Across the Pond: The London difference

Gwen Curtis-Ehrhart

(Photo courtesy of Gwen Curtis-Erhart)

Its hard to believe that we’ve been in the UK for over a month now; time seems vaguely suspended, as if I just arrived and yet I’ve been here forever. This city and the fast-paced London lifestyle has crept up and stolen a piece of my heart. I have truly become a Londoner.

It is easy to compare the differences of life here to life at Lawrence and in the United States, but myself and my fellow London Centre students have been gifted with an extraordinary term in England due to Royal Wedding and some exemplary weather. My favorite small moments throughout the trip have been those of leisure, where I could just step back a bit, breathe in and experience the London difference.

After leaving winter in Wisconsin, London has gifted us with week upon week of sunshine and temperatures in the mid to upper 60s and 70s — affectionately known as 17-24 degrees here! With no need to pull the Wellies out of the closet, my sandals have been making repeated trips around London’s many parks.

You may wonder what is so intriguing about a park: Surely parks are the same in the United States and United Kingdom? However, even the parks in London are instilled with a rich history that is reflected in their design. Most of the parks were formerly the backyards and hunting grounds of British royals, meaning that they are expansive, full of various terrain and often contain large bodies of water. Stepping into Hyde Park is like stepping into a completely different area in England. The hustle and bustle of traffic completely disappears very quickly once you enter, and a turn in any direction can take you to a small gazebo, a sloping lawn, grass shaded by tree or the large Serpentine, a lake and winding river that provides entertainment for visitors and water-fowl alike.

The amount of time people visit here is apparent by the domestication of the animals. You can always count on the swans and geese to venture over for bread, and the squirrels will eat out of your hand. This relaxed atmosphere seems to be the trend as we moved from a false-start summer through the bank holiday of Easter weekend and into the Royal Wedding.

I have never seen something cause more frenzy than this wedding. The media has been plaguing us with coverage, and convenience stores across the world have been stocking up with Will and Kate napkins, dish-ware, commemorative coins, ridiculous hats, earrings and hair-pieces. British flags are everywhere, including copies with the happy couple’s face planted in a heart dead-center — truly a striking image, I promise you. Their marriage seems to makes everyone in Great Britain happy to be British all over again.

However, this wedding didn’t just create a media hoopla. It brought the nation together for a day of celebration, relaxation and plain ol’ fun.

Families took their kids to see the newest princess, hundreds of street parties popped up across London and groups like the Lawrence London Centre hosted parties to eat, drink and be merry. Alongside all this leisure, there has also been the influx of tourists from across the globe, as well as some of the nuttier Londoners, those who were camping out along the wedding procession for upwards of three days before the ceremony. All types of languages can be heard as Europeans, Americans, New Zealanders, Africans and many others swarm into London, adding to the diversity of the city.

Even now, the night after the wedding, British flags are hung in people’s windows, speakers blare at street parties and the insane campers from yesterday become the pub entertainment for tonight as men in tiaras and women in tissue paper gowns prance around, celebrating the newest member of the royal family.

This past month has truly let London bond over sunny skies and extra bank holidays, and new beginnings. I am surprisingly moved by the collective joy held by England and the rest of the world. As all the tourists head back to their homes and the flags begin to disappear from the streets, I soak in remnants of the cheerful atmosphere; maybe that makes up the London difference.