When my husband and I finalized our decision to live in London for a few months I had no idea what to expect. I've traveled a bit but not further than the Caribbean. My husband spent a few years living in Europe with his family. His Dad was in the military and he has tons of fond memories of traveling through Germany, Brussels, and other exotic (to me) locations. I was excited but my brain couldn't frame the upcoming experience. I had no idea what to expect but figured London would be fancy America. The world is flat now. There are few places left that truly feel far away from American influence. Our music, movies, and products are everywhere.
It's been three weeks and I've learned that although the comforts of home can still be found (Starbucks, Whole Foods, A$AP Rocky street posters) the experience is different. I could write you a novel but I'll start with a few London observations to give you a taste of what to expect if you're thinking of heading this way. And if you're not at least you can laugh along with me.
Strangers will grab your kids.
The tube isn't stroller friendly. There are some handicap access stops with lifts (elevators if you're half asleep like me) but not many. It's difficult to plan a trip using only those stops. Not cool London. I can't imagine how difficult that must be for people with wheelchairs, etc.
I say a quick prayer, grab a hold of each child's hand, and carefully step on to the escalator worried that I might trip, fall, and get my hair caught in the machinery and then lose a huge chunk of my scalp in front of my kids. Gross. Meanwhile my husband is behind us with a giant double stroller blocking a horde of angry Londoners from rushing down the escalator per urban custom.
After the death defying escalator ride there are usually a few flights of stairs. I hold each child's hand once again and walk slowly down the stairs while causing another pileup behind us.
This is when the fun starts.
A kind stranger will usually offer to help you with your kids. Sounds great except allowing a stranger to carry your child out of your sight goes against every parenting instinct and iota of common sense in one's possession. I politely decline but there have been a couple of really friendly gentlemen who ran off with my child like a football in the end zone to the safety of the bottom of the stairs. It's terrifying but also really helpful.
The first time it happened I was paralyzed with fear and hoping that my husband was paying close attention at the bottom of stairs. He'd notice the strange man running off with Cameron, tackle him, and save the day. It wasn't necessary. The strangers are just nice people lending a hand. I'm used to it now and think it's great that people are willing to help a frazzled mom. A warning would've been nice though.
If you are a woman of color in Holland Park (where we live) people will assume you are a nanny and occasionally ask you if your kids are yours. Awkward. For me and the kids.
The public parks around us are incredible and have super clean public restooms. The Brits have signs up that explicitly state that no adult is to be in the playground without a child. Imagine that? People also don't smoke at playgrounds. Common sense things I wish were in place in America. There are changing rooms in the women's bathrooms and men's bathrooms. Again. America? Get with it.
There are a ton of smokers everywhere else. Feels like the 80s. Not that I remember the 80s because I'm not that old. *Looks around suspiciously*
The weather is fine. After living in Vermont there is no way I'll complain about a few chilly overcast days.
We love it here and are having a blast. Seven weeks of fun left.