Urban life always has its challenges, juxtaposed with its perks, regardless of where in the world you are but there are both some distinctive differences and similarities between life in the metropolises of the United States and the cities of Britain.
Most American city dwellers are well accustomed to the sight of miniature masked bandits rummaging through their property on a regular basis. The distinctive chittering, purring sounds of dumpster diving Raccoons is not something you will have to deal with over in Britain but what you may well find is that the urban fox can be just as much a pest. Typically not as aggressive in their approach to sorting through your waste, these furry fella’s have a far more stealthy manner when in the bins of Brits but they’re just as much a nuisance when you find rubbish strewn all over the place the next morning and a little ‘waste’ of their own that they’ve, oh-so-kindly, left for you.
Trains: Compare London Underground to the New York Subway and you might instantly think that the Big Apple has the immediate advantage solely because of age. The London Underground is the first metro system of its kind in the world and as such is, in parts, an ageing Victorian monolith that is a monument to a grand empire that no longer exists. The Subway is far newer and so you might assume far more up to date and flexible in its ability to adapt to modern situations such as overcrowding and internet connectivity, this is not necessarily the case.
So ingrained in the cultural mind-set of the Londoner is the Tube that every Mayor that gets into power comes up with a brilliant new idea to update, modernise, extend, clean, re-invigorate or do whatever else to it just to make sure it’s still going strong. As such, many lines and carriages are newer and shinier and have Wi-Fi and all sorts of exciting things which, frankly, puts the Subway to shame a little bit. The problem with this is that Londoners have become so reliant on it that the people who work on the underground have the ability to hold the city to ransom. Every time a strike is threatened Londoners shudder with dismay and large parts of the city simply grind to a halt.
Taxi Cabs: British ones are black with drivers who like to talk too much, overcharge you if you’re not local and will offer you an unmarked receipt so you can fiddle work expenses if it’s for a business trip but they know where they’re going and won’t drive like lunatics to get you there. It takes between two and four years to gain ‘The Knowledge’ to be an official London cabbie and you have to learn routes and have a detailed knowledge of over 25,000 streets. American ones are yellow, with drivers who don’t talk at all but just have the radio on full blast playing the worst music imaginable. It takes a 3-day course to become a Taxi driver in NY and boy does it show with all the honking, swerving and general reckless approach to life. Having said that, they are a darn sight cheaper than London taxis.
Buses: Big red ones in London and usually smaller green or blue ones for the rest of the country in the UK. Drivers are usually the unfriendliest of people on earth who just like to take your money and drive. Night bus drivers are worse; they are similar to the New York cabbie with their insane driving where they know they are the biggest thing on the road so everyone else should watch out. There’s much more variety in the American bus situation, in size, shape, colour and personality of the person driving it.
It would be unfair and downright wrong to start arguing about who has the better history and culture. It’s silly and causes pointless divisions but there is one thing about British museums that make them a whole lot better than their American counterparts and that is that they are free! Yes, for the most part, all of the significant or major museums are free in Britain. You might, from time to time, have to pay for a specific exhibition but otherwise Museums are funded by public donations and the government. The downside to this is that they will try and squeeze every last penny out of you in the gift shop. Ouch!
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By Vincent JS Wood