Two Metropolitan Cities, Two Worlds
Program Semester and Year
My first month in London has been treating me extremely well. I have adjusted to my new life here and have made new friends, learned new things and been exposed to new cultures. London, and in particular the East End are incredibly diverse spaces. However, it is clear that there are strict societal splits just as there are back in America. What is striking to me is the similarities London has with my home city of New York.
The neighborhood we are in, Mile End, reminds of the neighborhood I briefly lived in when I was home from college over my breaks. The neighborhood, Jackson Heights, is one of the most diverse places in America. You can walk down the street and hear English, Thai, Hindi, Arabic and Spanish among other languages. The same is true over here. This neighborhood brings people of all different languages and culture together. Two different countries yet two very similar, multicultural neighborhoods!
Needless to say, the food is amazing! One of my favorite things to do is go to markets of different nationalities and ethnicities and buy up their ingredients and make some food of my own! I even bought an Indian cookbook on this note. It’s a super cheap way to eat your way through London. I love to cook and this is such a great outlet for that. One night, my friend Cindy from Beijing taught me how to cook a variety of Chinese dishes and she fed our whole flat! The next day, I went to a Chinese market and bought the same spices she had. I’ve been cooking Chinese food the same way she has for almost two weeks now. My Norwegian flatmate gave us all a taste of Norwegian cheese her dad brought with him when he visited her. I’ve been reciprocating as well, cooking my whole flat homemade pizza and showing them what Bagels are. I even travel half an hour often twice a week just to buy good bagels at a Jewish deli near here. All for a taste of home! Food tells stories and breaks down barriers, it’s great to see how this is working in my life here.
Not all neighborhoods of London are like the East End, however. Over the weekends, my friends and I have been exploring all different neighborhoods of London. We spent some time at the National Gallery and walked around. The neighborhood was very posh with small touristy shopping stretches. The same is true with the neighborhoods by Hyde Park and by the Tate Modern. This reminded me of the neighborhoods around the Met and Central Park back home. The diversity is still there, but much less so and the area is quite a bit “nicer.” For example, here in the East End there are still signs of grittiness with graffiti everywhere, homelessness, and drug dealers openly dealing in the park. The neighborhoods I saw near those other sights do not have these issues. The same is true for London and New York. It is clear that tradeoffs remain regarding neighborhoods and that there are still societal divisions that are hard set here in London.