By Shirley Smith
Article published at Crisis Magazine Sept 2018.
To be born in London or to be in London, what makes you a Londoner? If you were born in London, sure you are a Londoner, even if there are people with parents from England and India, England and Pakistan, England and etc. If you were born here, you will grow up, learn the language and acquire an English accent, behave like you see others behave, and have some values and beliefs from here, inherited from previous generations, right?
If we compare English people in London with English people from the countryside, we will see the difference; people from the countryside are quieter than people here.
London is a cosmopolitan city, and a quite incredible one. The variety of nationalities automatically makes the city have a variety of different businesses, music, fashion, media, etc.
Now, let’s think. We say you don’t need to be born in London to be a Londoner?
You came to London at a certain time, and through the years you will inevitably meet English people and also Londoners, and this connection with culture and mentality will transform you little by little, until you are a Londoner.
What makes a person a Londoner? I am not saying English, but Londoner.
The Big Ben is the heartbeat of the city, and something peculiar of this city is that time feels quicker than in other places. Do you feel the same? It doesn’t matter; you will soon learn that you must to be on time. On time all the time. I confess I have not learned yet, but if I have a meeting with English people, I try to pay extra attention, because they value that.
Ways to express
Second, you learn how to be more diplomatic, polite, and also how to say things in soft ways or different ways instead saying exactly what you want to say. This is very hard for me; I come from the countryside of Brazil, and there we are too sincere and we say everything we want to say straight away, we don’t try to say it. But through the years, I have become more flexible.
This way to behave affects even robbers, they are quick and clever, you don’t see how or when they do it; they have strategies. In my country, people steal in pure daylight, with no fear at all. Unfortunately, this happens because of poor security services.
Talking to strangers
Third point, Londoners don’t speak with strangers, they are more introspective. They are shy, very reserved and discreet.
Oh yes, they go out to pubs and drink after work, and even if I didn’t drink, it was in this place where I learned English: inside a pub meeting people every Wednesday, for two years. I felt improvement at some point because of this; speaking only my own language was a big obstacle before.
It’s very common to see people using bicycles daily to go to work or just as a hobby. I know people who love to use a bike as Londoners, even if they weren’t born here. Why? The roads and streets are highly signalised and help us feel secure.
Oyster /Umbrella / Wallet / Coat
Sure. You will use an Oyster card like others, as it is necessary and practical to use public transport services. I have a friend who said to me: there is four things you must have as soon as you are in London, and that you can never forget at home: Oyster, umbrella, wallet with £5, and coat, because the weather changes a lot and it changes quickly.
You learn to buy more online than physically because it is practical and quicker than going to a shop. Markets in London encourage customers to do that. I am doing this like a Londoner, it is easier and good; you save time.
Tea – They have time for tea and they know well how to take care of themselves. They give themselves a break, saying it is important to care for one’s own health. You can see a lot of Londoners at markets; they like them, there are so many of them.
Another tradition of Londoners is that they eat out a lot because the city has a wide gastronomic variety. Londoners are always on the lookout for new, exciting food trends, burgers, bubble tea, street food at pop up restaurant or at stalls…
Talk and Eat
I realised many people eat and talk at the same time, naturally, I am not sure this is an English thing or something from London, but it happens and people think it is OK, like the French. How is it in your country? In my country it is not polite. Maybe you see them doing it, and you do the same. I still eat with a close mouth.
After a heavy Saturday night out, Londoners love to relax over a Sunday roast instead of a top restaurant, they prefer a local pub; where locally sourced, seasonal food is served; they get beef roast or suckling pig.
You will also start to enjoy visiting museums and galleries, they love to go and have a glass of wine… for example the V&A, the British Library and Museum of London.
Londoners’ unique sense of style is usually down to a combination of the new and old fashioned and vintage. In these days, we have many options to buy clothes and look like them.
There is a huge variety in music, but in London you will mostly listen to rock, you will notice this city has had a connection with rock for a long time.
We can find much more about Londoners! But for now, I will finish and think if I am a Londoner or not. To be or not to be a Londoner? That’s the question.
Please check this article at my blog and also, if you want, leave comments to contribute with information for the public which I might not know, or which my experience does not cover.