Cultural assimilation. It’s the way forward. (Which way is forward?)

Having lived here in London for over 4 years now I think I’ve gotten used to many of the local customs & behaviours, and to some extent modified my ludicrous Australian behaviour patterns to fit more closely with some of the English sensibilities presented to me on a daily basis.

One of the aspects of social interaction here I’ve never really gotten my head around is the near-constant discussion had with everyone you meet revolving around current weather conditions.  But even more baffling than that, at least in my mind, is the near-compulsory closing gambit for any evening’s activities involving more than 2 people, whereby the autumn moments of the conversation are signalled by one person piping up with the phrase: So, which way are you getting home then?

Admittedly it’s more a London than an England thing, and it’s endlessly bewildering to me.  My normal answer is “I’ll get the tube back to Camden”, which – if the interrogator is persistent – will be followed with “What, Victoria line to Warren Street then change?”… If there’s someone else there familiar with the lie of the land they might tune in with “Oh no, it’s easier to change at Euston – you just walk straight across the platform!”, and all will nod sagely.

I’ve tried to understand why this happens almost every time people gather – one theory I came up with was that it was a means of prolonging a dying conversation, and that the protagonists would sooner exchange transport ideas than part ways on their journeys home – it being preferable to engage in smalltalk than to actually embark on the trip.  This didn’t explain why the gambit would be invoked on a quite well-fuelled discussion, and I modified my theory such that it was a means of signalling to all participants that departure was imminent, and there would only be a few minutes of conversation left: perhaps a quiet warning so that nobody would launch into another time-consuming or contentious topic.  This seemed to work OK, and parallels with the model that pubs use when they want to close here – calling last drinks, then 10-15 minutes later ringing a bell, indicating clearly to the punters that in another 10 or so minutes they shouldn’t be surprised to be thrown out whether they’re ready to leave or not.

Another idea which I briefly entertained was that London is quite a big and confusing place where there are myriad ways of getting from one spot to another, and therefore its occupants must be constantly probing their friends and new acquaintances for any kind of information on the best way of reaching a particular location, so that they could store it up for later use without having to actually explore that part of the city themselves.  I ruled this out however after coming to the realisation that the transport system is so volatile from hour to hour that such information could easily become quite useless quite quickly.

It occurred to me that maybe there was an ongoing campaign by the residents of this city to try to figure out what the rules to Mornington Crescent might be, and should one of these people find a new route between 2 spots then they would scurry home and report it back to the Rule Decryption team with a hopeful tone in their voice, praying that this transition may be the final key to understanding Stovold’s 2nd Amendment (1953).

After a while it became clear however that I was the only person who had noticed this convention taking place, and was certainly the only one bothered by it – which is where I realised exactly what was going on: every time transport & routing was mentioned Mr Brain went “LA LA LA LA LA LA DON’T CARE DON’T CARE DON’T CARE”, etc. because I’ve got next to no sense of direction whatsoever, or usually any idea where I actually am.

I don’t really have a concluding remark to tie up this post.