Yesterday Terence Stamp, the Oscar-nominated English actor, was reported as saying that English is a foreign language in London and that he feels like an alien walking around its streets.
Born in Stepney in east London, he laments not always being able to buy his favourite mangoes from the market on Green Street due to language barriers and worries what London will be like in the future.
I first came to London 17 years ago, one of the countless Australians who make the same trip to see the world, but unlike many, I never went home. My first impression of London was of a vibrant multcultural city, much like my beloved Melbourne which gets all of its character in my opinion from the many different ethnic groups it embraces. For me, London hasn’t changed in this aspect at all and it’s what makes London an exciting place to live.
Yes, when you walk on the streets of London you hear other languages, not just English. But is that a bad thing? Will it lead to the destruction of English culture?
Living in a multicultural society gives us the opportunity to learn about different traditions and perspectives. With this knowledge comes an appreciation and respect for other cultures, and this goes both ways. It’s not just about English people respecting and appreciating the other cultures this country embraces, but all nationalities embracing each others’ differences.
I was living with my Italian husband and baby son in East London when the London riots happened in 2011. Our neighbourhood of Dalston was, I believe, the only neighbourhood that stood up to the rioters and it was all down to the strong Turkish community. All the Turkish shop owners protected not only their own shops, but all those in the neighbourhood and quickly sent the rioters away.
Now I live with my family a bit out of central London, but we all love spending a day in the city. Last weekend we were there because my 4-year-old was desperate to ride on the top deck of a double-decker bus. We walked under all the vibrant hanging lanterns in Chinatown then later had lots of trouble deciding which type of cuisine to eat for lunch at the food market at Southbank. There was Indian, Korean and French, just to name a few, plus amazing Somerset cider. My son chatted in Italian to those making yummy arancini (fried rice balls).
Later we collapsed in a cafe in Soho. My son quickly realised that he could practise some of the Spanish words and phrases he’d picked up during our summer holiday with the waitress, and he also chatted to the Spanish couple on the table next to us.
I love London because of its huge mix of cultures and traditions. But then again I’m just another foreigner living in London.
What are your thoughts about multicultural cities? Do they lose their identity by embracing other cultures or become richer for it?