It’s been about six months since I upped sticks and moved to the big smoke from Up North. I moved down to London to be with my (now) fiancé, and was looking forward to living with him, but I have to admit that I was also very nervous about moving to such a large city. I was expecting a lot of negatives: overcrowding, horrible commutes, pollution and unfriendly people. I’m surprised to say now, though, that six months later I’m settling in well, and I’m finding things I really like about it.
1. The tube
A lot of people talk about the tube as if it’s the bane of their life. To be honest, if I was commuting on it every day, I’d probably feel the same.
I’m lucky because I get out of London every day to work so I never have to face the hell that is the Victoria line to Oxford Circus at 8.30 on Monday morning. I do however use the tube to get in and out of town, and to go and see friends, and I think it’s great. It’s easy to use, the Oyster system means I don’t have to queue for tickets (which suits an introvert like me down to the ground). It’s so well designed, and makes getting from one part of London to another in a really quite amazingly short amount of time very easy. I also adore it for the people watching possibilities. If you are like me and despise night buses, the good news is that the tube will be going 24 hours a day at weekends next year as well.
2. Celebrating difference
London is a brilliant mixture of people – I’m not just talking about people from different ethnic backgrounds, I’m talking about cultural identities. Up North people can sometimes be a bit taken aback if you dress differently in my experience (I’m certainly not saying that’s true for everyone or in every city though). Here that seems much less of an issue, and there is much more of a “Live and Let Live” vibe. Of course this is a sweeping generalisation, and I’m sure that isn’t true of every single area or of every person’s experience – I’m not trying to suggest it’s all glitter and unicorn farts because that would be ridiculous. But London is actually a lot less intimidating and a lot more open-minded than I gave it credit for before I moved here.
3. Cultural activities
When I first moved here, every time I called home people were asking me “what’s Hyde Park like?” “Have you been to see the queen yet?” or “Is Madame Tussauds good?”. The thing is, when you live in a city, you don’t really end up doing that stuff. That said, there are so many great cinemas (indie as well as mainstream), shows and ballets, which I do make use of regularly. There are also so many restaurants in the city that you literally could eat at a different place every night til the end of time. It’s food heaven, and every dietary need is catered for.
London is surprising in many ways, and one of them is just how green the city is. Obviously there are the bigger parks like Hyde Park, Regent Park, St James’s Park, Hampstead Heath, Green Park, but there are also smaller ones like Finsbury Park a stone’s throw away from me, and a lot of trees on suburban streets. Yes there are times when you feel filthy from the tube and congested from pollution in the city centre, but there are plenty of green spaces to get away from it.
5. The village feel
It sounds very strange to say that London has a village feel (given that it’s the capital city), but to me every area has its own distinct vibe and each high street or main shopping area has a unique feel. Having a car is an expensive business in London so most people don’t just hop out for a weekly shop, but will often shop small and local. Shop owners get to know you and are very friendly when you’ve been in a few times, so even though at times the thought of London as a whole sounds overwhelming, your own little chunk of it feels like home very quickly.
6. Escape routes
As much as I’ve grown to love the city of London, at times, a change is good. Luckily, there are loads of easy ways to get out to the country by car, rail and air. Getting to France is a short trip away on the Eurotunnel. I also love the fact that I can get away by car easily, especially if I’m going back home.
I may never feel like I’m 100% Londoner, but I have a big appreciation for it now, and how much more there is on offer.
So, over to you – are you a city type? What do you love about where you live?
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