Postcard from… London

Christine Okokon

LONDON – NOT JUST A SHOPPING SPREE!!

So much about working in London is different. The transportation, for one, is excellent. There are trains – or rather the tube as it’s called – which go everywhere in London in a considerably short period of time. Happily, I found that I did not have to leave home in the wee hours of the morning only to spend an obscene amount of time in Lagos-type traffic. And even though the trains stop running at midnight, you can actually find a bus to take you anywhere at any hour of the day or night! I certainly avoided taking black cabs at night after I discovered that the rates are much higher after 10pm. It was indeed quite intriguing to discover that top government officials, partners in law firms and high powered bank execs actually ride the trains to work. In Nigeria, that would be a rare, if not impossible, sight! Especially since the trains are packed during rush hour and you might find yourself having to stand for most of your journey.

I must confess, initially, I didn’t always like the fact that I sometimes had to walk long distances to get the train or bus – Lagosians just don’t do a lot of walking. But I discovered that it made me physically fitter so there was some benefit derived from the process. And Londoners will always tell you “it’s a three to five minute walk” to your destination, when in actual fact its closer to 15. This is because everyone walks incredibly fast here – a habit I eventually picked up without realising.

Something else that takes some getting used to is the fact that, in London, everyone calls you “darling”. So whenever anyone stepped on my foot, they would say “Oh, I’m sorry darling”. How sweet…

London’s diversity cannot be ignored. You could safely say that there are people from virtually every race living in London. Consequently, you are able to find any cuisine you desire. This worked perfectly for me as I have an incurable preference for extremely spicy food – a fact that was not lost on the chefs at DWS.

Now on to the work experience. It was a gradual process but, as time went on, I was given more responsibilty. And because London is one of the major financial cities, you never find yourself doing anything boring for too long. You could be working on an ordinary contract of sale one day and the next, you find yourself advising on the legal and financial issues involved in the construction of roads!

Funnily, the weather is a constant topic for discussion in London. So whether its ‘jolly good weather’ or ‘ghastly weather’, one thing is certain, it can start to rain without any warning, and you know you’ve become a Londoner when you always have a brolly in your handbag!

Christine Okokon is a lawyer at Nigerian firm Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie on secondment with Denton Wilde Sapte in London