That One Day I Was on a Train in London

It’s a common experience: drowning in the anonymous pool of urban centers. We wander the streets of new cities, sit in restaurants and cafés or use public transport where strangers sit right next to us – without saying a word. One is so close but yet so distant. “Who are they?“, we oftentimes think.


I have been an expat in London, UK, for a year and returned to Germany almost a year ago. The experiences I have made in the metropolis are priceless. The little things are literally what make an “urban” experience valuable.

I still hear this buzzing noise – while surrounded by peace and quiet – when thinking about the hustle and bustle of London’s streets, I picture the men and women who are constantly in a hurry, the people not trying to make eye contact on the tube to maintain their anonymity in order to stay in their little bubble surrounding them.

And all of a sudden, it happens: your eyes meet. Each time this happens – and those moments are rare – it’s an awkward, indescribable feeling. It’s as if the two cocoons surrounding each person have become fragile. You wonder: “What is this person thinking?” For some reason, you feel caught out.

This moment holds something beautiful. In all this hectic, busy atmosphere characterizing urban centers it is as if you stop for a second to literally look a little closer, to appreciate what is around to, to start thinking, to value a look – and maybe a little smile which is barely noticeable. I have come to realize that people in London almost desperately try to avoid making eye contact, let alone saying something nice to a stranger. Holy…who would do the latter? You might run the risk of being called a psycho.

But what would big cities be without their little surprises? Certainly, there are many to be found in London – if only you are capable of appreciating the somewhat little things.

I was on a train to London Bridge when I noticed a friendly-looking guy who was looking at me. It made me feel uncomfortable at first for I didn’t know what he was thinking. I looked out of the window. He didn’t turn his head. He stood up as he obviously had to alight at the next station. The train stopped. He didn’t move.

“I know this might sound a bit random but I just wanted to let you know you look stunning. Have a lovely day!”

And then he got off the train and left me being totally thunderstruck.

He spoke his mind. For a very short period of time, the busy streets of London seemed to freeze.

If only people would speak their nice thoughts out loud more often, urban centers would, without a doubt, be a less anonymous pool of strangers.

Have you had a similar experience in a big city?