October 30th, 2016


Visiting London, UK from Small Town America

Setting: present day Iowa/Virginia and London (UK)

What I am looking for is (if possible) first-hand accounts of coming from Small Town America to London (UK) for the first time. Not the obvious stuff (drive on the ‘wrong side’, no grid-iron road systems, much older buildings etc.) but the smaller stuff that you never expect. An example; a friend came to visit me in London from Germany. She found the sound of our sirens ‘weirdly jolly’. That kind of stuff.

Search terms used: all variations of 'uk vs usa travel differences' that I can think of, which either throws up what I could guess or already know, or various agencies helping you plan your visit to either country. Neither of which are what I'm looking for, really.

Specifics: My character is twenty-three, living in a Virginia college town, originally from Des Moines and pretty poor (sort of trailer trash). Going to London is the first time he’s been abroad.

The Virginia college town is made up. For reasons now forgotten, it takes up the space of Wytheville, VA. I don’t really know what college towns in the US are like, so I’ve gone for something somewhere between Oxford (UK) and what Harvard looks like on TV. I imagine it flat (as in, buildings not higher than say five storeys), sprawling (as in, the town itself is spread in such a way that there’s not many places where you’ll suddenly bump into enormous groups of people/students, and with wide streets) and sort of sleepy once you’re away from the main campus. If this isn’t want US college towns are like, you can tell me, sure, but it’s too late to change that, story-wise. The only impressions I have of Des Moines comes from Bill Bryson’s Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid which is mostly set in the 50s so I have no real idea of what it’s like either.

Des Moines isn’t all that important to the story, but gives my character context for this at least, and Des Moines and the Virginia college town are the only places he’s ever lived. Other places he’s visited are the other towns surrounding the college town (all of which are of a similar ilk, minus the prestigious university), Detroit (once a year to visit his brother in prison – so three times) and Washington DC (maybe also about three times).

In London, he’s going to live in south London (Old Kent Road), work in a south London hospital (St Thomas’, Lambeth) but he’s also going to do a lot of the touristy stuff, most of which is in central London.

So! What would he be unprepared for? I know there are a lot of things that are ‘expected’ when visiting the UK – different plugs, money, aforementioned driving on the left etc. – and I know some things you’re ‘forewarned’ for by watching British TV shows, but what would be odd because you didn’t think of it? What would be noticeable to someone who’s only lived in Des Moines (and not the nice bits) and small Virginia college towns?

[Anon Post] Drug Lord Hiring Non-Criminal Staff

Setting: Fictional country, 1970s-current
I've tried various Google searches, but, basically, if your search includes "hiring," Google assumes you're looking for a job. I've also found information on how crime organizations recruit and initiate members, but nothing on civilian work, so to speak.

How would the leader of an international drug empire go about hiring chefs, personal assistants, tailors, and other non-criminal employees? He can't just pull people from his own organization, since he wants the best of the best, and not many world-class chefs are involved in organized crime. While I'm sure there are top-of-their-field professionals who would have no qualms about working for a drug lord, how would he find them? Placing an honest job opening on the internet ("Work for me! I'm a notorious criminal!") seems like a good way to attract law enforcement, but hiding his identity would probably make it harder to find applicants who would fit well with his lifestyle. Once he has some candidates, how would he interview and screen them?

Additionally, how would he accomplish this in the 70s and 80s, pre-internet? Quite frankly, how did anyone hire non-locally before the internet?


Possible Resource for Early 20th-c New York Tenement Life

If you can't visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in person, there's still some interesting stuff on their blog, including this link to NYPD historical crime scene photos from the pre-WWI era, which the Museum used as reference for one of the homes they refurbished (since crime scene photos show homes that haven't been tidied up for visitors): "So we grit our teeth, study the dead, leave out the blood splatter and take note of what’s on the dresser."