I have been living in London for over two years now – I moved here in September 2017, after graduating from university. I spent the first six months working a job in psychology in Dulwich before getting a job as an investment writer in the City and moving to an office in Blackfriars. I have spent the whole two years living in south east London, first in a little house with Jake and my friend Sophie and now in a little one-bedroom flat, just with Jake. The longer we live here together, the more settled I feel, and the more I realise just how much I like London. Not because it’s some perfect, magical city, as so many obnoxious travel listicles or flowery descriptions like to claim, but because I feel at home here. Right now, there is nowhere else I’d like to be.
I am not a fan of the way that certain cities are described – primarily places like New York and London and Paris – when the writer imbues them with a sense of magic or majesty. Yes, these are interesting, vibrant places. They are the centre of many powerful industries and culture. It remains a privilege to be able to live, and live well, in one of the most famous cities on the planet. But they are still just cities. They are busy and dirty and polluted and expensive, and no matter how wonderful they are, they are real. I don’t ever want to write about anywhere in a way that sounds too good to be true.
But that being said, there are many things about living in London that I do love, and do reflect many of the well known opinions about this famous, historic city. This post will be followed by a blog discussing the worst things about living in London, in a bid to stay honest and show that any major city is by no means sunshine and rainbows all the time. For now, though, I want to share the good parts about living in London, of which there are many. I am really happy here, right now. Here’s why:
- Learning all the little tricks about the city. I love knowing which line changes on the underground are the fastest, or how to figure out where to stand on the platform so the train doors will stop right in front of you. I love knowing what the fastest cycling routes are, or the how the traffic lights will change as I cross Blackfriars Bridge on my way to work. I love knowing where the best views of Tower Bridge are, or the best places to grab a cheap bowl of ramen. There are some things you can only love about a city when you live there, day after day, week after week. After a few years, I’m starting to get there. I suppose what I’m saying is that I love the familiarity you can only have when you commit to one place.
- The theatre. Most lists about London list, well, everything. London does have amazing galleries, restaurants, parks, shows, shops, music and people. But my favourite is the theatre. By virtue of Jake working in theatres much of the time, we are able to go to lots of shows for free, or at a heavy discount. I love live theatre and I love knowing that the country’s, if not the world’s, best shows are right on my doorstep.
- Cycling. Cycling around London is truly the best. The tube is incredible, but there’s nothing like putting the map of the city together in your head and cycling past the Shard, over the bridges around any number of modern skyscrapers and ancient churches as you find your way from home to work to bars and back again. I could not recommend cycling in London more highly. You won’t die, I promise.
- Cycling over the bridges. Cycling around generally is great. But cycling over the bridges, any bridge, is the best thing to do in London on your bike. Crossing any of London’s bridge is, I think, the best way to get a sense of how huge, busy and lively London is. Cycling over Waterloo Bridge at night is my favourite thing to do in this regard: you can see the London Eye, the Southbank, Tower Bridge, the City, Westminster and any number of buildings, cars and boats lit up after the sun goes down. It is awesome.
- The political culture. It is important to be politically engaged everywhere, but it sure is easy in London. Not only is this where our government is based, so many major marches and protests also happen right on my metaphorical doorstep. I am so grateful to live somewhere that makes participating in politics easy.
- Cheap ramen. I am on somewhat of a mission to try all the ramen places in London until I have a definitive ranking. So far, Kanada-Ya is topping the list, without a doubt. Bone Daddies and Tonkotsu are also contenders.
- Feeling like anything could happen. Part of the reason London doesn’t feature on the blog that often, outside of Get Snappy, is that I am very bad at being a tourist in London. I mean, I am not a tourist. I live here! Going to restaurants, shows, bars, pubs and exhibitions is expensive, and for the most part, that isn’t what I want to spend money on. Given that most people cite the wealth of things to do in London as the best thing about being in London, it’s hard to put into words why I still love London in spite of rarely doing any of those things. For me, the real reason I love living in London is not about going to the Tate or spending my weekends getting wasted in a club. It’s the way I feel when I’m here. I feel like anything I could want to do, any work, any project, any goal – this is the best place to do it. It feels so much like the centre of things.
- The architecture. London is full of great buildings. I have always loved the contrast between the old bridges, towers and churches and the glassy skyscrapers that reach up toward the clouds. It is visually exciting, almost all the time.
- The tube. I know, I know. I’ve been waxing poetic about getting around my bike. I don’t even use the tube that often. But it is incredible. Amazingly quick, convenient and it sprawls across the city. I am just in awe of this project, and that a city as vast as London is so neatly and easily traversable. There’s something about feeling like you’ve mastered the tube that makes you feel like you have mastered a core part of being a Londoner (ugh, I’m sorry. These were the kind of cheesy lines I was hoping to avoid).
- Almost everyone I love lives here. Yes, this is the dirty secret about my enduring love for London. It is utterly rooted in the fact that my family, Jake’s family and so many of my friends live in or close to the city. I know that this is what makes me feel truly settled in London. Jake and I want our kids to grow up near our parents. We want to be able to see our friends often. We want to be a meaningful part of our loved ones’ lives. The rest of the world is amazing too, and it calls to me in a very real way, but I had a moment the other week, after seeing family or friends every single night for six days straight, when I realised that that was what made London truly somewhere I wanted to dig into. So many of the people I love are here. Why would I want to be anywhere else?
Especially after moving into our new flat, I have been feeling more and more at peace with living here. There was a point after graduation where I wondered constantly if I should be off living abroad and if London was really somewhere I wanted to live long-term. But a few years in, I think it is. I can’t say I won’t up sticks for a while now and then, but overall, I could see myself settling here forever. I wanted to write that down, and why, so that, regardless of where my future self choose to live, I will always have a reminder that at one point, this was exactly where I wanted to be.
Up next: the worst things about living in London