Yesterday I celebrated my first month in London.
Nothing to match those Londoners in the Xth generation, but a notable personal milestone nevertheless. Had anyone hinted even two years ago that I will be living and working in this massive machine of a city, I would have laughed them away straight. Me, in London? Working for a global integrated financial services firm (verdict: been brainwashed; sorry)? Could not be serious, sir. And yet this is where I find myself now.
31 day and counting, I am beginning to wonder if anybody around happens to be English, please? My real estate agents are an Indian and a Sikh; the friendly guy Maciej helping out at my beloved Esprit store near Oxford Circus is Polish (and there is no shortage of Poles around, thank you very much); the sales assistant Indre at the Body Shop Cheapside is from Lithuania; the myriad fellows handing out Christian leaflets daily at Stratford station all have distinctive African looks. Add to this our Analyst Training Programme crowd which could challenge the UN in diversity. Surely there are Brits, but these are nowhere near majority. Even less so for native Londoners. Hello?
To be honest, everybody’s background multiplicity is intimidating. I have got used to being (seeming?) international to others before. Russian-speaking Latvian with a Lithuanian dad, studying at a Swedish-speaking school in Finland, working in Washington/London/Frankfurt – all sounded cool enough. Sadly, not anymore. My personal experiences fade in a place like London. Take a colleague of mine, Hassan. Of Indian origin, born in Kenya, speaks fluent Hindi/Swahili, studied in Britain. Hat off – I could never attempt to beat that.
And think again if your English national dish is perfectly summarised by fish’n’chips (“chippies”). It better be curry. Ask any Londoner.