My first gripe about London has little to do with London… it’s more about human nature, and everyone else’s gripes about London.
Here’s how it usually goes. When I meet people and they find out I’m new in town, they ask, all friendly-like: “How do you like it here?”
My response: “Oh, I absolutely love it here!”
Their friendly expressions turn to pity. “Just wait,” they say, “until it’s dark and gloomy / cold and rainy / grey and foggy.”
Strikingly, this happens most with Americans who have lived in London for a while. By contrast, when I meet English people and tell them that I love London, they get all heartwarm, like, “Aww, here’s this girl from New York, and she loves my city!” But I guess when American expats see my happy enthusiasm, they want to bring me down and make me miserable too.
On Saturday, I went to an event put on by my alumni association’s local chapter, and I got cornered into an extended conversation with a guy who really hates London. I did not enjoy this conversation at all, for two reasons. First, he had a tendency to spit on me at least once per sentence. Secondly, he’s from the class of ’96, so it’s especially unpleasant to listen to a grown adult whine for fifteen minutes that it takes forever for the cable guy to come, the tube shuts down when the workers strike, and I don’t know what else. I just wanted to tell him to grow up and deal with it—but he’s got a decade on me!
The one nice thing about alumni events is that it’s quite standard to ask people what year they graduated—it cuts to the chase. Normally, in American culture, it would be considered rude to ask people how old they are, but I actually prefer people to ask how old I am than to assume that I’m seventeen!
The other day one of the pastors at my church was trying to convince me to find a job in London when I graduate. When I put up some resistance to his insistent persuasion, he asked me if it’s because I miss my family.
“Well, I mean, sure I miss them theoretically, but practically, I haven’t lived at home for ten years, so I’m alright…”
He gave me a double take. “Wait, how old are you?”
Haha. He’d thought I was an undergrad, 20 years old, tops.
At least it beats the time I was walking down the street with my fifteen-year-old tutee, and a woman asked whether I was his girlfriend. This, by the by, happened five months ago.
*Update: On a related note, here’s a nice article on gratitude and happiness. Just in time to say, Happy Thanksgiving! :)