Guest Blogger: Robert Van West


As far as holidays go in the U.S, Thanksgiving is right up there with Christmas. Food, family, friends, more food, television specials, more food, passing out: basically, just like Christmas, but without a bearded, obese man handing out presents.

This year was my first Thanksgiving away from home. However, a piece of home came to me in the form of my older brother, Robbie.

He took a few days off from his teaching program in Spain to spend some time with me in London.

Robbie and I celebrating Thanksgiving in London, 2009

Here are some of his thoughts on life and culture in London:

You came to visit me in London over two years ago. What was your perception of London then? Has it changed after this visit?

My first excursion to jolly-old London was marked by a subcultural curiosity fueled perceptions based on music and film.

I expected to encounter cockney gangsters, boisterous soccer hooligans, dirty punk rockers on the dole, ace face mods on scooters and suit clad Jamaican rude boys.

After that first visit, I realized that the subcultural glory of London’s past exists only in London’s past. The upper class international hipster elite have taken over the streets of London and gentrification has taken its toll.

At least there are still good old fashioned Victorian pubs.

My view of London has become more realistic. I’ve realized that the best thing this city has to offer is its Victorian pubs and free museums.

London is as globalized and gentrified as any big city in the west. Almost anything I would want to do in London, I could do in San Francisco, New York or LA.

What are some differences between where you live in Spain and life in London?
London is modern, fast paced, expensive, global and multicultural – whereas rural Spain is rustic, slow paced, inexpensive and culturally homogenous.


Do you think London is one of the top cities in the world, in terms of cultural events going on?

Definitely. London is up there with San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.

Most everything that can be done in London, as far as cultural events go, can be done in any other big international city.

The “real” London is something that exists under the radar, and is something that most visitors, and even most Londoners, won’t be able to experience

Do you think there’s a greater appreciation for arts/music in London than in other big cities you’ve been to? Why or why not?
This is a tough question. London is a hard working city and it is also a gentrified city.

A lot of mainstream Londoners listen to the same crap with the same feigned appreciation as other people from big cities.

London has a glorious musical past, but it hasn’t been able to recreate what it did in the 60s and 70s.If anything, it has used the imagery of those times in order to pull in more tourism.

How does the music scene in London compare to the scene in San Francisco? Barcelona? In Berlin?
London’s music scene, because of its historical role in the music industry, has a lot more hype than a lot of other cities.

England is also a real small country, so a mediocre London band could get a lot bigger than a superior band from Liverpool, just because the media spreads things faster from London.

Any contemporary music I listen to is underground and independent, so to me it doesn’t matter where the band came from so long as they rock my trouser pants off.

What are the similarities and differences between how people our age behave/socialize in the U.S, Spain, and Germany?
Generally (key word), Americans are more superficial when they socialize; Spaniards are louder and more animated; Germans like to talk a lot about intellectual mumbo-jumbo; and the English seem to fall somewhere between the Germans and Americans.

They enjoy having intellectual conversations with a few pints, but they also know how to get completely wrecked and retarded-drunk.

Do you think the attitude towards Americans in Europe has changed at all since the last time you came here?
No. The English I’ve met always judge Americans the same as anyone else. In my experience, the English are often the most receptive to Americans.

What’s your favorite part about London? Least favorite?
Favorite: Victorian pubs serving hand pumped ales. Least favorite: Helllla fucking expensive assed town, dude.

How did you enjoy Thanksgiving, London-style?
It was the dog’s bollocks.

What was the best part of your trip here?
Seeing my lovely little sister happy and flourishing her new habitat. Ed note: awww

Thanks, Robbie!

Robbie, Brownie, and I: circa 1987

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5 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Robert Van West

  1. Mom says:

    So I take it “London rocking your trousers off, means the trip was cool!” Cockney gangsters, boisterous soccer hooligans, dirty punk rockers on the dole, ace face mods on scooters and suit clad Jamaican rude boys? Sounds like a Ruiz Family reunion : )

  2. Why not put the picture at the beginning. It catches eyeballs.

    You look cute, with your fingers touching the dog’s nose. 🙂

    Meeting with family is always the most wonderful thing, isn’t it?

  3. Nina says:

    I second the “awww”. Like Nana used to say, “Amanda looks like the Gerber baby”. So glad to hear that you and Robbie had a rockin’ Thanksgiving. Nina the Magnificent made a feast fit for royalty – too bad “Liz and Phil” weren’t in town for this one! Looking forward to having you two home for Christmas. Love, Nina

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