Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 12/05/2022
We returned from London Saturday evening, a city I love and I’ve been visiting since the 70s. I’ve always considered it a “city/state,” sort of like Singapore, because it’s so thoroughly international and urbane.
Someone greeted us at Heathrow and escorted us through the formalities, which were minimal and electronic, to the train for baggage claim. Although identical to hundreds of other airport trains, there was something different, and I finally realized that everyone had neatly lined up where the various doors would open. (I was told that an Englishman, waiting alone for a train, would still form an “orderly queue.”) There was no jockeying for position as you find in the US.
With the exceptions of Rules (the oldest restaurant in London) and the Guinea Grill, I’m not a fan of English cuisine. But the city is so diverse you can find superb food that is French, Italian, Pakistani, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Thai, and so forth.
The economy at the moment is dreadful, the Royal Family controversial, and the pound close to par with the dollar. But people are infallibly polite. Taxi drivers don’t expect tips and are appreciative when they receive one. The cabin service on British Air in first class is like dealing with the staff at Downton Abbey. On the roads, people courteously merge, allow drivers to turn in front of them, and consistently use directional signals.
With the huge amount of traffic on small London streets, the economic fragility at the moment, the continuing mixed feelings about Brexit, and the loss of the beloved Queen, there remains a decency and cordiality that is impressive.
I don’t know that people can say the same visiting New York.
I think what is British about me are my feelings and awareness of others and their situations. English people are always known to be well mannered and cold but we are not cold—we don’t interfere in your situation. If we are heartbroken, we don’t scream in your face with tears—we go home and cry on our own. —Michael Caine
I love the English people—if you don’t want to speak, you don’t speak. And I’m quite like that sometimes, too. —Sophie Cookson