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I’ll admit it. We Londoners have a bit of a reputation – we’re called rude, abrasive, overstressed, and lacking the social niceties that most other places take for granted. By all accounts it’s a wonder that our caustic nature doesn’t put tourists off visiting altogether and cause the city’s infrastructure to collapse. Then of course there’s the London arrogance – we don’t seem to know that there’s life outside of London and regard anything past Watford as ‘The North’, apparently.
However, whilst all of this is true in some cases, I’d like to come to the defence of my fellow Londoners. Anyone who has walked around London will tell you how busy and noisy and fast it is, and it is exactly this which necessitates that every-man-for-himself attitude when getting around, that non-Londoners find so reproachful.
I’ve heard many a Geordie/Scouse/Yorkshire-born friend tell me that people are so impolite in London, but I don’t think that’s the case. There are two types of polite – common courtesy and going out of your way. While not everyone in London would necessarily go out of their way in helping someone, like some people in smaller towns and villages might, they generally have the common courtesy to not ignore someone who needs help. We might not offer to carry your shopping home, madam, but we’d generally help you pick it up when the bag splits.
I experienced another such example the other week whilst walking up the crowded stairs at Holborn station. My annoyingly traction-less boots slipped on a stair and I stumbled. Before I could process what was going on, there were at least five hands on me, stopping me from tumbling and bringing others down domino-style. And nobody stole anything from my pockets in the process!
You also see it in people helping someone with a pushchair carry it down a set of stairs, or people stopping a woman who just wasn’t quick enough in holding on to the handrail from stumbling down the tube carriage.
Yes, London is a microcosm (I would argue several microcosms, given its sheer size), and yes, when I visit my boyfriend in the West Country, I very much notice the lack of noise and readily-accessible public transport system, but that doesn’t mean that I’m arrogant, or that I think London is perfect.
London is far from perfect – there are a LOT of idiots there and in many ways it’s because of that that we sometimes don’t suffer fools gladly, and therefore have to move fast to avoid these obstacles which would otherwise hold us up and stop us from continuing, in our own unique way, to make London ‘work’.
But please don’t take it personally, it’s just how we get through the day.