I've recently moved back to Croydon after five years or so of living in Wimbledon and I've already noticed some weird things about it. Technically, Croydon is part of London (it was incorporated in 1965), but it sure doesn't feel like it. For such a big place, Croydon has a peculiarly parochial, small-town feel (much, as I'm led to believe, like Kingston-Upon-Hull). One of the possible reasons for this is that Croydon grew out of Surrey, not London, and has been a town in its own right, with its own distinct identity, for hundreds of years. People seem never to be able to leave. My new next-door-neighbour (himself not a native Croydoner) is well acquainted with several people who were in my class at school - people who grew up there and have lived there all there lives, or, in some cases, even gone away to university and then come back. Now I'm not saying there's anything wrong with Croydon really, but I can't imagine spending my whole life there.
Perhaps the weirdest and most disconcerting thing is the way people look at you. There's an unwritten rule of etiquette in London that you notice people, but you do everything in your power not to let on that you've noticed. In fact, the more noticeable the person is, the more effort you make not to let on. To do so is considered terribly bad form. The maximum length of time you will look at someone for is about half a second. In Croydon this simply does not apply. People's gazes linger for seconds at a time. Some people blatantly stare at you as if you have two heads (like the teenage girl in Ikea yesterday with a bizarre bush of hair who gaped at me for ten whole seconds like I was a Wild Man of Borneo). People will even turn around at the sound of your voice, even when it's patently obvious that you're not addressing them. In London, unless you're absolutely certain that you're being addressed - and sometimes not even then - will you turn around. I'm tempted to start asking people if I can help them, but I doubt they'd get it. Perhaps I should just start staring right back.