During my formative years I remember one of my friends remarking that it’s impossible to ever be lost in London because most of the time you never know where you are in the first-place.
Back then I was inclined to agree because despite living just ten miles from Central London I only sporadically ventured there, and when I did I often found myself feeling slightly disorientated by its relentless bustle and vast mazy topography.
Later though, as I worked in and around London, and travelled more outside of the UK, I came to appreciate London’s randomness as being part of its endearing charm; the ability to amble aimlessly around its meandering streets far preferable to the irksome intermittences walkers suffer on the streets of obsessively gridded cities like Buenos Aires. Continue Reading
A few weeks ago, as the sun dipped beyond Embankment and shadows crept across the Thames, my wife and I strolled down the South Bank and across Waterloo Bridge, as we had done almost exactly five years before on her first ever day in London.
Back in 2008 the walk was part of a cunning plan I had devised, a plan whose primary objective was that she’d be seduced by London – the clincher being the views from the bridge of Westminster to the south and St Paul’s to the east. Seemingly, said plan worked because within a year she had moved there permanently.
Yet, skip forward five years and it was I who was now the besotted, gawking tourist – not with my wife, mind, but the views of London (it’s ok she probably isn’t reading). Initially I was taken aback by the sight, somewhere in the distance over by London Bridge, of the latest phallic addition to the city’s skyline – a now fully erect Shard. But, it was also as if, having spent 18 months away from home, that I was seeing the beauty of London afresh with new eyes – just as my wife had five years earlier.
At that moment, I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be on such a beautiful, (mildly) warm summer’s evening than London. It was good to be home.
Mine is bigger than yours.
Only someone from the UK would move to Brazil, start a blog and then write their first post about the weather. Only someone from the UK would bother to write a sequel.
And this, I guess, doesn’t do much to challenge the depiction of us Brits as a bunch of grumps, whose approach to communicating with strangers – to whom they’d probably prefer not to have to talk to in the first place anyway – typically consists of half-hearted utterances lamenting our perennially mild and temperate climate.
Or perhaps that’s just me.
Yet, whilst we may be the weather-forecasting, small-talk champions of the world – let’s face it, there’s not much else we’re good at these days – the more time I spend in São Paulo the more I realise that we are not alone.
There are others.
For a start Brazilian football commentators seem to be more obsessed about British weather than we are. Next time you watch a Premier League game on Brazilian TV count how many times the commentators mention how cold or rainy it is – even when it’s not that cold or rainy. It’s enough to warrant some sort of drinking game.
My favourite example of this was a recent Champions League match wherein the ESPN commentator remarked upon some slight drizzle.
“And it’s 15 degrees in London, and it’s raining as usual”
Meanwhile, outside my window in São Paulo a bibilical storm was causing whole part of the city to grind to a halt with flash-floods.
“And the second half begins. It’s 15 degrees in London and it’s still raining a little.”
Indeed, just look at that drizzle.
Whilst Brazil played Argentina in the 2nd leg of the Super-Duper-Huge-Massive-Classico of South America on Wednesday night, Paulistanos had only just emerged from the slumber of their Super-Duper-Huge-Massive holiday weekend.
“Why was it so super-duper?” I hear you ponder.
Well, because it was a six day weekend, that’s why.
“But how? We want a six day weekend!”
With regards to the latter, I agree, it’d be lovely to have a six day weekend in the UK once in a while. For the former, however, it’ll take a little explaining.
Firstly, Brazil has both national and state-specific public holidays, which means that whilst Brazilians share a set number of public holidays they may also have additional ones depending upon which state they live in. So, as you can see in the table below, Paulistanos benefit from an additional three public holidays, on top of those which they share with all other Brazilians (don’t ask me what they get in other states as it took me bloody long enough to collate the ones for SP).
During the build-up to the Olympics, I was intrigued to read various guides intended for people visiting the UK during the games, about London and the British. Typically, all of them included the usual stereotypes about British politeness and etiquette, particularly with regard to our propensity to queue and apologise profusely for no reason.
As I pondered the reality of these stereotypes I also started think about how my daily interactions with strangers in São Paulo compare with those in the UK. Are the British really as polite as we’re made out to be? And how do Paulistanos compare? Well, let’s have a look… Continue Reading