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October 31, 2005

Gwyneth Paltrow's London Insider Tips for You

What's it like to be an American expat? Gwyneth Paltrow is London's favorite adopted golden girl. Here's how to assimilate when you're out of your element.

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Photo Credit: Jean-Paul Aussenard/Wire

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1 EXPECT DIFFERENCES--AND ENJOY THEM!
The mistake I made was thinking that because the U.S. and the U.K. share the same language, everything would be the same. It's really not the same! England is a foreign country, with a very foreign culture and foreign sense of humor. At first I found it kind of cold and depressing, but over the years, I've really fallen in love with it. When I'm in London, I go to the theater, I go to museums, I see friends. It's a really nice place to live.

2 MELLOW OUT.
In America, everything is so clean. My husband [Coldplay's Chris Martin, a Brit] thinks I'm way too obsessed with cleanliness and germs. I'm just like, "The street is filthy, could we take off our shoes before we come in the house?" He likes to imitate me and say, "Ewww, oh my God!" Also, customer service is just rubbish in England. People are much more relaxed there, and things take forever to get done. They'll tell you it'll take two weeks for your Internet service to be fixed! It drives me nuts. And I miss being able to get anything at any time of the day. You can't do that there.

3 DO AS LONDONERS DO.
I personally think that Americans should try to blend in slightly--especially because we don't seem to be everybody's favorite nationality at the moment. Americans often wear white sneakers with shorts and baseball hats when they're abroad--why?

4 LEARN TO SPEAK REAL ENGLISH.
It's very funny--there are words that just don't overlap at all. Brits say "rubbish bin"; we say "trash can." I'm always having to change my vocabulary depending on what country I'm in. Apple's 17 months old now, and she's talking so much. On certain words she sounds English, and she's got a cockney accent when she says hello for some reason; she says, "Allo!" I'm like, "No one you know talks like that!"

5 DON'T FORGET YOUR GALOSHES.
Bring a raincoat, definitely! Or at least a little umbrella that can fit in your bag, because it does always rain. The best thing for London, even if you're going in summer, is to bring a little cashmere sweater or a pashmina, because it gets really cold unexpectedly.

6 BRING A LITTLE BIT OF HOME WITH YOU.
Reading The New York Times gives me a little hit of home. Especially on Sundays, when Apple takes her nap. I get a cup of tea, and I read it online. And I have an old perfume bottle of my mother's. It's this Balenciaga fragrance that's discontinued, and it's got, like, one drop left in it. I smell it, and it reminds me of her.


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