London speaks more than 300 languages. It is indeed a boundless container of people, who the city has prized with a discreet and unyielding character, softening, on the other hand, their temperament and inclinations. So, despite the fact that you can’t describe the British as extroverted and out-going, they nevertheless show a greater capacity for extemporaneous friendliness; the taste, and the pleasure, for exotic cuisine, as well as the endurable patience to understand broken English. A kind of courtesy that is well-spread, and not solely formal, winds through the streets. British are very polite. In a restaurant, you will have to say thank you when you get the menu, thank you when you place the order, thank you when get your dishes, thank you when the waiter takes away the plates and even thank you when you pay! You’ll have to say “excuse me” if you want to pass someone and “I’m sorry” if you accidentally touch someone. British people even say sorry if you stand on their toes! This reassures everyone – even the most timid tourist – that he will never be left alone. This way everyone feels heartened, as he sense that the English language is for many locals here, like for himself, just a vector of communication, free of any cultural implications. Those English who are not tourists represent a rather vital trait d’union between their wonderful culture, and their daily life. In the north European metropolis, one feels like an evolved citizen and rests assured by homologated looks. Department stores with a sophisticated outline, illuminated with ultraviolet rays, have washed away their old smell of naphthalene. Away from the legendary Scottish textiles, away from the strong greyish Irish wool, away from the liberty flowers wallpapers painted in pastel colours, leaving the streets to their brightness and sounds. The sense of anonymity conveyed by these big shopping centres, which are the same everywhere, does not seem to bother any Italians. On the contrary, the Italians here covetously look for Gap, Jisgaw, H&M or any of the well-stocked shops, selling all kinds of food, like Selfridges or Mark&Spencer – still unheard of in Italy – which lead a more refined and exclusive purchase, all over the streets of South Kensington. Crowded without causing a sense of disorder, coloured and yet sober, animée but not fretful, set up to be a modern city – London is definitely not mechanic. Mistakes are human and tolerated here and they are perceived as one of the many exceptions to our daily lives. A notice indicates the opening hours of the underground customer service, and yet at the scheduled time no one is on duty. Self-sufficiency is a necessary talent and it is directly proportional to that sense of equanimity that affects British minds and which some define “indifference”.
Written by Cinzia Pierantonelli
Translated by Rocco Massarelli