The 5th anniversary of my moving to London from Los Angeles has passed. Even now, people ask me to compare living in the US to living in Great Britain. A few things are superior over here, such as sensible gun laws, the NHS (although this is deteriorating), good public transportation, great beer and a simplified tax system. Actors and musicians are top notch and of course, there’s the rich history every Brit boasts of proudly. But after 5 years, I can say with absolutely no regret whatsoever that this place needs work in some very basic areas. The UK would be served well by moving into the 21st century in the following 10 ways:
Get some decent clothes dryers. Laundry takes 8-12 hours per week. I’m not kidding. In winter it’s longer. It’s tortuous, slow and everything has to be a.) hung up or left to b.) left spinning in a “water extractor” dryer for many hours at great cost to the electric bill. If it saves money and time, surely it’s worth drilling that small vent hole and installing a proper tumble dryer, right?
Put screens on the windows. The UK has flies, mosquitoes, wasps and the biggest house spiders I have ever seen. Seriously. The spiders are as big as a post-it note. Not to mention mice, rats and wandering cats (one of whom let himself in through my bathroom window repeatedly and turned out to be a real sweetie.) But not one window has a screen on it anywhere in the UK. The technology is not new. Having screens makes having the windows open during the 4 days of summer much more pleasurable and a lot less like camping out.
Make it illegal for companies to require women to wear high heels to work. To be fair, not all companies have this incredibly sexist policy, but many do. Parliament will be debating this issue following a petition that signed by over 150K people asking the Government to force companies to make their dress codes equitable.
Eliminate recruitment agencies. For those unfamiliar, these are companies who work for other companies looking to hire people. Their employees are mostly very young and work on commission, which they receive when they make a successful match. They take valuable resources from the hiring firms, who are either too stupid or too lazy or too cheap to build up their own internal HR and recruitment departments. They have no interest in matching the right people with the right company because they work on commission. They care about nothing other than their sales record and monthly bonus. They frequently block good people with experience from communicating directly with potential employers, ignore career changers or anything that their “keyword” software doesn’t flag. In general, they are a nasty bunch of self-serving kids with little respect for their clients. I am hopeful that businesses will soon realize what a waste of time and money these jokers are and stop using them.
Learn some damn manners (applicable in London only). Simple phrases include: Please, Thank You, Bless you (for sneezes), excuse me and I’m sorry. Cover your mouth when sneezing and/or coughing.
Improve your dentistry. You knew it was coming, right? Well, far be it from me to break a well-worn stereotype. The less said about brown teeth the better.
Get over your classism. Bono once said that the difference between America and the UK was that Americans look at a big house on a hill and say, “I aspire to have that.” In the UK they say, “I’m going to get that son of bitch.” Truer words were never spoken. Example: Just because a person eats at a gastropub and drinks craft beer does not mean they are “posh” or “stuck up.” It means they have better developed taste buds and yes, probably a bit more money. Is it a bad thing to work hard and spend your earnings on healthier, tastier victuals? For a large segment of the UK population, it is. Conversely, a person who wears a leather jacket is not necessarily a criminal waiting to rob you blind and every shopper with a backpack in a department store is not shoplifting.
Get some therapy. Alcoholism is rampant among all age groups and binge drinking is a huge problem among under 25’s. Recently, the London sewer water tested for high levels of cocaine. This, to me, is evidence that everyone is miserable and repressed. So society has set up “pub and club culture” as a way to self-medicate and allow for “social lubrication” (apparently it’s terrifying speaking to other human beings while sober) on a grand scale.
Legislate renters’ rights and real estate rules. Currently, any one can sell or rent a house in any condition to anyone else and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do to protect themselves. Agents have no governing body or required license and landlords are not required to keep up with maintenance.
Stop funding the Royal family. In an era of austerity when libraries are being closed by the dozens, stop wasting tax money paying for an already rich family’s palaces, cars and boats. It’s freaking ridiculous. They supposedly hold no political power, so why not let them survive on their own millions for a while?
Of course, none of these are likely to change any time soon, unfortunately. What they need is a good old American-style social revolution. But the Brits have a habit of losing revolutionary wars. Ooooh. What a burn!