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LONDON - 2

In my last post I briefly touched upon the cosmopolitan nature of London and its infrastructure – I will elaborate further on them here; to keep my writing from swaying to unknown territory I will maintain an annotational style in this post.

Cosmopolitan/ Multicultural City
London is one of the world’s most multicultural, multiethnic and cosmopolitan cities. The existence of plethora of nationalities and ethnicities makes its experience even richer – more so there is high tolerance for different cultures and even accents, people make an effort to appreciate the differences between them (though there is a mild undercurrent of racism as well among few people) - all this makes an interaction in the city enjoyable.

The variety in ethnicities makes interesting linguistic situations here. Imagine a Russian girl behind the McDonalds counter telling an Indian – “be havbe only Vegitarian Mel(t)” and the Indian responding – “Yes! I want the Veggie Meal”.

Population vs. City

As a city London is the most populous in the UK, yet compared to other cities (Mumbai/New York) the population is much lesser while the city is spread out quite far outside the central town. Another good part in the city is the low sky line – except for the Canary Wharf Commercial area, most other commercial parts have buildings not more than 5 stories tall. Residential areas have even lower skyline, and simplex or duplex row houses is a norm. There are large parks right in the centre of the city and every locality has enough open spaces. However, being an old city, the roads are narrow but well maintained.

Commuting and Transport
London has a superbly dense network of underground-overground metro rail network – they call it ‘the underground’ (officially) or ‘the tube’ (informally) here. Its difficult to imagine the network, unless you see the tube map:

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It is almost as if another copy of the city above has been built under the surface in order that you can commute. No part of central London is farther than a few paces from the nearest tube outlet. Add to that the buses that commute and the tight integration between the two services (train tickets valid on buses – replacement bus services to nearest stations in case of a disruption) – you get an excellent public transport system. [There are a few negatives of the system, but that would be in another post]

To make such a dense transport network easy to travel one has to augment it with proper the availability of information. Transport for London does justice to this requirement – a Tube Map is free ‘pick-up’ from any tube station (and some round the corner grocery shops too keep a stock of them). The information boards and bulletins on stations are quite ubiquitous and efficient in keeping passengers informed about any Engineering Works or other delays. The BBC also runs a 5 minutes section in its bulletins on Transport information.

Finally, to encourage people to use the public transport 'Congestion Charge' is deployed on personal vehicles (mostly cars) which travel within certain boundaries of central London on weekdays. This also helps regulate traffic as congestion charges vary between different routes to the same location - busier roads have higher congestion charges as compared to others.

The City Heritage
As I had written in my previous post - what strikes you most on ‘entering’ London is the organised views that loom in front of you. It’s not just about organising traffic in lanes or having fences for homes – it’s about maintaining a uniform look within the city.
London is an old historical city – it has not only historical architectures but also old houses, old lanes – even old streets and pavements which give the city its ‘archaic’ flavour. While preserving all these, the city is also one of the most modern cities in the world.

To maintain the general look – even new buildings in the city are given a look similar to old buildings – red or yellow brick exteriors and white window frames –wherever you go in London (or UK) you find similar architectural style and looks for houses. I live in a place for Royal Arsenal which is a housing complex created out of an old Arsenal. Its amazing how similar the old-renovated buildings and freshly built buildings look!

The People
What I cannot stop mentioning is the people of London – varied, multicultural, multiethnic – but they all have some common features between them. These features are professionalism, passion, spirit and enthusiasm – these are people who have gathered from all over the world into this city to live a life that this city offers!*

Note: There are a lot of negatives of London which I have purposefully ignored in these two posts.

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