Halloween here: seems like they celebrate it, but it’s not as big a deal as in the US. Kids had no themed activities at school that I know of (no parade, no party). But there are trick-or-treaters. We went to a friend’s party and they quickly ran out of the 50 candies they had. Walking there, I’d say one of every 5 houses had decorations out, and half of those had jack-o-lanterns. I’d heard some horror stories about how there’s more of an emphasis on trick than treat here, that if you have your lights on but no candy they’ll take revenge. We accidentally did that and came back to 2 strips of toilet paper on our front bushes. But it’s hard to tell if that was just the most half-hearted TP attempt ever or just strewn trash (of which there’s a lot on windy, post-rubbish-pickup days). Overall, not as big a deal, you can celebrate it or not.
I don’t really write about my day to day life here because I find it uninteresting. For the most part, it’s the same as when we were in Cupertino, just transferred to a new context. Kids wake up, we get them ready, we take them to school, pick them up, dinner at home, bed. Other than how we get to and from school, it’s remarkably unremarkable.
The transport is a bit of a hassle, though. If we had a car and there was no traffic, with our kids’ schools being 2 miles away, it would be maybe a 5 minute drive. But we have no car (yet – I’m considering it). And there’s crazy traffic in the mornings. Alternatively, it’s a 20 minute walk – if we were walking by ourselves. But walking that much with the kids is an exercise in frustration – they get tired of walking that much and we get harried because they’re so slow. We bought scooters for the kids (everyone here has them since there’s so much walking) but they’re not always feasible to use, especially on rainy days.
So I usually take Abby to her school. It’s about a 5 minute walk to the train station, one stop over, then another 5 minute walk. Jieun takes Joshua on the bus, which takes 30+ minutes, depending on the traffic, with about a 4 minute walk. Lots of walking and public transport. That’s our life here.
I take the tube after dropping Abby off to my office in central London, about a 20 minute ride with one transfer. They serve breakfast and lunch at work. Jieun has to pick up Joshua at noon, either take him home or do something with him, then come back to pick up Abby at 3:30. So the kid drop-offs / pickups alone are a lot of work for her. I take the tube back at night (coming home it’s a straight shot, no transfer) and walk 8 minutes to my place. And that’s our life. Not particularly exciting.
As with school, it’s the transport (or lack of it) that changes everything here. We can’t really grocery shop here, so we get it delivered (really common here – even the Korean grocery store delivers). If we need stuff more urgently, we walk to the local market, a 5-minute walk (or in a pinch, the convenience store, a 2-minute walk). It’s a hassle to go somewhere to eat, so whereas in Cupertino we might spontaneously eat out, here we more typically get delivery or take-away from a restaurant within walking distance. That limits (a lot) the variety of stuff we get on short notice.
That’s why I think lifestyle-wise, London is more similar to Seoul than Cupertino. Life in those 2 crowded cities is about the same.