London is a wonderful city. It is full of diversity and for the most part I do marvel at its ability to accept and assimilate so many different cultures and backgrounds. But I would be lying to you if I said that you would never have a “negative” experience during your time here.
Let me illustrate with two recent examples. The last time I was here on a visit I was walking down Shaftsbury Avenue on my way to pick up tickets to a showing of Monty Python’s Spamalot, when a loud, possibly inebriated, Englishman yelled out at me “Ay Paki!” Now startled as I was, I turned to face him, not knowing how to respond, before I turned and kept walking on to my destination. At the time I barely even knew what to make of the experience, yet alone to appreciate the deeper racial undertones of this “passing” experience.
Last night, as I was seeing some friends off on the main road at Mile End a man walking by shouted something, seemingly pointed at me. Inquisitively I faced him and asked “Sorry?” His response to this was to pull the earphones from his ears and yell out “What?!” “I’m sorry, I thought you were saying something to me,” I responded. His response was, in a most inordinately rude way, to scream back. “I ain’t talking to you, keep walkin!” He persisted and yelled again, “Keep walking m***er f****r!” Taken aback, I instantly moved away from him.
Now, this is not the everyday Londoner that you will encounter. I do not presume to judge, but maybe these particular gentlemen were not in the best way, and are far from a fair representation of the people of this city. For the most part, I have found Londoners to be hospitable and welcoming. Most certainly my interaction with the administrative and teaching staff of my college always proved to be a most positive and encouraging experience, and I do my best to push such memories from recollection. In fact, mere moments after encountering that rather rude black gentleman with the rude disposition, I had a casual and cheerful conversation with the Bangladeshi proprietors of a fried chicken shop as I purchased some wings for a midnight snack.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is, don’t let random or one-off experiences color your appraisal of this city and its people. Chances are you will face discrimination or prejudice wherever you go. This is just the world we live in. We cannot expect everyone to be perfect. I’m sure, if we really thought about it, we are from it ourselves. Hate and discord is a truly unfortunate side effect of a multi-cultural and myriad culture such as London’s. People do not always express their discomfort with the new or the unfamiliar with the most civil or welcoming of responses. But have faith. And have patience.
As newcomers to this culture and this city, open your mind to new experiences, and keep it open despite any such encounters.