Wednesday, June 8, 2011

UK: They've Got Internet

I've been to London last December. It was my first time there, well I had a transit there last year but it doesn't count. Anyway, you might be wondering what is the thing that I liked the most there. Is it Big Ben, London Bridge, Madame Tussauds' Museum, The Fireworks in the New Year's Eve, or Wembley Stadium? In fact, what I liked the most is that they have got ... they've got Internet there.

Tower Bridge - London

Well, the internet is all over the world for sure, but compared to here and to all the other countries I visited before, it's only there where you have almost everything online. When I wanted to get a visitor visa, all I had to do is to fill the form online, reserve an appointment, also online, and then I submitted my papers and got my visa in two or three days. What about the Schengen for example? You call a stupid IVR system, a guy answers you and gives you an appointment one month later, or may be two! And they need 15 more days to process your papers and issue your visa later on! I really don't get it. How many person goes to UK compared to those who go to Greece or Czech Republic for example!? Why do you need all this time to get your Shengen while the Brits give you the visa just like that!? To be honest, the Chilean visa was quick too. They sure do not have that advanced system like the British one, but they are internet literate compared to the Schengen states. I sent them all my papers via email, they processed them, called me after a week to set an appointment, and I got my visa on the spot.

Once you arrive to London, you realize that you can use the internet in stuff you never thought it is needed there. You want to know how to go from the airport to your hotel, well there is a website called Transport for London, it has got all the means of transportation from the Tube to ferry boats, it has got their schedules, the functioning and non-functioning lines, everything. You give it your starting point and target destination, and it lists you all the transportations options you have, and how long each trip option will take you. You can even opt-out some methods of transportations or limit it to tube only for example. Google maps are travellers best friend nowadays, but it's not always that useful all the time. And TFL is more customized to London and to the means of transportation there.

I'm someone who never knows his clothes sizes. Mainly, because here in Egypt we are used to the culture of fitting rooms and the helpful salesmen who keeps on getting you different models and sizes till you find the most suitable one for you. There it's not the same, on one hand people are used to purchasing their stuff online, and clothes are no different. On the other hand, it's okey to return something you've purchased back to the shop if it is not okey, which is something next to impossible here. And may be that's why the fitting rooms are not that popular there like they are here, and the salesmen are not that helpful like here. People on the other hand seem to know their sizes by heart, on the boxing day, people were like crazy grabbing stuff off the shelves without thinking!

Wembley Stadium

Being a tourist, you usually want to know what are the best places to go, and there are many websites that lists the important sights all over the world. But I just got the feeling that searching for English places there is much easier than doing the same thing for places in Jordan or Chile for example. It's like the English people are very active on the internet and they populate the databases of those website more than any other people. Also, who ever thinks of going to a Stadium for a tour when visiting a new city. But guess what, Wembley Stadium has got a website for its own, where I scheduled a visit, bought a ticket, while still sitting on my couch. It's this internetish thing that made me go there, where other cities might have even better stadiums but they failed to market them online, and make it easier to schedule a visit for them.

The weather in London changes a lot. I learnt there how to wear in layers, it's not the thickest jumper (pullover) that will make you feel warmer, it's one more thin layer that will do. But also the Londoners are used to check the internet before going out to know what to put on. See, they've even got a website that tells you whether to have an umbrella with you today or not.

We all are connected to the internet, but some countries and some people have it integrated more into their daily lives. And the United Kingdom is one of the best internetish countries to me, at least out of those countries I've been to so far.

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