After spending some time in England, particularly York and Burnley, I am convinced the British have maintained a slower, sweeter pace than Americans. For example, when you walk into a coffee shop, they automatically serve your drink in a ceramic cup because your cappuccino is not an end in of itself, it is an opportunity to sit down, rest, and possibly chat with a friend. We rarely, if ever, saw anyone walking around town with a drink or food in their hands—meals and beverages are not eaten on the move like hustled Americans where practically every other person on the street is sipping or eating on-the-go. And the English not only stop to eat and drink, they also go out of their way and take the time to be hospitable to others.
We had an experience one evening where we had been searching for a recommended restaurant when a gentleman who was just closing up his bookshop noticed we seemed lost.
“Where are you headed? Can I help you?” he inquired.
“We’re looking for Bertolini’s restaurant,” we replied, “Do you know where it is?”
“Bertolini’s? I’ve never heard of that. Do you want another recommendation?”
He proceeded to tell us about this great, decently-priced restaurant just a couple blocks away, then said, “Hey! I’m headed that direction, let me walk you over there.”
We chatted as we walked in the direction of the restaurant and then he looked down at his watch and noted the time, “5:30! Oh, you can’t eat now! If you go now, there won’t be anyone else in the restaurant and the ambiance will be poor. You should go have some drinks beforehand. I’ll show you the local pub that’s close to here so you can grab a drink…I’m headed that direction anyway.”
So we switched paths and meandered over to the local pub. Upon arrival he declared, “Ah, what the heck! I don’t drink, but let me buy you a drink!” So this gentleman, who we soon discovered was named John, bought us a couple beers at the local pub and added great conversation and local flavor to our evening.
When we kept thanking him for taking the time to show us such kindness, he was emphatic that our experience with him was simply the way of the British and anyone else we might have run into would have done the same. And sure enough, this type of hospitality and willingness to give of time was reflected in several interactions with people whom we had the pleasure to meet…it’s a way of life.
And I think it is a way of life that is not part of the culture in America. Our time in England reminded me how important it is to slow down.