Having just spent a week in London with a quick day trip to Paris (via the Eurostar train which was a great experience) I was struck by the truly international flavor both cities exhibit. And it all seems to work so well. In fact there were several times when I thought ‘where are all the Brits?’. Everywhere we went there were people of varied descent who were working, helping and living amongst London’s 8 million citizens. I don’t know why I was so surprised at this and probably that should have not been the case.
America’s larger cities are places where diversity and people from all over the world are more likely to live and work. Once you get outside of the major cities things tend to be a little less international to be sure. The same is no doubt true in England and France as well as other countries in the EU and around the world. Both London and Paris have a large proportions of Muslims many of whom speak multiple languages and which is something not seen in the States. Made me feel very one dimensional.
But what struck me most was speaking accents that made me realize that people from all corners were coming to London (I did not spend enough time in Paris to get a really good feel) to live and work. They come from Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Yes there were more than a few North Americans as well. What draws them all to London is the prospect of finding work and living in one of the world’s great cities.
Great expensive cities I should add. Being from the New York Metropolitan area I am not unaccustomed to the inherent escalated costs of a major city but even by those standards London is crazy expensive. Simple pub meals (complete with a pint or maybe even 2) are $ 25.00 per head – and I could never get the service charge thing straight whether I was over tipping or under tipping feeling like a stupid Yank often. I wondered how people could afford to work in hotels; restaurants etc. and live in even the greater London area.
We Americans have taken pride in being called the ‘melting pot’ of the world but my feeling now is we no longer own that appellation. It’s probably been that way for longer than I realize and that’s not a bad thing in any way – in fact I think it is entirely positive. I head back to Tokyo for the first time in a few years for a week in early March. The Japanese are famous for their homogeneity and I will be watching for changes there that might indicate Japan is becoming more welcoming and attracting to foreigners.