Exchange diaries London: The British life

Through the recommendation of a friend and some rushed visa paperwork, I got the chance to live and work in London this summer as a reservations and reception assistant in a bed and breakfast.

Working in the tourism and hospitality sector in a foreign city means I’m both tour guide and tourist at the same time.

For five days a week, I helped people plan their trip to London by searching for affordable accommodation or directing them to nearby attractions. For the other two days, I roamed around London like any other tourist.

What is thought of as London is actually Greater London, made up of many boroughs. The city of London itself is actually only one square mile in area. Everything is very accessible by tube (subway), which runs quite efficiently and frequently.

London is a vibrant city full of people always on the move, but they also find time to relax. It’s a common sight to see people in office gear hanging out at the pub from 12 p.m. onwards every day. If you’re into pub food, then you couldn’t have come to a better place. Fish and chips, steak pies and burgers to fill your fancy are easily found in all local pubs.

The city landscape is made up of an interesting mix of old and modern buildings, with landmark sites like the Tower of London dating from the 1400s standing next to new skyscrapers with funny names like the Girken (British slang for pickle, named for its cylindrical shape). Other notable buildings are the Cheese Grater, modified in shape to not obstruct the view to St. Paul’s, and the Walkie-Talkie.

London welcomes millions of tourists every year. I’ve been lucky enough to interact with people coming from all over the world at work. I can’t help bumping into them on my way to and from work, where the tourists all stop on Millennium Bridge to take pictures of the majestic St. Paul’s Cathedral.

I visited a good number of attractions on my days off, including six museums and three art galleries, but some of my favourite places are found a little outside the city.

The famous Wimbledon tennis tournament was a fantastic experience. I had great fun cheering on the Canadians, who played quite well. I was also fascinated and enchanted by Hampton Court, where actors re-enacted scenes from the Tudor Era, and I proudly stomped the grounds wearing a crimson cloak. Whether you’re a fan of modern glass panel buildings or a history buff for the ages, London has something to offer anyone. I will be sorry to leave this place, but more adventures await. My next destination: Edinburgh!

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