Breaking stereotypes: London

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Editor’s Note:

One of BYU’s mottos, “The world is our campus,” is taken seriously by those who go abroad to earn BYU credits. BYU sent 1,421 students to 57 countries in more than 132 programs during 2012–2013. The Universe is starting a weekly feature that will show a place in the world BYU takes students to, and talk about some of the stereotypes associated with them. The first story is about the most popular destination of the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies programs — London.

As opposed to what many Americans think, those red telephone booths are not a eccentricity of only London, but they exist in all United Kingdom. Photo by Ludimila Pinto.
Contrary to what many Americans think, those red telephone booths are not a eccentricity of only London; they exist in all United Kingdom. (Photo by Ludimila Pinto)

BYU study abroad sends students to London. Those students learn that the modern city still has many of its trademark traits, but its rich culture may surprise many Americans.

London is thought of by many Americans as a gray and rainy city with lots of old buildings, and Americans see Londoners as formal people with accents who love the royal family and have a sarcastic sense of humor. British food is summarized as fish and chips and afternoon tea.

“For me, London is like New York but with lots of history,” said Ludimila Pinto, a senior studying business management. “Anywhere you go you can find buildings that have been there since before America was founded.”

Pinto visited London two times in two different programs at BYU, the global marketing study abroad and the European internship.

“I think London is really old, but it is preserved really well,” said Sierra Naumu, a junior studying communications who went on the London study abroad during Spring 2013 semester. “It’s either really old or really modern; you see Victorian-style buildings and also glass buildings.”

The many activities London offers make it a unique city. From shopping in the streets of downtown to going to a pub to have a good burger, London offers a rich history and culture.

“Pubs are really cool and popular; you have to go at least one time to get the experience,” Naumu said. Some of the best experiences I had were in pubs there.”

Most of the entrances of museums are free. For Harry Potter fans, a special exhibition shows where the films were made, and it is only a 40-minute drive from downtown. Aside from the museums, people can watch many different musicals and go shopping in clothing stores.

“I feel like the clothing is more modest and more professional-looking than clothing you find here in America,” Pinto said. “British people dress better than people here.”

As for the climate, both students found themselves lucky because of the good weather they saw there. Naumu said the weather was often rainy but rarely cold.

BYU student views England’s capitol through the London Eye. (Photo by Ludimila Pinto)

“I was very lucky; usually there (are) constantly rain showers, but when I was there, there was not that much, but I always carry an umbrella with me just in case,” Pinto said. “But the image many Americans have in their heads that Londoners are always carrying an umbrella is not true nowadays because people check the forecast before they leave their homes.”

The famous British sense of humor is known to be sarcastic and dry. Both students found that to be true.

“They are really sarcastic, and it is hard to catch on and because they talk so fast too,” Naumu said. “And they have a really dry sense of humor so you don’t know that they are joking until after.”

Many Americans think the royal family are stars, and everyone adores them. Naumu said many people do want to see the royal family, but she was surprised to find out that many people strongly dislike the royals because they pay heavy taxes to them and feel like they do nothing for the nation. It is like in the United States — many people like the president, but many others dislike the federal government.

British have their own words, but many British understand American words such as “restroom” as opposed to “toilet” because of the popularity of American movies. Instead of “exit” they have a “way out” sign; “line” is “queue”; and “watch your step” is “mind the gap.”

Both students found many ancient British traditions were kept alive.

British food is known for its fish and chips that are actually really similar to the ones people can find here in the U.S., but it is still a big tradition in the old country. More traditional places wrap them in newspapers, but if people go to a more modern place, this will not be the case.

“I saw fish and chips everywhere,” Naumu said. “There was a restaurant by where we lived that was David Beckham’s favorite fish and chips place.”

In addition to fish and chips, many Americans picture British drinking lots of tea.

“They drink a lot of tea, and it has caffeine on it so you have to explain why you are not drinking it because it is kind of a cultural issue if you don’t drink it,” Pinto said. “I used to drink ginger and lemon tea, and there are so many kinds of herbal tea so there are infinite options and I loved it.”

Londoners keep tea as one of their traditions.

“They have signs saying ‘Afternoon tea here’ everywhere, and it costs around 30 pounds,” Naumu said.

Another tradition the students noticed was the presence of guards in the Buckingham Palace.

“I didn’t do things to try to make them laugh, but they look so official,” Naumu said. “I saw the changing of guards, and they have a whole ritual, and they have music and everything.”

Many American and British movies and TV series take place in London, and most of them depict the city very well.

“I am obsessed with movies and TV shows that are in London,” Naumu said. “I have watched ‘Notting Hill’ and ‘Harry Potter,’ and I am watching the TV series ‘Sherlock,’ and I think they depict well the city and the British humor.”

Like any other city in Europe, Londoners use public transportation as their primary option.

“There, people go out a lot walking,” Pinto said. “People in London use more public transportation even if a person has a car because they would have to pay a fee to go into the downtown so they use the ‘tube’ (subway).”

“I think everyone should go. I had so much fun there, there is so much to do there and I would put a budget beforehand of how much you want to spend and then don’t be afraid to spend it,” Naumu said.

Next week, Jerusalem will be featured.

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