of looks and languages in London

by Evans Yonson

(Note: I wrote this piece immediately after my first London trip in 2005.)

London – I am spending a weekend here in London and a friend showed me around today. We just finished watching and waiting in vain when the London Bridge is going to fall when we decided to buy some snacks at a Marks and Spencer outlet near the River Thames. This city is indeed cosmopolitan thanks to its millions of migrants from all over the world. English, of course, is the main language. But most of the time you can hear foreign sounding conversations in almost every street corner of the Queen’s city of double-deckers and red phone booths. By the looks and smell of it, they are foreigners -mostly Africans and South Asians with an increasing Chinese population.

I decided to buy a cake and some muffins. Everything totaled a few pounds, well 6.01 pounds to be exact. I handed the cashier (who looked like a Pakistani or someone from South Asia) 20 pounds. He gave me 3.99 pounds for the change. I told him I gave him 20 and he insisted that he received only 10 pounds. We were changing words and I was getting irritated this time because I knew I handed him 20 pounds and there was no way I was mistaken. He sensed I was already peeved. Then, he called his supervisor who was Asian also.

The supervisor approaches me and proudly said, “I am Chinese and I speak Chinese Mandarin.”

I answered, “I am Filipino and I speak Filipino, English, Spanish, a little Mandarin, and Cebuano.”

Then, the supervisor quickly instructed to give me the exact change.

If you could only see the look on the face of the supervisor. We were laughing when we got out the store.