Both of our sources this week are an excellent preparation for our advance to be held in London and Oxford later this year during the Fall. Both are titled to prepare us for possible culture shock in both London and Great Britain, and less like a Rick Steves’ travel guide. In skimming them, I reflected I would have loved to have had these type of sources for Hong Kong (how my heart hurts for our friends!). I hope we will have something similar to prepare us for South Africa.
Glo and I traveled to London twice, once in May 2009 and once after Christmas through New Year in 2010. Our May 2009 trip was with a friend from London (actually Wimbledon), whose family came to the States due to her husband’s job as an O&G geologist. They became part of our Houston Vineyard church and even served as our small group pastors briefly (they have since returned to England). Our friend was vacationing in England, and we were able to meet up with her and see England through the eyes of a local (she took us to all of her favorite places).
We stayed in Earl’s Court for almost a week and saw the usual tourist attractions of Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, the British Museum of History, and Victoria & Albert’s Museum (along with nearby Holy Trinity Brompton that was packed due to Alpha Marriage that evening). My favorite visit was the Tower of London (not because of the crown jewels but because of the Beefeaters who lived there!). I just thought it was so cool to see local renters’ laundry hanging out to dry as we toured the fortress (yes, I know that sounds weird!)
We also rode the London Eye and ate as much fish and chips and traditional English breakfast as possible. I was so shocked how good the food and coffee was! Oh, we also got to meet the author Ken Follett at a child’s birthday party because he is the step-father-in-law of our friend’s brother (I didn’t know who he was!)
The best part of the trip was traveling to Nottingham to the village where her mum lived. We were able to have lunch in the local village pub and drink pints with her mum’s friends. Nearby was Belvoir Castle, which was closed due to renovations, but we were able to tour the gardens. We also were able to attend the Vineyard church in Trent on Sunday evening, where post service they open the coffee bar and the beer taps (talk about contextual theology!)
Our second visit in December 2010 was after Christmas and through New Year’s Day. We stayed in a B&B just up the hill within walking distance of our friends in Wimbledon. My favorite activity was attending a Sunday evening service at St. Paul’s Cathedral (it just amazed me how people have been continuously worshipping here for hundreds of years!) We also visited the London Bridge (my structural engineer son-in-law was in heaven) and the Museum of Contemporary Art. I believe Glo’s favorite activity was visiting Harrod’s and the Christmas Market. We also experienced the local London tradition (at least in Wimbledon) of launching sky lanterns at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Our sources are trying to prepare us for possible culture shock in London and Great Britain. This third trip, we are looking forward to fewer tourist attractions and more connections with local ministry leaders. Glo and I are planning to come in a week early and visit Edinburgh and find Glo’s ancestral castle. We will probably show up in her tribal tartans! We then will travel to Birmingham to connect with and engage in some training with our Vineyard UK/IRE coaching leaders. Then we will see all of you in London and Oxford.
The writer says London is a microcosm of England. While many British subjects would debate this, it is no doubt a fascinating city with an amazing historical and cultural heritage. I believe Glo would be most impressed with the focus on forming a queue at any service provider. The rule in London is one at a time, in order. Get in a line and stay in a line until called upon, what is London trying to do to us Texans?
 Tan, Terry, CultureShock!: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette – Great Britain (Tarrytown:NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2008) 16.
 Hargraves, Orin, CultureShock!: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette – London (Tarrytown:NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2006) 4.