A FAQ guide to London.London Study London, Fall 2011
One of the problems with writing three columns a month (besides actually remembering to submit them) is that it means that I can only deal with a few topics at a time. So, for this update I thought I’d try a little experiment and answer some of the questions I’m commonly asked. But then I remembered that nobody actually asks me questions. Fortunately, several felonies later, I managed to convince a fellow exchange student to participate in this column. Enjoy. (Note to the editor: The above paragraph is written in jest. No crimes were committed or permanent scarring caused in the making of this column. Or at least, no more than usual.)
Q: Are you going to Taser me again?
A: We’ve been through this. All you need to do is ask a couple of questions about life in London while I transcribe the connversation. You know, stuff you would have liked to know when you first moved here.
Q: And then you’ll untie me?
A: Um. Sure. Totally.
Q: You know this is insane, right.
Less of a verbal answer and more of a crackling sound of a Taser being turned on.
Q: Ok, ok. First question: What exactly does ’cheers’ mean? Everybody seems to say it.
A: Now that’s an interesting question. Cheers is one of those words. It’s used as a toast, a greeting, a farewell, as a thank you, and (the personal strangest, I‘ve witnessed) passing a stranger while walking into the men’s room. Therefore, after exhaustive research (Literally, I did no research. It sounded exhausting) I’ve reached the only logical conclusion: cheers can be substituted for virtually any word in the English language. In fact, oftentimes immigrants lacking English fluency communicate with only the ‘cheers,’ with only a fiendishly complex system of intonation to separate the meanings. It’s a bit like the Pokemon language, now that I think about it.
Q: So, basically, just guess?
Answer: It’s not that bad. In these situations, context is your friend. If a cashier says it, he is likely thanking you for your patronage while internally hoping you never return to his shop. If someone says it to you in Brixton, it translates roughly to, “I want to make you watch as I burn your entrails.” (A practice which I did not just invent for the sake of hyperbole but, believe it or not, actually dates back to medieval London. So there.) Of course, much like the Inuit have 30 words for snow to reflect its cultural importance, Brixton residents have roughly 2,000 words indicating their intense desire to inflict grievous bodily harm upon you personally. Some of the most common manners of expressing this are, bust a cap, cheers, and hello.
Q: You seem to rag on Brixton a lot. Is that really necessary?
A: No, not really. London does have its bad neighborhoods, but what large region doesn’t? Michigan has Detroit, New York has the Bronx, Hell has the 7th circle, and London has, well, the 7th circle of hell, but because of wacky British linguistics, it’s pronounced Brixton.
Q: I don’t believe it could really be as bad as that.
A: And I believe that isn’t really a question. Now look what you’ve done. You’ve completely ruined the structure of this column. I’m going to have to find a new way to format this since it’s no longer a question and answer structure. Or, I could grimly plunge ahead and hope nobody notices.
Q: How much money will I spend in London?
A: That’s a very good question. Short answer, a lot. London is a wildly expensive city at the best of times. Exactly how much varies. For example, do you tend to spend money on frivolous things, like food?
Q: Like fast food?
A: Like the nutrient laden biological material necessary for human life.
Q: Don’t most people?
A: Apparently not in London. If you’re committed to the whole eating thing, I recommend the Oliver Twist approach.
Q: The Oliver Twist approach?
A: Stand in front of a mirror and practice repeating the phrase, “Please sir, I’d like some more.” If people don’t beat you, you’re doing it wrong. For further advice, please keep an eye out for the upcoming column “Top Ten Trash Bins To Scavenge From,” and “Things That Are Probably Sure Edible.”
Q: All right. You hit word count. Will you untie me now? I’m starting to lose feeling in my hands.
A: I’d love to, but since my contract demands two columns submitted by today, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until after Part II goes live.
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