Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Preparing your children for London

Yes,
It's a good idea to prepare them.

This summer we spent 2 months in the UK. 4 weeks were spent in London. My glorious much loved London.

My son is 13. My daughter is 10.

My son... Well. He didn't like London. At all.

Seriously.
You read that right, Should I retype it.
Okay.

My son didn't like London.

HOW? CAN. THIS. BE?

Let me give you a quick little synopsis. I travel to London, and other countries, quite regularly, like more than twice a year, I love to travel. And recently, I have included my children. They LOVE to fly, they love to travel, and the seriously love to explore. This was their first trip out of the United States though. They loved that experience, they loved the plane ride, they loved sight seeing and they loved all of the cool places we went in London. They loved Ireland and they loved Corby (A smallish town, in Northhamptonshire),

So what's the problem you ask?

First keep this in mind, being a typical American family, we live in the suburbs, we come from Austin, a good sized city, but my children have never used public transportation. If we want to go somewhere, we drive. Most of America does. Most places are so spread out, and so far away, we just hop in our car and drive from store to store, from school to school. We sight see... We travel. We rent more cars. Sure, we do walk... But we don't use public transportation. At all. We have never needed to. In fact, I can only think of one person, that I personally know, that takes the bus. Everyone else owns a car. You can't exactly fit an entire family on the back of your bike, not to mention that Texas is a very HOT state, very few people want to ride a bike in 100 degree heat.

That being said, I told my children all about London.

But I left one thing out, I didn't even think about.

The crowds.

My son absolutely freaked out the first time we got on the tube (If you don't know, that's the underground, public subway system in London). He said people were "touching" him, and by touching, he meant they were brushing against him. I was actually taken back, and told him they weren't trying to be rude, they were all trying to get on the train before it left, and that many people were trying to fit into one smallish area.

No bueno.

At every single opportunity, he wanted to take the bus. Also a new form of transport, but he felt some how less violated. He also loved being at the top of the double deckers. I have used the bus on many occasions in London, but only to a few places, I mostly use the underground, if I can, as it's fast. This trip though, I learned the bus system pretty well.

It wasn't just the crowded underground trains, he didn't like the huge crowds in general.

You should have seen his face when he saw the crowd of people at Oxford Circus, he actually looked at me wide eyed and said "Mom we aren't getting off here are we??"
Here is the crowd...

Looking at this photo now, I do think to myself, "That's a lot of people", but it's summer in London. It's a busy city on the coldest and wet days, in the middle of winter. So you can imagine, summer is a sea of endless human bodies!
No matter what part of London you're in...

We could barely move in the Natural History Museum

Because I'm absolutely in lust with London, I have never considered any of the "bad" sides when addressing visiting this great city. I told my children about the phenomenal history, the culture, the tourist sites, the buildings, the diversity and the people... I did even tell them about the underground trains, but alas, I forgot to mention just how vast and crowded London is. It just never occurred to me, that it might be a problem.  

My son wants to go back to England, but he doesn't want to visit London. He said "There are too many people". When I think about London, from his point of view, I can see what he means. My guy doesn't like crowds of people to start with, he's kind of a home body. I think this is mostly due to him being ill for so many years, until we recently discovered he had a dairy allergy, he was honestly sick almost daily. Poor guy. And though he's feeling really great these days. He still detests crowds. And well... that's okay. Some of us love the Country life, and some of us love the beach. And then there are some of us, that don't mind feeling like a herd of cows being rounded up, when the train pulls into whatever tube station, you are lucky enough to be standing in.

Live and Learn.

If you are planning a trip to London with your children, and they or you have never been to a city of millions, You will be bumped, brushed against and sometimes shoved. On the tube you will most likely either have a butt or armpit in your face, especially if you hit the train around rush hour (take my advice and miss that time of day) and you will run into crowds of hundreds and hundreds of people, especially in the summer. These are things I don't mind. Because the pros in London, far outweigh the cons. 

As of 2015, there are 8.63 million people living in London, that doesn't count the people that commute in for work. Compare that to where you currently live, and decide how that stacks up. Then prepare your children accordingly!

I hope you're having a fantastic week!
Tammy

10 comments:

  1. Oh I so agree... the pros totally outweigh the cons! So funny, I would never have thought a kid wouldn't like London for that reason. We thought the tube was a great adventure and so handy. But you're right, in the States, everyone drives from A to B. So different. Your son needs to visit the out of the way places in Yorkshire. No one will brush past him there. :-)). Have a wonderful week, Tammy! xo

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  2. I'm with your son, I don't like London either, too crowded! I like some of the things that go on there though! (especially musicals and plays and art galleries). In my county there are 170,000 people and 25,000 in my little town! The idea of 8 million people scares me!

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  3. Yes - I have to agree, London does have a bit of a crowding issue. It is a shame because it is so wonderful in most other respects. I am with your son on this one - crowds can be scary! Hopefully another time this experience will have helped to desensitized him to it though.

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  4. It can be a bit scary to be exposed to such a radical change from Austin, so I feel for your boy. It's funny how one doesn't think of those sorts of things sometimes. I guess when you love a city so much you think everyone will take to it as you have. I will keep this in mind as my family are coming to visit from the US soon.

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  5. Good point! My spouse comes from SE England and he thinks of London as the Big Crowded City - which it is. We spend time in London every time we travel to the UK (yearly) but he is always thinking about how to time public transit and tourist places to avoid crowds somewhat, while I don't care. One time he wanted to avoid Trafalgar Square after a football match because he was concerned about hooligan behaviour (the presence of so many police officers made him even more nervous). I think the only unpleasant experience I've had was going to the dinosaur hall at the Natural History Museum at opening time; that was really overwhelming crowd-wise.

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  6. I'm like you, I've never really considered the crowds. Perhaps we're blinkered to them. I agree, you need to bring your son to Yorkshire, we have some beautiful places here and though we do have our cities which can be rather packed, we've also got many out of the way places where you're lucky to see another soul.

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  7. London is quite an experience and if you're not used to the hustle and bustle and sometimes the rudeness of the people there, it can be quite a shock. We live in the north of England and even for me it is a culture shock whenever we visit London. If your son comes again, he'll feel differently I am sure, and I hope it won't be the last time he visits England! xx

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  8. To be fair I don't blame him - I avoid Oxford Circus as much as possible!

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  9. I can understand both points of view, I hate being on the tube for many reasons similar to your son, but totally get why you use it and why so many people do, and even though I hate it - because I am older and can rationalise it more - I use it. Hard one isn't it. I can totally see the shock from TX to London!! xx

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  10. We're just back from England too and like you we go every year, sometimes twice a year. But I'm with your son, London freaks me out, the crowds are insane. Some years we don't go in at all, last year we lasted 4 days there, this year only one.
    Don't get me wrong, London is wonderful, but it's not for me anymore.

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Thank you for your positive comments!