10 Things Londoners Can Learn From New Yorkers

 (Tetra Images/AP Images)

We’re not suggesting London stay up all night but possibly a tad bit later. (Tetra Images/AP Images)

These rival cities are immeasurably fabulous. But they could both stand to make some changes, based on how the other operates. Here’s what London can do to make itself more like NYC—in a good way.

1. Restaurants should deliver food quickly
Order an early dinner from any London eatery, and you could still be gnawing your fists off at midnight. Each of the seven times you’ve called to track their progress, you’ve been told the driver is merely five minutes away. Of course, he’s not. Turns out he went via Scarborough, so now your chicken korma has hypothermia. In New York, where the people delivering your food rely on tips for wages, this almost never happens.

2. Larger measures and pubs that are open later
Once you’ve ordered a whiskey in New York (it will be BIG, whether or not you asked for it that way), there’s no going back to the thin, obscenely priced line of amber liquid you get in any London drinking establishment. Then, despite U.K. licensing laws easing up in recent years, most pubs will call last orders at 11:30 and you’ll have to search for somewhere open late. There’s absolutely no turfing punters out before their bedtime here in NYC where bars can legally stay open until 4 am.

3. Cheaper taxis
New York cab drivers may not quite know where they are at any given time—or how to get you where you want to go. But they also won’t charge a year’s salary to drop you down the street, unlike London’s black taxis.

4. More food trucks
Unless you count ice cream vans and those small, greasy carts selling deeply suspicious sausages, London doesn’t really do mobile food establishments. New York has thousands of them. So when you’re in a dead restaurant zone like Midtown, you can always pick up decent falafel or tacos.

5. Dress dogs better
You might occasionally see a London hound wearing a sensible jacket when it gets a bit nippy. But our pooches’ sartorial choices are flat and flare-free. New York City dogs—or rather their owners—treat walkies like it’s a fashion show. Never mind the catwalk; New York is all about the dog walk. It’s entirely possible that on the same outing you could see a spaniel sporting a crop-top and hot pants and a bloodhound wearing a bomber jacket. I’m sure this is excruciatingly uncomfortable for the animals but it helps make everyday in NYC feel like a carnival.

6. Affordable, 24-hour subway
New York’s subway is filthy, confusing and smells of wet rat. BUT it’s cheap (compared to London), and most of it runs around the clock. Londoners, who also have to put up with a bizarre zoning system and touching out as well as in with their Oyster cards, covet this kind of service more than NYC’s food trucks, big booze measures and cool mayor combined.

7. Be nicer to babies and their owners
New Yorkers love babies. Even the seemingly mean ones will chuck you an obligatory coo on the subway if you’re with an infant. Londoners make a point of ignoring children, unless they’re being annoying. If this happens, they seethe loudly or complain to the parents.

8. Pick up dog poo
When I head back to London, one of the first things I notice is that the pavements are streaked with little brown cylinders of dung. Dog owners in the U.K. capital will still happily shuffle off without clearing up the by-product of owning a mutt. I’ve no idea why, but this rarely happens in New York.

9. Cheaper restaurants, plus a sanitary grading for all eateries
In New York, twenty bucks buys you a feast for two, plus leftovers. You’re lucky if they don’t charge you this for the supposedly free bread and tap water in London. Also in the Big Apple, you know whether the absurdly low-cost restaurant you’re about to enter is clean, because NYC has a hygiene grading system. Anywhere that serves food is required to display a letter grading in the window. In London, you have to rely on your gut, either to tell you to stay away or deal with the E. coli you unwittingly ingested.

10. Restaurants that open later
In our fair capital, you might get lucky and stumble on a fetid kebab shop still serving stuff that they can just about legally call food when you fall out of a club at 3am. What you won’t find is any other London eating establishment with its doors open. Nope. The city’s restaurant scene goes to bed early. In NYC, you can have professionals make anything you want to eat at any time—and many of them will deliver. Granted, we’re talking diners, falafel and pizza rather than Michelin-starred restaurants, but even this would seem luxurious to Londoners.

Have you already learned something new from New Yorkers?

Join @MindtheGap_BBCA and guest co-host @BBC_Travel Wednesday, January 29 at 2 pm ET on Twitter for a #MindTheChat on London vs. NY (and LA). Which city is the greatest? Tweet your thoughts using hashtag #MindTheChat for a chance to win a full season download Neil Gaiman’s TV miniseries Neverwhere on iTunes. Follow @MindtheGap_BBCA on Twitter.

See More:
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8 All-American Pastimes Brits Could Learn to Love
What the U.S. Can Learn From British-Style Parenting

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.
View all posts by Ruth Margolis.
  • Milkeebar

    Please do not dress you dogs up in silly ‘human’ costumes. If you love your dog, treat it like a dog & give it the things a dog needs/wants.
    It is not a dolly to dress up.
    Maybe a simple dog coat in winter to keep it warm but leave it at that.

    • Jakar

      Good comment, why not spend the money on a roast chicken picnic for your dog instead =p

  • Milkeebar

    It is technically possible for pubs to stay open for 24hrs (there are a few that do). When the licensing laws changed many pubs stayed open later but reverted back because the demand wasn’t there. People go to pubs first then onto clubs later on, the pubs don’t want to pay staff all night for a few die hard alchies.

  • expatmum

    I must admit, I do find myself screeching “How much?” every time I have something to eat or drink in London.

  • Unknown

    In the US you are fined if caught not cleaning up after your pet, which is why it may seem that there is no dog mess on them, but take a stroll through Chelsea in NYC and you’ll see differently!

