This piece was published in February 2013 in Smoke Magazine (the student magazine of The University of Westminster.)
Adjusting to London Life
They call New York the city that never sleeps. This, I certainly don’t doubt. However, surely London has to come a close second in the list of the world’s insomniac metropolises. I’d never understood people describing a place as being alive until I moved to London at the beginning of last September. I’d been on visits, sure, but it’s only when you actually live here you begin to understand why the capital has such a great reputation. The city literally buzzes with opportunity twenty four hours a day. Allow me to illustrate my point. It’s 4am, and you’ve decided you fancy a Chinese, followed by a sightseeing bus ride through the city centre. No problem. Chinatown has you sorted; and you can’t walk more than five feet without encountering a bus stop.
If, like me, you hail from a small place which redefines the term ‘off the beaten tracks’, then moving to London can be something of a shock to the system, one that’s along the lines of being woken up by somebody throwing a bucket of ice water over you. The sheer size of the place itself is mind melting; (insert size of London in square miles, find comparison), and I’m not just talking about the city itself. Sitting on the 25 bus down towards Oxford Circus I sometimes feel like I’m five again; I’ve often found myself craning my neck upwards to see the concrete and steel monoliths surrounding me.
The contrast between the small midlands town where I’m from could not be greater; whilst it’s not without its charm it offers precious little in the way of things to do, with what actually is available shutting down at 6pm. No danger of that happening here in London. To name but two examples, HMV and Boots in Leicester Square are open until midnight. You wouldn’t see that anywhere else. Everywhere you go is a veritable orgy for the senses. Take a stroll through Camden Lock market, and your nostrils will be greeted by all manner of smells from the food stalls, your eyes will be overloaded by a sea of colour and your ears will be serenaded by almost every genre of music under the sun, barely audible over the bustle of shoppers and stall holders. It’s bliss. Whoever you are, whatever your interests happen to be, I guarantee there’s something within London’s tapestry for you. One of the greatest things about living here is the opportunity to explore; do it, you never know what you’ll find tucked away. I defy anybody to get bored living here.
There seems to be something of a myth within the national consciousness about London being significantly more expensive; however I’ve found this isn’t strictly the case. Getting around (whilst certainly pricey) is no more expensive than in other areas of the UK; and it’s without a doubt easier, thanks to what has to be one of the world’s finest public transport networks. I’ve not struggled to get around once since I’ve lived here. Going out can end up being very pricey too, but that’s no different to anywhere else. I’ve managed nights out on the same money I would back home, which is impressive. Shopping is comparable to any of the other big cities in the UK, with the same scope for bargain hunting if you know where to look.
If you fancy something more peaceful, you’re well catered for. The beautiful Hampstead Heath is a breeze to get to, and make sure you seek out the end with the view that overlooks the city. You know the one I mean, the famous one. It’s been featured in quite possibly hundreds of films.
Wherever you happen to be from originally, the adjustment to living in London is an easy one. Despite its sheer scale, it’s as welcoming as slipping on that favourite pair of trainers you just can’t throw away.