Here is my updated list of why England is still a civilized country:
- Common courtesy is still, well, common. On the tube or a bus, more often than not I’m offered a seat if I’m standing. I’ve seen both tube and bus drivers hold up their departure until someone coming down the stairs or along the sidewalk can board. Women traveling with children in strollers almost always have someone volunteer to help them up the stairs from the tube.
- People still read! On the tube, most people are reading something — one of the two free daily newspapers, a book, a Kindle, even on their phone. (I can tell they’re not texting because there’s no thumb action…)
- Towel warmers. Even in summer, there’s nothing that feels as cozy as a warm towel when you step out of the shower.
- Lack of cursing in public. Yes, I’m sure if I were hanging around groups of teen boys, I’d hear cursing. But simply walking down the street, you very seldom hear the f word. I think I’ve heard it on 4 occasions in almost 4 months (although to be fair, I probably heard it 10 times in one gentleman’s conversation!).
- The government is actually (at least in some cases) looking out for you! In London, recent changes to transportation charges mean that weekly/monthly passes are not necessarily a good deal for commuters. So there are posters in the Underground telling customers that — and urging them to use contactless credit cards or PAYG cash on their Oyster cards.
- Contactless credit cards. Not to mention the Point of Sale terminals that allow you to keep control of your chip and pin credit card during a transaction, even at a restaurant. In the US, we barely have chip and sign cards distributed, and we’re still two steps behind.
- Dual-flush toilets. Push the little button for a little flush; push the big button for a big one.
- Toilet paper — 4 ply toilet paper! Contrasting to my first visit to London in 1980, when public toilet paper was like wax paper, ‘normal’ TP that you buy is 4 ply! The cheap stuff is 2 ply. Luxurious!
- Dual-opening windows. Twist the handle one way and the top tilts into the room for ventilation with security; twist the other way and it swings fully open from the side. Easy to adjust, easy to clean. Brilliant.
And to be fair, here’s some things that they could learn from America:
- Recycling can be improved — there are a surprisingly small number of plastic containers that have the recycle symbol on them. And I haven’t lived in any area that had composting. Although I suppose enough people garden that they might do their own composting or take scraps to an allotment.
- Showers! One of the major criteria that restricts potential flats for me is a shower. I’d love a US-style shower (usually called an Italian shower here), but I’m not even that fussy anymore. A shower-over-tub is fine if it’s in a holder that puts it at normal shower height. And has a proper barrier so I don’t soak the bathroom floor.
- Washer/dryers that are comprehensible and don’t either produce steaming hot, still-wet clothes or dry, wrinkled clothes. And that don’t take an HOUR to produce the fastest possible wash (“normal” wash/dry cycles are TWO hours long, and can go up to 6)! (My current machine has a super-fast 25 minute cycle!! But no dryer cycle.)
- Toilets that flush with one push, instead of having to hold the handle down until everything stops running.