I know I’m in Tbilisi, but it’s been almost a year now since I left London and I’m feeling quite reflective. I’d like to share a list of things that I’ve taken away from London that surprised me, since it’s probably one of the best-known cities in the world, you can’t help but have preconceptions when living there.
Hopefully this will be useful for any of you who are intending to move to London, I know I would’ve complained less if someone had told me!
1: It’s not impossibly expensive
Okay, I’ll start off with the subject everyone talks about which is the price of life in London. Of course London is expensive if you rent a beautiful luxury flat, or if you only eat at the best restaurants, but on a day-to-day basis I was really amazed.
As a poor student I was eligible to student loan so budgeted like crazy. I searched far and wide for a cheap room, within walking distance of where I needed to be. I saved a lot of money that way, which I spent on cake and last-minute opera tickets (Turandot at the ROH pictured above).
There is so much to choose from in London. That means that competition is high and therefore the cheaper you are, then the more likely you are to gain customers. The bagel place on Brick Lane or the worker’s cafe I lived above are good examples. Also, just venture away from Zone 1 and you’ll see the difference.
In Oxford and smaller cities, there’s not so much to choose from. So you rarely see deals at the cinema or in restaurants because they all gain their business anyway from being the only one there. Makes sense huh?
Also noone will judge you for bringing packed lunch, and the markets are amazingly cheap.
I’d obviously visited London as a tourist before I moved there, but once you move there, don’t know anyone and want to save money, the only entertainment is venturing down some weird side alleys to see what obscurities you can find.
I lived pretty much in the City, which wasn’t the most enjoyable I have to say. However, I spent a lot of time walking down towards the river via the Tower of London which lead to the discovery of the beautiful St Dunstan-in-the-East which was my solace in the claustrophobic concrete of Tower Hamlets.
Walk everywhere, you’ll find something new even after walking down the same street 100 times.
3: Noone else knows what they’re doing either
I was forewarned about the expectations of the ‘London Life‘ which basically means you live off Nutribullets, exclusively ride Uber cabs and only shop in Liberty.
Everyone else is wandering around hoping they look the part too. I spoke to a girl who was promoted as marketing manager at some fancy tech company (basically the most cliché job you can have in London) and she confessed to me that she goes through each day winging it because she has no idea how it happened.
Basically, don’t feel like you always have to be doing something. It was the hardest part for me!
4: Londoners really aren’t as stereotypical as you’d expect
Although, that’s a statement coming from an English girl, so maybe I’m just immune to the stereotypes of tea-drinking and hat-tipping.
In terms of the English Gentlemen stereotype, that’s pretty much non-existent, especially in clubs. Unfortunately hipsters are about as close as you’ll get, but only if you wear 80% tweed and a black beanie.
Once I ventured to Poplar to see a showing of Bedknobs and Broomsticks where I met the Angela Lansbury(!) because that’s where she grew up. It was further East than I’d gone before and quite comforting to hear the old ladies with their Cockney accents and bacon butties.
Although that’s literally the only time I’ve heard a Cockney accent, the whole of Britain does not sound like that, unfortunately.
I don’t know if it’s because I lived with a Brazillian girl but I found London so sociable. I could be waiting for the tube and someone would spark up a conversation with me (not in a creeper way either). I made really good friends with a busker by Embankment station (go say hello to him if you’re ever there!) and didn’t really meet anyone with bad intentions.
I attached a photo of Roger Waters because I have a good story to tell. I did a lot of things alone in London, one of which was see Roger Waters perform in Wembley. Without dwelling on the intimidating security guard who cornered me “because he didn’t want to be my boyfriend” I actually met two lovely ladies before who were also heading to the concert.
They sort of adopted me because I was alone, and one of the ladies, Lou, had ME, so they were seated in the disabled area, almost level with the stage. I was due to sit in the heavens (where the intimidating security guard told me he’d be waiting for me afterwards, seriously) so they snuck me in and I experienced the concert on the floor next to her wheelchair. We’re still in contact now, they were just wonderful and so so interesting. Everyone has a story.
It might seem big and scary but there is a sense of community spirit after all.
What’s your impression of London? Have you experienced similar things elsewhere? Would love to hear from you!