In a couple of weeks time it will have been exactly one year since I packed up my two bags, got on a train and moved down to the big smoke – London.
It has been an exciting year, a year where I have learnt a lot about myself, about what I’m capable of and about our dear capital city. I must admit, although looking back on it now I can say ‘I’ve loved every minute’ and ‘it’s been such an amazing experience’, there have been some hard lessons along the way.
So here is my reflection, one year on in London and the 5 things I have learnt:
1. London can be lonely
On paper I am quite worldly and well-travelled. I have been incredibly lucky to live and work in some fascinating countries and have adapted very well to different languages and cultures and enjoyed every minute. Naively, I thought moving to London would be a walk in the park. After all, it’s in England, everyone here speaks in English, I already have friends that live here – no problem. How wrong was I?
Over 7 million people live in London, and I am just one of those people. You would think that the enormous number of people would mean that you are constantly meeting new people on every street corner, and if meeting meant crashing into people as they stared at their iPhones then you are meeting new people every couple of metres. However, Londoners aren’t like that. Conversing on public transport isn’t a done thing, having a chat about the weather with the newsagent man would prompt questions about your mental state and smiling at a complete stranger on Oxford Street..well…don’t be ridiculous. 7 million people, but it can feel like the loneliest place on earth.
2. London prices have made me healthier
London is more expensive than the north – fact. There is no escaping this fact. I pay double the amount for my rent in London than I would ever consider anywhere about the M25. However, a small part of me (a very small part of me towards the end of the month) likes the fact that London is more expensive.
I don’t go on those Friday and Saturday night drink binges because I can’t afford it, and with my Pay as you Go Oyster I find myself walking a couple of miles extra in order to save the few pounds. I don’t eat out or at fast food places often in order to not strain my purse, and in the most part I avoid Greggs (10p more adds up).
(However, bus prices in London are cheaper than Southport – sort it out Southport.)
3. My geography has vastly improved
24 years old and my geography of the south of England is shockingly poor. I can name nearly all of Europe’s capitals but if you had asked me to point out Essex on a map before moving down here I would have gone for somewhere near Dover. I have learnt that Essex is not a city, and neither is Kent – go figure.
Huge apologies to my Secondary school Geography teacher Mr Sullivan, but there is a reason I didn’t take it at GCSE.
4. London is HUGE
This might sound like I am stating the obvious, but I don’t think anyone who doesn’t live in London can quite comprehend how big this city is. I have friends live in places that are so far away that it will sometimes take me 2 hours from my front door to their front door, but they too have a London postcode. Now, to put that into perspective, I can nearly get back to Liverpool on a Virgin Train in that time..
The sheer enormity of London also means that meeting up with friends can be the hardest of tasks and if there is one thing I will change in my next London year it will be making sure I spend less time on WhatsApp catching up with these friends and more time arranging face-to-face catch ups.
5. I live in a very cultural city yet I do not feel very cultural
There are a countless museums, art galleries, exhibitions and concerts in London weekly and they are so easy to miss. If you fail to make a conscious effort to find out exactly what is going on week by week you can miss some of the most exciting events that happen in London.
I’m still in my ‘I’m in England’ mindset. Although London has, by a landslide, been the hardest city for me to settle in to, because it is still in England I don’t treat it like a foreign city. When I lived abroad I would constantly spend my free-time exploring and learning new things about different cultures and that is the exact mentality you need to have in London to make the most of this incredible city.
So, there it is, one year one and I’m still here. I’ve survived the London transport system, the tube strikes, the crashing into people, the loneliness and I have come out of it much more thick-skinned, a quicker walker (especially down Oxford Street) and more comfortable and happier in this big city.
They say there is a very thin line between love and hate, and I would have had to disagree until I came to London. It drives me insane daily, but then I cross Waterloo Bridge and see Houses of Parliament and Big Ben on one side and St Paul’s on the other and can’t help but smile.
One year down…bring on the next one London!