As I was going to a European country that speaks English and so close to home, I was no expecting to be surprised by anything. My mistake. I was dazed by a number of things, nothing huge, but still make you wonder why or how.
The first one even thought I was expecting it, was the driving on the left side of the road. I had seen it before but I didn’t know that it was going to be so disturbing. After more than 4 months in London, I am still not used to it, furthermore I am now confused, even in France I don’t where to look when I need to cross the road.
The second thing is the litter. All over London you can see many billboard, signs about the fees that will be applied if you throw litter on the street but on the other hands Londoners are what I, as a French would call disrespectful. In theatres, movie theatres, trains, they are allowed to bring food in (almost the same in France, expect for theatre where it’s forbidden) and they are leaving their rubbish everywhere (floor, table, seats). I know sometimes we can live a few things behind, but here they are not even trying, they are not throwing anything away. I was pretty shocked when I noticed it for the first time at the theatres, the people were literally throwing things on the floor and it seemed normal.
The third thing is the postal codes. In France every city has her own postal code (depending on the lengths some cities might share it), in London every single house has her own postal code. Which means that you do not need the address but only the postal code to find your way. They are organised this way:
The postal code is divided in 2 different parts. The first one is Letter or/and Letter-Number-Letter, which give you the area. Then the second part is Number- Letter- Letter, which is the precise location. For example where I lived EC1V 8AT. The first two letters, EC means that I live in the East Centre. The last letter precise the exact location. For example if I changed the T for a W it would show you tower 2 on Google map (I lived in tower 3).
I think this system is really smart. There are so many streets with the same name within the same city you can get confused. Plus there is no need to remember the name of the street or the exact number, just need the postal code to arrive at destination.
The fourth thing was the squirrel. I knew that in some parks such has Hype Park or St James, you could find some domesticated squirrels (not afraid to approach you for food), but they are actually everywhere. Even in areas with no green zone whatsoever you could see a few squirrels. To be honest I have never seen that many squirrels in my entire life. You can walk in an industrial part of London with only building at your sight and see one.
The last thing I was stun by was the diversity of languages spoken in London. I though that I would only hear English, but it’s actually the language I heard the least. When walking to work every day I could hear people speaking Spanish, Russian, Italian, Chinese, etc. But what I heard the most was French. I now understand why people call London, “France’s sixth biggest city”. So even though we spoke English at work, whenever I went to the supermarket, to the bar, in the tube/bus, to the mall hearing English conversation was a rare thing.