My new business title is a work-in-progress at the moment as we try to figure out the cultural nuances. I read a funny story about a fella who was a new and low-level functionary in a large, well-known US company that did business in Japan. He was having trouble figuring out what his title was but had to go on a business trip to Japan, so he had his new business cards printed without a title on them. When he got to Japan and started handing his cards out, he suddenly found himself being treated like an emperor. Turns out, with their typical less-is-more outlook, having no title on your card in Japan means you are sooo important, so high up, that everyone in your company knows who you are and what your title is. He got the red carpet treatment due to this misunderstanding. Hmm… think maybe I should leave my new cards without a title? Sadly, I don’t think the Brits operate in the same way as the Japanese.
I’ve noticed that few business, or even the malls, here in Reading have the "airlock"-style vestibule you find in the U.S. to prevent heat loss as people pass through exterior doors. Instead, in cold weather, they just keep their stores at about 85-degrees to offset the rush of cold air that comes in with every customer. Very oddly fuel-inefficient in a country that is generally otherwise.
This door observation came to me as I was sitting having a panini for lunch at a little shop. I’ve also noticed that most commercial doors swing in, not out as in the States. In the U.S. this doors-open-out thing is a part of the national fire code, designed to ensure that people can exit quickly. This part of the fire code came about due to the Great Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903 in Chicago, during which stampeding people trying to flee the burning theatre jammed up against the inside of the exit doors, preventing them from being opened inward. Where do I get these arcane bits of information? I learned this from LaVahn Hoh in his technical theater class at the UVA Drama School – his annual lecture on this fire was a widely attended and highly-anticipated event.
Need Another Pint, Lad?
What you see at the left is the Upin Arms pub. As another blogger here in Reading pointed out, English pubs have some great names: Back of the Beyond, Hobgoblin, The Monk’s Retreat, The Nobody Inn, and my current favorite: The Cuckoo Bush (from the 13th Century so definitely no reference to current politics).
Pub life is an amazing phenomenon here is the UK and there are countless web sites that review pubs and beers. It’s not analogous to the "neighborhood bar" in the U.S. exactly; there’s a large cultural thing going on here. I’ll have to do more research before filing a comprehensive report; yes, yes, it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it!
I attended the King Tut exhibit at The O2 in London recently. The O2 is that funny-looking domed structure with all the rods coming out its roof that you may have seen in movies. It turns out to be a huge tent – the dome is material like heavy canvas and the inside is a rigging miracle. Underneath this vast tent there are real brick-and-mortar restaurants and other buildings. The King Tut exhibit was in one of them; my timed-entry ticket allowed me to get in a long queue 30 minutes ahead of time and trickle forward (which I thought timed-entry tickets were supposed to help alleviate). The exhibit itself was a bit short on actual King Tut artifacts, instead containing a lot of things from the tombs of his relatives and peers. But hey, anytime you get to see a gilt coffin up close, you can’t complain, even if it belonged to King Tut’s mother-in-law. It’s always a thrill to be able to put your nose a few inches away from something that was crafted by hand 3,500 years ago!
Did I mention that there are four casino’s on the same street as my hotel? Not your Vegas-scale operations, but with all the gambling your wallet can stand nonetheless. They’re not real flashy on the outside either, no neon (sorry Robert), but they’re clearly casino’s. I didn’t go inside but a glimpse through the door revealed they have digital slot machines and poker. These are in addition to the several plain, old betting parlors in Reading, too, which are much more like the OTB in New York and are mostly sports- and racing-oriented.
Next: Moving into my apartment