BK Reader, London, Esterie Bruno, Young Voices
Oxford University
BK Reader, London, Esterie Bruno, Young Voices
Oxford University

 By Esterie Bruno

Now that fall is here, I must hasten to write down memories of the best summer ever. I turned 16! To celebrate, my parents arranged a trip from Brooklyn, New York to London, England for a three-week stay with family there. I traveled alone! I feel blessed to have brought my Brooklyn life to London, and London experiences back to Brooklyn.

London and Brooklyn are two vastly different cities in two different parts of the world. They compare as well as contrast in many ways. There are many places in both cities that one can visit and find very appealing. Both London and Brooklyn offer different experiences and ways of life: scenery, the form of government, currency, culture, and technology, for example. Even though there are many differences between London and Brooklyn, there are several similarities as well.

The geography in both cities is amazing! The Houses of Parliament, the iconic ‘Big Ben’ clock tower and Westminster Abbey are must-see landmarks in Central London. The Thames River and the London Eye observation wheel are within walking distance, and provides a breathtaking view of the South Bank cultural complex, and the entire city. Both cities have areas of greenery and have urban as well as more rural like areas within them.

City view of popular Southwark, London

Even more so, some places in one city look like places in the other. For example, areas of Ealing and Hanwell in London reminded me of market areas and scenery found in Canarsie and around Utica Avenue in Brooklyn. Some of these markets are owned by people of West Indian decent and the foods are displayed very similarly. You will find similar vegetables, such as jackfruit, couscous, tomatoes, white potatoes, red potatoes, eddoes, etcetera.

The authority in Brooklyn and London is similar as well. One example of this is the penalties paid for littering. In London, the penalty is £80 (for littering and dog fouling) and £400 for dumping garbage. If not paid within a 14-day period, one can be taken to court, which will decide whether or not an offence was committed and whether or not any penalty should be imposed.

The financial penalty imposed by the courts can be up to £2,500. The current fine for littering in New York City is $50-$250 and no more than 10 days in jail. It seems as if London takes littering way more serious! Any other differences in terms of the laws in Brooklyn and London are very hard to notice.

One U.S. dollar is equivalent to 78 Pence, British Sterling. It takes a little getting used to having to change U.S. money to British Pounds, knowing that is the only currency you have. Since the British Pound has more value, it is fair to say that things are generally more expensive in London than in Brooklyn. However, it won’t be long until it feels normal enough to pull £5 out of your wallet instead of $6.43.

My aunt’s artwork on exhibition in Hammersmith, London

Culture in both Brooklyn and London has its similarities and differences. Both cities are immensely diverse – in Brooklyn, there is a mix of West Indians, African-Americans, Caucasians, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Spanish, and Hispanics. London consists of the same but just a higher number in Europeans.  One of the first things I noticed during my trip to London was the change in accent and dialogue. You won’t hear any “Yo, what up?” but might hear more of “Hello there. How do you do? Are you quite well?”

Even though Brooklyn is generally more robust, there’s no place like home.

Exhibits at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, East End of London

In London, some things have different names. For example, strollers are called carts, and panties are called knickers. Both Brooklyn and London embrace the cultures that make those cities as they are today. This includes museums and art generally. I went around London with my Aunt and saw her great artwork along with others that represented different themes and took many forms of art, but mainly paintings. I even learned how to use a sewing machine and eventually made my own bag.

Hampton Court Palace, one of the many places I visited was a unique experience. It gave an insight to the life of King Henry the VIII and his family.

The technology in London and Brooklyn is similar. Nothing is really old-fashioned; perhaps except traditional clothing in London. However, there is a notable difference when it comes to transportation. Instead of a MetroCard, London uses an Oyster card, which is scanned on a pad for the gate to open; whereas, in New York, a MetroCard is swiped and the turnstile is pushed while walking. There is no such thing as a “transfer” in London. In other words, if you just got out of the “tube,” or what we call “train,” and went on the bus, you still have to pay a second fare.

Exhibits at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, East End of London

At least the bus fare is lower than the tube fair. The tube is a little like Brooklyn’s trains, except they’re all red, slower, and open in a different fashion. London’s trains are actually close to what we would call Amtrak or the Long Island Railroad. They are fast and help people get to places that are very far and would take a long time to reach. The buses are also all red and most of them are double-decked. It is the exact opposite in Brooklyn. The only double-decker buses that can be found in Brooklyn are tour buses.

I was fortunate to have had the influence of faculty at my Brooklyn high school during my summer trip to London. Based on the recommendations from my principal, my Aunt and I visited the University of Oxford, Imperial College, London and Christ Church College also in London. I got first-hand information on college degrees and programs, experienced the physical locations of these institutions, had conversations with current students, and learned about scholarships and other entitlements for international students. This will become handy soon!

Celebrating my 16th birthday with my family in London

There are many experiences I took away from London. I invite all young people to take advantage of traveling to different countries and experiencing different cultures. You will find that every place in the world is different. However, there are always similarities you can find wherever you go, especially if you hail from Brooklyn!

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