World topics

London and the Need for Talking

This article will make some of you smile others frown. It is about returning to Western Europe, highly industrialized countries, “the first world”. I stayed in Africa during the last three years. I was often asked whether I am not scared of losing my IT knowledge or becoming “slow” or how I can live in “such” conditions. Obviously such questions already show the asker’s low understanding of my motivations. But even more does it give insight into the image that exists of “Africans” (I really have to put this into quotes having experienced the diversity that exists in the continent). Africans take their time, talk a lot with their neighbors and family, are never in a hurry to get something done and talk about difficulties rather than solving them. So far we “know”. This post focuses on the talking bit of the African culture and the importance of togetherness. Actually this post is about the absence of the two in London… Let’s look at your typical day. Waking up in your room, no sharing needed, you deserve privacy and your salary can afford it! Lights and shower work perfectly, no reason to complain. Your smart phone synchronizes the news and your mail, now just a quick Coffee to go in the corner shop. The shop attendant talks in Hindi with the Guy filling the shelves. “1,20″ really doesn’t require an answer, but your coffee is done before you arrive at the bus stop. You “touch in” your oyster card, but the loud beep and the driver’s shaking head tells you that your ticket expired and, yeah, you can’t buy bus tickets on the bus. You decide you can walk the two stops, at the tube station you extend your weekly transport pass on the machine. At least the touch screen doesn’t look at you compassionately like the old lady when you had to get off the bus. Half an hour later your day seems to have stabilized. Nothing really exciting on the news, so you start scrolling through your mail. You are used to the pushing and polite “excuse me”s on the tube. On entering the office building, this girl greets you on the corridor, she must be new here. Work is going good, emails, reports and one team meeting. A bit annoying is Anna’s new ringtone, she seems to be using her 1000 free texts well. During lunch break you head for a quick shopping tour through Sainsbury’s, these self-checkout terminals are much faster than the usual cashiers! At 5.30pm the cleaning lady looks at you with tired eyes. Finally home, you watch some soaps, the catch-up of the television is cool but ordering movies on Sky is cheap and convenient. You decide to shop for birthday presents on Amazon before you sleep… This summary of my 3 weeks in London shows how technology facilitates life here and also the process-orientation that has taken over: People are used to fitting into the process and the process makes the world go round. If you don’t force it, every day will look like the other and you will not need to talk a single word in 24 hours. Maybe I became slow… But give yourself a break, a small reason to talk and return my greeting on the corridor tomorrow! Oh, and the first sentence that was directed at me today was the “I just wanted to tell you that I like your hairstyle” of a shop assistant. He was black.


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