Thursday, 13 November 2008

London Polite

Periodically, what strikes me about London, and maybe all British people, is their politeness. No – wait – let me rephrase. The average person isn’t outwardly polite; maybe because the average person doesn’t talk. What strikes me though is the apologetic way in which signs are written. For instance, in case of smoking:

“Due to laws, you are unable to smoke in this area. We apologize and ask that you not smoke. Sorry for the inconvenience this may cause.”

In North America this is what you would see:

“No smoking”. Period. Nothing else.

At the laundrette that I go to, a sign hangs above the washers:
“We politely ask you to refrain from consuming alcohol in the laundrette. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.”

A comparable North American sign would read:
“Alcohol not allowed.” Simple. End of story.

In terms of litter, London has asked that:

“You please not litter, and please put your rubbish into a properly marked bin.” Polite.

In North America the equivalent would read:

“$500 fine for littering” Not polite, and with a threat.

When it comes to construction, particularly street construction, you see carefully placed signs that ensure the safety of the average pedestrian. Case in point, directly outside of my hostel, the sidewalk (footpath) has been excavated. And I do mean excavated – what remains is a rather substantial bottomless hole. Surrounding that hole is a carefully placed barricade (which is about 3 feet tall). Next to that barricade is a sign that shows pedestrians the proper place in which to walk. This is just in case a careless, or rather stupid individual should accidently climb the four foot barricade, whereby falling into the hole, causing severe injury to themselves. With the sign, all doubt is cast aside; you know that climbing the barricade will result in pain or death. That is polite.

In North America – there would be pylons…maybe a barricade…but still potential to fall into the hole. And any idiot who misses the pylons and barricades deserves to.

So really, all I am saying is that at the heart of it all, the British are careful about inconveniencing people. Even with all of my complaints about London, I kind of like that.

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