Columnist Natasha Shapiro compares and contrasts life in London to Philadelphia. Visit temple-news.com to view her complete photo slideshow.
Coming to study abroad in London, England, we were all expecting to experience some degree of culture shock. We sometimes say “dollar” instead of “pound,” encounter near death experiences every other day because we can’t remember which way cars are coming from and secretly love when someone says “cheers,” or “mate” to us.
But, while there are obvious differences we still seem to be adjusting to, they can hardly be considered “shocking.”
There isn’t a language barrier to struggle with, and though our accents make us stand out like a sore thumb, there is a strong level of familiarity with the city.
London, like New York City, seems to be more of a global center than a national one. The liveliness and diversity of the streets comforts me, after leaving Philadelphia.
Imagine you’re in London for the first time. You walk around with a camera. It’s completely natural, mandatory even, to be completely absorbed by the city’s characteristic attractions. Tourists swarm to capture that perfect postcard image to show their families, and you join, determined to take the most picturesque one.
Contrary to what you were expecting, the weather is beautiful, and you photograph Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey against a bright blue background.
Pleased with yourself, you move on to the red double-decker buses and the trademark telephone booths. You photograph every memorial or statue dedicated to deceased members of the monarchy. You shoot the pubs on every corner (and the three in between) and even all the “fish and chips” signs.
After capturing every clichéd image of London and satisfying your touristy appetite, you look around, wondering what there is to notice next.
All these places, all the action and all the people are individually insignificant within the context of the city as a whole, but it’s the familiarity of these insignificances that makes them significant.
Once this realization sets in and you stop looking at the city through a tourist’s eyes, you see what you already know.[flickr 14423699@N04 72157622514524210]
Natasha Shapiro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.