Sunday, July 17, 2011


Sean with our group at St. Paul's Cathedral
Today was our Coach (i.e. bus) tour of London. Our tour guide, Sean, was not of the "To your left is this ..." followed by one or two memorized details. Blue Badge Guides are the creme de le creme of tour guides. In order to become a Blue Badge Guide, individuals undergo extensive training and must complete tough examinations in order to achieve the highest honor bestowed upon guides. When our group was first told about the blue badge guides, we were told to show them the same respect that you would show a professor. That is how knowledgeable these guys and gals are. Also, they do wear blue badges while they are out giving tours.  Nothing ostentatious, just an ornament of distinction.

Tour guides are not the only Brits who endure rigorous testing to excel in their profession. Before individuals can become taxi drivers they must take an exam called the Knowledge. This test shows how well they know all parts of Lodon. Both city and suburban drivers must learn the ins and outs of London; suburban drivers must know their sectors just as well. I was actually surprised to learn this, because on the way in, our taxi driver asked us if we had a map to the Study Center. We did not, but the number is pretty visible along Great Russell Street, so we reached our destination. Along with the exam, drivers must meet other requirements, including passing a background check and being medically sound.

Wait staff are also treated  and act in a very different manner in the UK. In America they continually return to the table to ensure customers are placated. Whereas here, wait staff rely on you to let them know if you would like anything else and when you are ready for the check and maybe a take away.  There are two reasons for this: 1) there are no refills, so there is no obligation to return to the table and 2) tips, though appreciated, do not make up the bulk of a servers income because they are paid a decent wage.

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