Several amazing aspects of life in a developed country have assaulted my senses and my mouth has often dropped in surprise at seeing some of the things which I do not think will happen too soon in India. I am just going to recount some of these and see if it evokes a response from you.
- Every public place can be accessed by a ramp - making life easy for those who are on wheel-chairs, kids in prams and those with walking and climbing difficulties. This includes bus entrances which can be tilted to allow chairs to be rolled on/off, all foot-paths, buildings, stations, etc.
- Pedestrians are respected by all sensible motorists, so that they will stop or slow down when they see a pedestrian crossing ahead of them; likewise, pedestrians will generally avoid walking on the road, and will go the extra "mile" to reach a proper pedestrian crossing.
- Individual privacy is very important, and Britons do not generally encourage idle conversation between strangers. You might have to wait before someone approaches you and offers to help, to, for example, tell you the time, or show you the way to a certain destination.
- They like to be addressed by their first names, and this is not frowned upon. OTOH, they may feel slighted or insulted if you did not call them by their name, as it implies that you did not know their name.
- "Are you okay" is the ubiquitous phrase they employ when they see someone in trouble; however, this is not just when they see you fall or when you are in real trouble, as we imply for the phrase in India, but also when they find you"lost" and looking for someone or for some place that you want to go to. We often thought British were very, very private, but when it comes to this aspect of their thinking, I find them very open and very helpful.
- Still on the privacy issue. My colleague tells me that all people in the UK have poor social communication. I beg to only partially agree, because I have found that although they do suffer from a "No-first-greet" policy, they are extremely warm once you take the initiative and break the "ice", so to say. Not just that, it seemed to me that they were actually "waiting" for you to start it off, so eager are they to want to communicate, even if it is as inane as asking how you are,
- Sales people in stores and malls, on the other hand, are very, very cordial and effusive when you reach your turn at the check-out counter (known here as the "till"). They are, however, quick in their work, just like the guys and girls back in our country. Vegetables and fruit are not weighed before, near the veg and fruit counters, as is the case in India, but by the check-out person himself/herself.
- Loose change is never a problem, unless companies have a policy not to return change. I have heard that some bus services in other cities like Preston/Manchester routinely pocket the balance if you don't have the exact change as per their established and publicly declared policy.
- Supermarkets do not routinely store Indian or other world cuisine. You need to go to bigger stores to fetch those. For example, I could not get any pulses from my friendly, neighbourhood store; even at a bigger one, Sainsbury, I got only some, but not all the pulses. Yesterday, I was at the biggest store in Blackpool, viz. Tesco Extra, and even here, tur dal was not available, though a lot of other Indian and Asian stuff was. I wonder whether this is because of the shortage of the dal back in India!
- And, finally, in this post, I am going to write about the way bus and train services are organised, A little here, but I guess I might devote an entire post later ... either here, or on my UK Blog. At bus-stops, there are three basic displays: one tells you where you are and what stops each bus will do; the second tells you the same in a map with colours coded for the various bus routes; and the third will display timings for each of the buses in a chronological sequence over the night and the day.
At railway stations, there are well-lit and displayed electronic boards not unlike the ones we
have in India; however, they are smaller, much more compact, and simply in a portrait style
with a display of the route and the time and the platform number on the first line, and the var-
ious stations it will halt at in the subsequent ones. This should be enough for a new traveller
to find his train. Inside trains, the comfort is amazing, even when the train fills up. Standing
customers never invade the seating space. Inside, in the seating area, some trains have seats
facing both ways, and there are many four-seats with a large table in between, especially on
long-distance trains. Many also have full-fledged toilets which are spotless and well-mainta-
And that's about it for this post. Do comment about the various things I have written on here. Thanks very much!