I’ve been doing a lot of research lately about what it is people want to know about living in London.
(If I have my way) I’ll be writing about being an expat in London for quite a few more years, so it’s something I need to know. And one thing that’s come up somewhat regularly (aside from “How to Budget Living in London”, which is also coming), it’s queries about how and why people even like it here.
I think I’ve been pretty transparent about how difficult it can actually be to live in London. Those difficult things are true, whether you’re coming from somewhere else in the UK or from the other side of the world where the air isn’t poison. But there’s so much to love about living in London as well, and those things need to be highlighted too, while also acknowledging it’s a bit shit sometimes. So here’s my thoughts on how to love living in London.
Accept you’re going to be broke sometimes
First and foremost, I need you to remember that shit’s expensive here. Way more expensive than wherever it is you’ve come from, with the possible exception of New York – because hey, at least we have public healthcare here. You aren’t going to be able to say “yes” to everything, and you’re just going to have to learn to live with a bit of FOMO sometimes.
When in London, the best and most beautiful parts can be found when you look up. It wouldn’t be a shock to anyone who’s been to London (or to any major, highly populated city I suppose) that the sidewalk is pretty gross. London’s garbage disposal system consists largely of “just leave your bags on the sidewalk until someone comes and takes them away.” Plus when it’s been raining it’s pretty clear to see when you look in the gutters how much pollution there actually is. So, Look Up. Do it. Look at the beautiful buildings that proudly stand there, reminiscent of another time. Stare at the skyline with the new buildings and skyscrapers mixed in with the old. Search for hidden street art, blue skies and a little bit of wonder.
Enjoy Green Spaces
To be frank, if you came to London because you want green spaces, I’m afraid you’ve been severely misled somewhere along the way. But if you’re here, you may as well enjoy them. They’re a breathe of fresh air (literally) and the perfect place to escape and reevaluate your life. Trust me – even if it’s cold, just find a park and lie down (or sit down), and just stare at the sky for a while.
Leave the office at lunchtime, go for a walk on your day off, be outside in the sunshine – especially in winter, and regardless of if there’s sunshine. You need the exercise, you need the air and you need vitamin D. More than half the population in the UK have a deficiency in vitamin D, known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’. Vitamin D promotes good health and can also reduce depression – if you’re feeling down, especially during the darker months, consider taking supplements (and of course seeking help from a health professional if your symptoms persist.)
Get Some Culture
If you’re anything like me, the huge draw card of London is the culture – the art, the history, the food. The great thing about London is that so much of the culture is free; pretty much all the museums and galleries are free to enter, it’s just some of the special exhibits you need to pay for. Couple up those outings with a visit to one of the many restaurants featured on London Cheap Eats, and you’ve got yourself a fun, cheap and rewarding day out. Another great thing about London is that there’s always something to do. There’s always some kind of festival on or a foodie event, and while some of them can be pricey, a lot of them aren’t or are even free. If you sign up to Time Out Offers, you get deals in your inbox all the time. These are sometimes for restaurants, boozy brunches, all-you-can-eat’s, or festivals and events, or just some fun activity. Obviously it’s not feasible to do all of them, but treat yourself to one every now and then. Get outside, do something cultural and remember why London is the place you chose.
Write it Down
Remember why you came here, and write it down. I’m actually a huge fan of Pro / Con lists – but the thing is that on paper, London may not look so great. What I find good about Pro / Con lists is that if you get to the end and the answer you got isn’t what you hoped for – well then now you know. For me, the definite Pro’s are the culture, the food, the architecture, the opportunity (it’s there, if you’re patient and you work hard) and of course, the travel. This is why I’m here; to get out of the far away bubble that is Australia – as beautiful as it is.
Let Things Go
Here’s what may be the most important thing I could say to you, if you’re struggling with your decision with living in London. Let home go. Stop romanticising wherever it is you came from – you left for a reason.
This is one I’m so guilty of, because there’s no doubt my life was easier back in Brisbane. I was paid better, I was healthier and I was less lonely. But that doesn’t mean it was better. In fact, it was outright boring most of the time. I couldn’t cope with the idea of living in the same place I was born in, for the rest of my life. That is great for some people, but it was never for me, and I have to remind myself of that sometimes.
Just because something is harder, doesn’t mean it’s worse.