  • Exiled In Geeksville

    I have to wonder if part of the reason food/drink is so cheap in NYC (of which I am a native) is the same reason we get our food so fast – tipping. I have never been to London, but have heard that tipping is not the norm (at least not the 15-20% that is done here) Is food cheaper here because of the lower cost to the establishment for labor (tipped employees only earn $2.13/hr in guaranteed wages from the restaurant) A higher cost of labor could explain the higher prices and shorter hours for bars/restaurants.

    • Milkeebar

      But your’re either paying less for food but more in tips or more for food but less in tips.
      Either way, the customer pays.

      • Exiled In Geeksville

        but the owner has lower expense, per hour in labor. My point is why restaurants are cheaper in cost to the proprietor, which allows him to pass along a lower price point to the costumer.

  • JayF

    Londoners dress better and look fantastic. NYers dress like crap most of the time and many are not pretty to look at.

    • pat

      JayF that is a very juvenile thing to say.

    • The_Stig

      Then explain Jeremy Clarkson

  • Dave

    It’s an embarrassment to the BBC to have this published under their URL.

    • Jack

      A truly inspiring piece. Truly the Brits have much to learn about the transcendent glory of America.
      New kid on the block ftw!

      • Gtown

        This comment made me laugh, keep a eye on China and India jack, there is no doubt they will both surpass and will hit America with a cold slap of reality that all is not a dream to those living the ‘American dream’ wake up!

        • John

          Have you been to China and India? Perhaps you don’t understand the level of corruption in those countries. Yes, they might surpass the US economically, but there is no such thing as an “American Dream” in those countries unless you are willing to sell your soul and become corrupt. People in China want to get government jobs not just because of job security, but also kickbacks, bribes and having the backing of the powerful Chinese Communist government backing you up when you go harassing the common people. If you look at history, unchecked corruption always bring down empires.

          • Gtown

            Yes I have been there and generally the people seem a lot more positive about life then a run of the mill amercan, even in the slums. Which begs the question is this ‘American dream’ a self-centered paradox? Selling your soul i retort is more inline with becoming apart of this ‘american dream’ fallacy.
            While you speak of corruption in these countries, this is no where near the scale of the U.S corruption. Just because you wave a big flag and false a smile doesn’t mean when you scratch the surface you won’t open

          • Gtown

            Up a can worms.

          • Gtown


            So when is this empire coming down? Perhaps you don’t understand the level of corruption all around you.

    • Trevor

      I for one am categorically in-credulous that there could even be a comparison ‘twixt this great land of free and home of brave men and that meager island land of parasitic socialist good-for-nothing tweed-wearing chain smoking acrobatic pansies. It’s again the book to even live in that vile place!

      • Gtown

        A meager island which has produced some of the worlds great inventions such as carbon fibre, television, vacuum cleaner, steam engine, telephone, military tank, jet engine, electric motor, sewage system, just to name a few. Now for USA greatest achievements- The U.S. ranked 16th in literacy proficiency, 21st in numeracy proficiency, and 14th in problem solving out of 23 countries in technology-rich environments. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world you have less than 5 percent of the world’s population but house a quarter of the world’s prisoners. 60-70% of Americans are overweight and unhealthy. Although us Brits invented the chocolate bar moderation here is the key, ironic how it highlighted complete greed of individuals in the masses.
        Your brash statement was a truly inspiring piece for me too, if I was a overly patriotic, dim-witted, egocentric clone of you.
        Finally with respect when you have another light bulb idea chew on this- you have a great Brit Joseph swan to thank who patented the 1st light bulb, not Thomas edision. Good day sir.

  • Irené Colthurst

    “NYC has a hygiene grading system. ” Actually, it’s the entire U.S.’s eatery hygiene grading system, courtesy of the Food Safety and Inspection Service, an agency of the federal Department of Agriculture.

    • Plunkitt_of_Tammany_Hall

      This is not correct. There is no “eatery hygeine grading system” for the “entire U.S.”, and the federal Department of Agriculture does not inspect and grade local restaurants anywhere in the US — and it does not have the legal authority to do so, either. The grading system one sees in restaurants in New York City is one created by local law. You will not find it in restaurants in the rest of the state of New York, nor will you find it most states in the US. There is a similar system to be found in the state of California — but again, that is an entirely separate state initiative, unrelated to the one in New York City, and not controlled by the US Department of Agriculture.

      • Erik

        Actually, here in CA, it is by county – and some counties show only “pass/fail.” My brother worked in the restaurant business for some time and he said an A is not difficult to get, so beware of anything less- do not even venture into a C.

      • Michael D. Rubin

        Most states and local governments have started this practice. In North Carolina, it’s everywhere and very welcome. Long Island has started following suit as well. But you are 100% correct and Ms. Colthurst is 100% incorrect with regards to USDA and FDA having no local authority. Should there be an outbreak of food-borne illness they may get involved along with the CDC in tracing and tracking, but not health inspections or reportings.

  • Gemma Seymour

    There is a substantial fine involved if one does not clean up after one’s animal in New York City.

  • Jakar

    These are nearly all about food and as a Brit I’m rejecting nearly all of them =p We don’t need 24hr food, mobile fast food stands, later restaurants or more mcdiabetes. Infact, please take back what’s already here, we’d be better off without it.

    Oh and who eats at a restaurant without a hygiene rating?! It isn’t mandatory (freedom) but you have the choice. Just go somewhere decent, everywhere I eat has hygiene scores so I really dont understand this.

    • Milkeebar

      Agreed. Health inspectors will forcibly close any restaurant that does’t meet standards.

  • Milkeebar

    Re: the measures of drinks. Remember the tipping culture thing, Isn’t it usually about a dollar per drink in the US? The measure may be smaller in London but no tip is expected. You may like to offer the barman ‘one for yourself’ but no-one will bat an eyelid if you don’t. Keep all the money you would have tipped & buy yourself some extra drinks.