Five quirks about London I never found in New Zealand

by - Saturday, January 14, 2017

currently: listening to 'Castle on the Hill' by Ed Sheeran.


There's a lot you can learn about London in just three days. From the underground train system to the difference between pounds versus pence coins, to knowing what people mean when they discuss The Shard and The Gherkin. I found London fascinating, urban, busy, and somewhere I could imagine living - if I had to pick somewhere else to live in the world. But during my many, many walking trips around Britain's Big Smoke, there were some things I couldn't help notice about the city that I know I just wouldn't get back home in New Zealand.

1. Thug Pigeons
The rats of the sky. We may have pigeons in New Zealand but they're wusses compared to the British pigeons.

Every kid in New Zealand has played with birds by chasing seagulls and pigeons. You'd giggle and squeal as you try to chase after them, but of course, they run away too fast or fly away too quickly so you never actually worry about touching them.

But in London city, the pigeons are a different sort of breed. They're tough, and it's scary. They don't flinch when you walk near them. In fact, they dare to get very, VERY close to you. And when they do fly, they seem to fly at a human's eye level that you're the one ducking out of the way to avoid a mid-flight collision. I swear one of the pigeons in London flapped at my head as it swooped past. After that one bird, I just didn't dare to confront any other pigeon.

2. Secret squad of police cars
We have unmarked police cars in New Zealand but I think across the three days I was in London, only twice did I see marked police cars.

The other 20 police cars I saw were unmarked cop cars, but you'd always spot them so easily with its flashing lights hidden in the grill, its sirens, and the fact that unmarked police cars seem to like travelling in packs of three.

Do London police just not invest any money into proper police cars nowadays or is everyone a 'Secret Inspector Detective Sergeant Johnstone of the Northumberland Marylebone Police Force'? Clearly, I've watched a lot of British cop shows...


3. Every little pence counts
When I was younger, New Zealand used to have 5 cent coins. They were great; these tiny little coins with indigenous tuataras printed on them that were the size of your pinky fingerprint. They didn't weigh much and were so easy to find on the streets. And when you're 7 or 8 years old, street coins were a great place to make some extra money. Plus in those days, every cent counted!

But about 10 years ago the government ended the use of 5c coins, and at the time I didn't understand why we needed to do that. That was until I got to the UK where they have the biggest nuisance in the world - tiny 1 pence and 2 pence coins.

Those coins are actually the worst, digging your way through a sea of tiny cents just so you can pull out an actually valuable £1 coin in your wallet. I tried to do a "keep the change" with a teller at the Buckingham Palace gift shop so I didn't have to claim back all the coins. He laughed at me and said he didn't want it either as his cash register needed to have an accurate sum at the end of the day. Even he didn't want to carry tiny annoying pence coins

4. Little pay trays
Now I don't know if it's cause I'm impatient, or if it's because in New Zealand we're very forward about paying the bill - but the process to pay for food at a restaurant is confusing to me in London, thanks to little pay trays.

Generally, it sounds easy that when the meal is done; you ask for the bill, you pay it, then you leave. But why is it when you ask for the bill, it's like you need to wait 10 minutes for it? And then after you get given the little pay tray, you got to wait another 10-15 minutes for them to come back? Or are you allowed to just leave money like that on the table?

Also, when you have to pay by card, but no one is at the cash register... it's such an uncomfortable wait. You want to leave, but you can't leave, and you don't want to look like you're doing a runner and skipping out of the bill.

And it's all because of the little pay trays...

5. Londoners aren't phased by accents (or by mine at least).
One friend of mine back home asked me while I was overseas if I had anyone interested in how "exotic" I was with my accent. Nope. They were not interested in me at all in London.

It is one of the most multicultural places in the world and they weren't phased by a 20-something Chinese Kiwi. Unlike Malaysia where people are often quick to catch my foreign sounding accent, no one in London seemed to bother to ask what was different about me. No one even tried to guess where I was originally from. And quite frankly with the amount of Kiwis I knew in London, there were enough New Zealanders to just be another norm.

See more: Best British Eats: London 'Food Tour Party' Special

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