London Scribbles

Travelling has been the central focus of the blog so far but I would like to take a break from that to share some of the oddities of life here that we have noticed. There are some things you can expect to be different in another country but it can still take you by surprise because you don’t know how exactly it will be different. And other things are completely unexpectedly different.


I’m going to start with something trivial and unexpected. I consider Fanta like Coke in that I expect it to be the same all over the world. While the taste is the same, this orange flavoured drink is YELLOW in the UK!


The oranges here are in fact orange – in case you were wondering.

PIN numbers

This was truly a surprise for us. The level of internet uptake in NZ is quite high but I still imagined that I would be taught a thing or two about the power of online connectivity when I moved to a “world city” such as London. It was quite a shock then, to realise the process for setting up a PIN number on EFTPOS/debit cards. A while ago I wrote about the debacle we went through to get a bank account so this is a continuation from that point. After the account is set up you are advised that you will receive your card AND YOUR PIN in the post. They will arrive separately – for security. So it takes about a week for the first letter to arrive which could be your pin or it could be your card. A couple of days later, the other half will come in the post too. You then need to take your card to an ATM and enter the pin they have given you to activate everything. After this, you can change your pin at the ATM. We are still trying to make sense of this coming from ASB (and possibly most other NZ banks) where you receive a card and set a pin through your online banking account. It seems like a much more efficient way to do it and I’m not sure how secure it is to send it all in the post at any rate. Logging into online banking already requires entering two passwords so I would presume it is a safe medium to do it – but what do I know? What we have learned is that the British don’t want their postal system to go the way of NZ Post so everyone sends letters back and forth to keep postman Pat out of redundancy. It slows things down considerably but at least the postal system is safe.


Nandos isn’t equal to McDonald’s and I consider it in the fancy but still fast food category. It is something like Oporto to me in that its appearance resembles fast food but it comes slowly and at a higher price. At our closest mall there is a Nandos which we visited reasonably soon after we moved to the area. We were surprised to find an expansive restaurant. Yes, a restaurant. We waited at the door to be taken to a table. After that it went back to being regular Nandos in that we had to go up to the counter to place our order, and all plates, cutlery and condiments were self-service. There were a reasonable number of wait staff for such an establishment however, so tables were always cleared quickly and the area was clean enough to take it a step further from ‘fast food’. As with many places here, they also serve alcoholic beverages. In another weird twist, they had bottomless frozen yoghurt available.



Lunch options

Something I often wished Auckland had more of, was places to buy salad for lunch. Most Americanised metropolitan areas will have clusters of chain stores serving up quick and healthy lunches to CBD workers. In Auckland I would say the easiest “healthy” option would be sushi. I have eaten my fair share of Sushi Pac, Uni Sushi and yes, even St Pierre’s Sushi, while working/studying in town and I still love it (excluding St Pierre’s). Sometimes it would have been nice to be able to grab a quick salad but that is difficult in Auckland. I really disliked Tank which provide very average salads for a high price, and they take forever to make it too, so no points on the board at all. In London, city workers like to have healthy foods at their fingertips just as much as anywhere else and the multitude of chain stores have answered the call. I was surprised to find shop after shop serving salads, sandwiches and soups which are prepacked so you just walk in, choose want you want and take it to the counter to pay. It’s incredibly quick and surprisingly good. Chains I have seen include Pret, Eat and Pod. There is also Wasabi which serves sushi and other vaguely Japanese inspired foods, and Itsu which also tries to serve something which I gather to be long the lines of Japanese food. Sandwiches and salads definitely reign supreme here along with soups, particularly as the weather cools. Fresh seafood produce doesn’t seem as readily available here which might explain the low level of sushi penetration. It may also be due to the fact that there is less distinction between different types of oriental cuisine here. Needless to say, as a fickle human, I do miss good and cheap sushi. I’m still enjoying sandwiches and salads that don’t break the bank though!

Cinema pre-show advertising

We finally got around to watching a movie in London and perhaps rather fittingly, it was Spectre. As an aside, it was very cool to watch a movie and recognise areas of London where it was filmed. The film itself was enjoyable enough with plenty of locations to keep you interested. It was so very long though!

Anyway, our session was 12pm so we hurried to the cinema and were happy to see the ads had only just started playing when we entered the theatre and found our seats. As the ads and movie trailers progressed, I began to feel as though there was a lot more content than I’m used to. The cinema lights eventually dimmed but my excitement was short lived because more trailers followed and ads were shown for what felt like random things such as internet providers, banks and Facebook. It turns out the pre-show program was THIRTY MINUTES long. The movie didn’t get going until 12:30pm! I completely understand how people can finish their snacks before the movie even starts. So many trailers all melded together and there were some movies I thought might be interesting at the time but I can’t remember them now due to overstimulation.

No salt on chips

Some of my close friends know that I usually scrape salt off chips at fast food restaurants because I find they are too salty to be palatable. I no longer have to do this because most places that serve fries here don’t put salt on at all! Salt is an add-to-taste kind of thing here which is great for me. I’m not yet sure what led to this norm so if you know or have an idea, please share!

The observations above are obviously rather selective. There are a great number of things which are different that we could go into, but that would take too long. These are just a few things that come to mind which we weren’t told about before we came here. This coming weekend we are heading off again for a weekend in Madrid. I look forward to sharing our adventures with you all soon!

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