Arriving in London marked my seventh week abroad. During my month and a half in Europe I have had several experiences that forced me out of my comfort zone, many of which involved transportation. Needless to say, I was concerned about getting around London. The customs worker stamping my Visa warned me that I “looked like someone who was going to get lost,” which did not help with my lack of confidence in my ability to navigate the city. This fear is why the bulk of my first impressions of London revolve around the tube.
My first time riding the tube was Monday morning, and I walked into the Holbrook tube station on Monday feeling nervous. Weird gusts of wind hit me as I walked through the tunnels towards the train platform, and when the subway came it flew into the station at a terrifyingly fast speed. As I got on the tube and sped off towards our next station, I was still dubious. The car was crowded and reeked of unpleasant smells. However, after I got to my stop and swiped out of the tube, I realized how relatively painless the whole process was. The tube had an easy to read map, and there were a variety of apps instructing which lines to take to get to each destination. I didn’t need to walk far to get to a tube stop, with several located walking distance from my apartment. Payment wasn’t an issue either with a prepaid oyster card. The stations were crowded and the cars smelled bad, but getting from point A to point B was as simple as looking at a map on a phone screen or reading a tube map.
This ease of transportation is not something I was perceiving to take for granted. During my spring term class in Copenhagen, I got lost more times than I could count trying to navigate the city’s streets by bicycle. During the two weeks I traveled in between, navigating rail lines and pass prices in different languages, as well as ensuring I had enough cash to pay for transit made getting around different cities hectic. In some ways, the convenience of the tube serves as a metaphor for the ease of London itself. Despite the posh accents of the city’s inhabitants, driving on the opposite side of the road, ample green spaces, and frequent discussion of the weather (as discussed in Watching the English) London bears a resemblance to New York with it’s underground rail system and primary language being English. I’m excited about the tube and everything else London seems to have to offer, and I can’t wait to call it my home for the next six weeks.