It saddens me how uninteresting my thoughts are nowadays. I have no insight to offer, and the quality of my writing isn’t good enough to make up for the lack of substance. But whatever. I feel like I’m coming out of a period in my life where I haven’t been able to think as much as I need to. This move has inspired me to reconsider what I do with my time, and I’ve unsubscribed from a bunch of periodicals and RSS feeds and eliminated other cruft to free up time to do more important stuff, including reflection, even if it’s boring. Fortunately, no one reads this.
One reason why I think the London stuff is boring is because it’s just not that different from the U.S. I’ve always loved Dave’s expat thoughts because they’re pretty insightful about the contrasts between societies. I don’t have much insight because the contrasts are a lot more subtle.
But they are there. I think the most difficult thing about being in a foreign place is not knowing how things work and not knowing how to figure that out. Like, and this is trivial, but it’s one of many trivial things that come up during the day – I haven’t figured out how one sends mail here. There are no mailboxes. Do I have to go to a post office? Where do I get stamps? And how do you address the mail (in particular, the return address)? Search engines are surprisingly unhelpful.
But whatever, not a huge deal, I can just ask my coworkers. Harder is figuring out stuff I can’t ask them about. Like, I need an Asian haircutter. White people (in general) just don’t know how to cut Asian hair as well. How do I find one in London? I prefer Vietnamese places in the states so I tried searching for Vietnamese hair salons – nothing. Tried searching for Vietnamese towns, or Little Saigons, nothing. How do you figure that out? I ended up going to Chinatown and wandering around to find the cheapest place. And it was cheap – £10 for a cut with shampoo before and rise after. But in general, not knowing how to figure stuff out, who to ask, or how to phrase the search query – that’s the hardest part.
Which gets back to people like Dave in truly foreign countries. I have no idea how he handles it, not knowing and not knowing how to know.
One other weird thing about England – the newspapers. I’m one of those dinosaurs who still reads the physical newspaper daily. I wanted to find one here to read as well. The problem is, there’s no real UK equivalent to US newspapers. The most popular newspaper in London is the Sun, which has almost twice the daily circulation of the New York Times. It’s trash. Filled with gossipy stories and topless girls in every issue. It’s mindboggling that it’s socially accepted. Other papers don’t have the topless girls but they’re all gossipy tabloids. It’s near impossible to find a “serious” newspaper. So I’m kind of at a loss as to where to get my London news. Seriously, is that not insane? Can you imagine if the Wall Street Journal (like the Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch) had topless girls in every paper? What kind of country is this?