Waterloo Station - Concourse Windsor Side
Originally uploaded by Tristan Appleby.
One of the first things I was told about Londoners is that they are, by and large, an aloof lot. I was warned not to expect any conversation on the Tube; in fact, eye contact is almost unheard of and if someone smiles at you, they are more than likely psychologically suspect.
Having come from Australia by way of the US, you can imagine how much of an adjustment all this has been. Don't get me wrong, I'm not likely to grin like the Cheshire Cat at complete strangers either, but I'm not averse to issuing a cordial 'good morning' or nod of acknowledgement here and there. That doesn't jive here, apparently.
From what I can already tell, the advice I received was pretty well spot-on. Londoners are notoriously private and enjoy a public transport commute free from interruption or interaction. But once they hit the train platform, Londoners have absolutely no trouble invading each other's personal space and pushing and shoving to get where they need to go.
Being vertically challenged as I am, I bear the brunt of this physicality quite often. In my 8 weeks here, I've already had my share of stray elbows to the face and backpacks to the head, mostly inflicted at Waterloo Station (where all bets are off, and human civility ceases to exist). Don't wait for apologies because they will never come. A peak hour Waterloo Station commute is Darwinism in the flesh.
All that said, there are advantages to being my size. I may be small but these days I've learned to be deceptively quick on my feet and can bob and weave with ease. Come to think of it, perhaps that is the REAL reason people advised me to wear ballet flats every day. It has less to do with navigating the uneven cobbled streets and more to do with just staying alive?! Food for thought really.