Monday, March 31, 2008

Trying to fit in with Londoners



I was in London at the weekend, for a meeting about the launch of a gay magazine that I'm doing a bit of writing for. I always find London (and Londoners) a bit stressful. Because I am from "the north", many Londoners instinctively look down on me. It doesn't matter if you're a billionaire with a Nobel Peace prize - if you live in Sheffield, they still feel superior. All people who live in cities - especially capital cities tend to make me feel like Mr Country Mouse, having fallen into Fagin's Den, surrounded by little 21st century Artful Dodgers.

So I've developed a number of techniques of coping with Londoners over the years. These include:

a) making fun of "the north" and my northerner status in a self-deprecatory way. This makes them feel validated. I try not to tell them my true feelings about London, which are usually mixed at best. For example, when I arrived in London, I was instantly struck down with a feeling of dread and depression - the noise, the crowds, the bad smells, the filth in the streets, the confident extroverts... "If there's one place I hate most in the world," I growled, "One place which sums up everything I hate about London... it's Soho..." Needless to say, I ended up being invited to Soho by my new friends for a trip round the bars. I had to pretend I liked it.

b) telling them that I "hate everything". Londoners like to project a jaded, seen-it-all, worldly air and tend to get impatient with ingenues, once their initial exoticism has worn off (after 5 minutes). So it's best to beat them at their own game here. It keeps them on their toes.

c) Pointing out that "this bar/building/film/restaurant already looks dated or will look dated in 2 weeks".

d) Giving everything an ironic sheen. If you couch everything in ambiguity and ambivlance then it at least keeps their attention up.

e) Making references to things that are either very very new or very old. Londoners like to keep up to date with the latest trends, or be ahead of the trends. Telling them about something new will get them excited. You can only talk about old stuff if it's at least 20 years old and has therefore recently become fashionable in terms of being "kitsch" or "classic". However, you have to be careful here as recycled trends also have a shelf life and you could be talking about last month's revival which is now naff again.

f) Not getting impatient when they are late. And late they are. I have a "thing" about time-keeping. If I am not on time, I start getting panicky and worrying about keeping other people waiting. Many Londoners like to arrive fashionable late, or rather, they just aren't that concerned about things like time. I tend to get a bit sulky and passive-aggressive if people are late and keep me waiting. It feels like a social slap in the face. However, when I'm in London, I try and relax this rule - even arriving for things late myself (although I'm always the first one there still). So when the powerpoint presentation I was due to see didn't start until an hour after it was supposed to, I simply beemed serenely and had a bagel with smoked salmon on it. (I normally don't touch the stuff, but in London everyone eats this sort of food and I feel lucky to escape going to a Sushi bar).

I gave myself a score of 7 out of 10 for my social interactions with Londoners during the weekend. I took off three points because a) I asked someone if they were carrying a photograph of Myra Hindley around with him - it turned out that it was the photo on his subway pass. And b) I confessed that I had never taken cocaine and then acted a bit surprised when someone told me he had last taken it a few hours ago.

Actually, the people I met were really nice and intelligent. So I guess I'll have to revise some of my rules.

5 comments:

overnighteditor said...

When one is tired of trying to tolerate Londoners...

Good post. For a Northerner. :)

elenaberenice said...

"...It doesn't matter if you're a billionaire with a Nobel Peace prize - if you live in Sheffield, they still feel superior..."

:) I liked it!

Flaming Nora said...

Ever had a "cut out and keep" moment when reading a blog post? I've just had one reading this. Not only am I going to cut it out and keep it, I'm going to wave it in the face of Londonders. On the tube. In rush hour. In Soho.

Trashbinder said...

London leaves me cold in many ways.

Parties where people who live and work in London look at you with pity or indifference.

People who ask what life is like in Leicestershire, as if it's Mars.

Folk whose career and social climbing is ultra important to the point that the whole image and lifestyle they portray is no longer actually the real person.

Twenty-somethings who are so hung on how everyone else perceives them that their behaviour is controlled beyond belief. Get over yourself, no-one really gives a shit or spends as much time thinking about you as you believe to be true.

Overpriced everything and zillions of people pretending that no-one is in their personal space.

London? Not for me love.

Adrian said...

Aw, we're not all bad in London. Just like you're not all the same in 'the North'...