London - why is everyone so uptight?

I got back from London last night, after a 4-day trip evaluating a business that a colleague and I are considering launching.  We had eight interesting and informative meetings with various prospective partners, and I ended the trip with an impromptu get together with Yahoo folks to discuss local media/blog concepts (they were interested in Bergen Carroll), but for most of the trip, I found myself in a slightly irritable mood.  At first, I couldn't figure out exactly why.  I thought it could be the rain and perpetual cloudy weather in London, but having visited a few times, I already expected this.  I found the subway tube kind of annoying (and inferior to NYC), from the slanted octagonal design that creates a cramped and claustrophobic feel to the escalating, three-toned, mechanical kitten purr that the train makes when it leaves each station, but this wasn't enough to change my mood either.   By the end of the trip, I'm pretty sure I figured out what was causing my ill mood.  I realized it was the mood that pervades every person and thing in London. There is a certain buttoned up, prim and proper, uptight sense of self-importance that I perceive of most Brits.  It's the opposite of the laid back, casual, nonchalant attitude in San Francisco, an approach I much prefer.  The fact that I was wearing a suit for our meetings, trying to fit into the London style probably didn't help either.  From this trip and previous encounters with Brits, some of whom I consider good friends, I sense souls screaming "let me out!"; pent up emotion that's been suppressed far too long.  This brings me to Shalom Auslander's recent article in the NY Times where he calls for the world to go casual in 2008.  I couldn't agree more.  It's time we let personal comfort dictate our dress and therefore, express ourselves freely.  London will be a far less stuffy place when this day arrives.

By Josh Guttman

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