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The Proper British Accent


London, October 07, 2013

“They speak with a proper British accent.” That’s the comment of an American friend of mine when talking about some people we know from North Africa. I bet the British have always been proud of “the proper British accent” for centuries and they should have. I like it, a lot.

And so I make my way to London to visit this historical city with an expectation to hear plenty of the “the proper British accent” during my stay. 3 days in London is never enough to explore this beautiful city, especially when one is interested in arts and music. There are plenty of art museums with a huge collection of international works to immerse oneself in and there are more than enough theatres to keep any musical fans entertained. I particularly enjoy the great street performances happening every night around Oxfod Circus or Picadilly Circus areas. In other words, I feel at home in London. The only thing I miss, guess what, is “the proper British accent”.

From hotels to restaurants, from ticket counters to cafes, from ice-cream parlours to box offices, London is staffed with Eastern Europeans who speak their versions of English. I am later told by a local friend that the service industry does not offer the best pays, so obviously the jobs are left by the British to the immigrants who would do whatever to keep themselves paid. London runs 100% occupancy most of the time, so training is a luxury. People get thrown on the job the straight away as long as they speak some English. After all, what’s better than on-the-job training if you are to ask?

Oh well, without “the proper British accent”, London is still London for a hundred years to come and the River Thames will still reflect the gorgeous majestic silhouette of the parliament house. Who am I to complain? What I get to complain, however, is after 20% VAT and 12.5% service charge on top of the bills, expensive London shows no mercy for the minimal standard of service. When you see trainees coaching other trainees even at an international hotel chain, you’d better lower your expectation!

“Who cares? They come. They see. They leave. Tourists won’t probably come back any way. A bit of rudeness and lack of service kills nobody. The service industry is still counting cash in truck loads every day”, comments a local friend of mine. Running a restaurant himself, he finds it frustrating for the bad service or the absence thereof as we stroll around central London on a beautiful sunny day.

“You wanna do some shopping?” asks my friend. “Nah…”

For a while now, shopping is no longer on my list. The real joy in travelling is to connect with the locals wherever I go to share thoughts, to learn more about their culture, beliefs, and values. No matter where we are from and no matter what background we’ve been built upon, I believe there is a common set of values beyond religions that could connect people from the four corners of the world, loving kindness.

So I’ve come. I’ve seen. I’ve left. I will continue to love “the proper British accent” but I’ll probably watch BBC a bit more instead….

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