Moving out of your family home, and stepping out into the big wide world is always a daunting, life changing experience. Perhaps even more so when you move to East London, and although they never said anything, your parents are petrified for your life.
It’s not as scary as it may seem, and I think moving to London for university was one of the best decisions of my life. There have been many learning curves, both significant and small, so I decided to write a list of the small lessons I have learnt in these past two years.
1. It’s noisy.
Too noisy at times. When I moved into university halls, for reasons unknown my windows weren’t double glazed, therefore I had a few sleepless nights of listening to cars, buses and sirens scream past until I became used to it. Then I started dating my boyfriend and he couldn’t stand it, even on occasion refused to sleep in my room. I swear sirens are louder in London than anywhere else, and a lot more frequent.
2. The public transport is quite good.
Especially the buses. They’re so frequent- where I grew up buses were only on a half an hour basis, and even then they wouldn’t turn up. Also in London the buses announce each stop, and this is a life saver when living in such a huge city; especially at 3 am when you’re drunkenly hugging a McDonald’s and you’re not quite sure where or who you are. Even the underground, as mad and as busy as it is, I miss so much when I’m visiting home.
3. It’s expensive, but survivable.
London has been voted the most expensive city in the world to live in; rent it atrocious, pints prices are shocking, and if you want to go to a decent club you may end up paying £20 entry. However as long as you’re careful with money, and realise you may not be able to afford as many nights out or restaurant meals as your friends living in other cities, you can avoid going into your overdraft. I still cannot wait until I have a decent/well paying job and can afford more drinks in Shoreditch, but for now I am just happy to make ends meet, with enough money left over to blow on travelling and festivals.
4. Primark is horrible.
I do love Primark, even though its ethics are questionable. In London however, I wish to avoid it’s stores at any cost (why do they not do delivery?!) They are constantly packed with people pushing each other out of the way, and I hate shopping most of the time, but in London I really struggle to enjoy browsing through the pretty clothes, and trying things on. In any other city it can be quite peaceful, or at least calmer, but not in London. I feel like I’m going to war, diving into the angry rabble of shoppers to triumphantly emerge with a £5 dress and maybe some new jeans.
5. Fried chicken becomes a necessary part of your diet.
I mentioned McDonald’s earlier, but in East London it’s not always quite so high end. Instead there are friend chicken shops aplenty. The road my university is on, the first thing anyone notices is that it is essentially a road of fried chicken, from the good to the only purchase when very, very drunk. Fried chicken is readily available anywhere in London, and you can try to be healthy, but you will find yourself in a chicken shop at some point whilst you live there.
6. People are constantly in a rush.
I have warned to my friends visiting me: “Get your Oyster card out before you get to the barrier. People will hate you if you make them wait”. Luckily when we’re British we just demonstrate our frustration by glaring angrily at your back. (If you’re wondering what an Oyster card is, it is the main method of paying for public transport in London). London does something to your mindset: when people walk slowly on a busy street it makes me irrationally annoyed to be stuck behind them. It sometimes feels that in London you must always have a destination, that you can’t just wander around the city aimlessly. This is not true, but it is maybe better to wander aimlessly in a park.
7. It is beautiful.
Speaking of parks, I would argue that London has some of the most beautiful parks I have ever seen. On a summery day, it is always perfect to grab a book or some company and park your behind on a large stretch of grass. Even the main city is breathtaking. I love the London skyline because it is equally impressive due to The Shard, and quirky due to The Gherkin. A fond pastime of mine is to walk along the Thames river, and just be happy that I live here. (Yes, very cheesy.)
8. Being cosmopolitan makes it fabulous.
London doesn’t have the largest diversity of nationalities in the world, but it’s safe to say there are a lot. I have zero knowledge/proof of this, but I like to think it is why there is such a great variety of cuisine, events and just general cultural interest to span gigs, theatre and everything else. The people you meet will come from all corners of the earth and everywhere in between, and not only will your horizons and knowledge of the world broaden, you will realise the world is full of interesting people.
9. You make it your own.
A famous quote from Samuel Johnson is “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life.” Possibly because London is so vast, and there is always something to do; you will never memorise the whole of London or taste all it has to offer, even if you live there your whole life. Which is quite a daunting thought. There are so many ways to enjoy London, both on a budget and when you can spend spend spend. I like the weird and wonderful bars of the East End, whereas others are more prone to hang out in the classy West End. Some prefer to check out the theatre London offers, whilst their friends find it more exciting to view the big movie premieres on Leicester Square. London is there to mould into your own experience.
10. People are always impressed you live there.
From looking approving when you know the underground system (and judging you when you don’t) to saying “I could never live there”; it seems living in London is a feat worthy of a trophy. And yes, you’re proud to say you live in London: that you do get squashed on the Central Line, pay twice as much rent, and maybe once in a while do something touristy. It’s crazy and scary, but so, so fun.
I feel I started to get a little corny then, maybe I love London more than I realise.