I'm serious.

Well that's a wrap of some of my first observations of the uniqueness that is London. Hope you enjoyed this inside look. Let me know if you can think of other unique and fun sightings that you might not see anywhere else! Feel free to add to this post!


  1. I enjoyed reading your blog and I'm amazed how clean London is - no trash - that would be so nice if BART could follow suit. What an experience you and Jeff are having and I'm making note where I want to visit because you make it look so fun!


    1. Hi Carrie!!! Thank you for reading it, and hope u enjoyed my silly musings!!!! Yes it is very clean and very fun here!!!! Miss you two!

  2. HI Jean
    I am catching up on your blogs now that its summer and I am having london envy. I really hope we get over there next summer. I'm still working, so I'm tied to school calendars. I love your pictures and your fun observations.

    1. Aww, you are so nice! yes, next summer come to london!

  3. Happened to find your article by accident after Googling. Searching for something else but ended reading your article and viewing the photos from the top to bottom. I hardly participate in writing comments on any website but I very much enjoyed reading this article. Just had to say I liked it very much and fun to read.


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