When I moved to London, a lot of people couldn’t figure out what I was thinking. I come from a reasonably small town in the North East of England where things are comfortable, life doesn’t move overly quickly and the pace is relaxed. I was leaving behind my family and many of my friends, but I was carrying a huge part of the North with me – my identity. Moving to London was a big decision but I was lucky, I’d spent a lot of time in London, so I was never scared of moving from a small town to a big city. I dragged my boyfriend along with me for company, so we figured out the ways of the Big Smoke together. But not everyone has that option and moving to the big city from the Inimitable North can be overwhelming, fraught with horror stories and thick with myths. So I wanted to take an opportunity to share my thoughts on some of these, to offer reassurance to anyone who might be thinking of abandoning their roots, upping sticks and following the bright lights of the city.
1) Myth: Londoners are miserable, you’ll never talk to anyone
Reality: I think this is an important one to address from the off. I’ve met some really bloody incredible people in London be they through work or blogging events or work blogging events, or just in and around the city on a Saturday night. I’ve seen people do things on the underground that have made my heart glad – like the woman who ran down the platform waving a plastic bag at another lady who had just had hers split in a rather dramatic fashion. Or the guys who carried an older family friend up the stairs in her wheelchair when my family had been caught out by the stairs at Covent Garden. Or the Londoners who get asked for directions, might not know the answers but go out of their way to help. People say London was a different place during in the Olympics, but the London the world saw then was the London I see most of the time. That’s not to say some people aren’t miserable some of the time – you try travelling to work in a tin can that’s hotter than a furnace (more on public transport later) and see how your mood fares – but that’s not permanent. And if you talk to someone on the tube, they’ll talk back. If you smile at someone on the tube, they’ll smile back. You’ve just got to be willing to make the first move. 2) Myth: London is nowhere near as beautiful as the north of England
Reality: I am the first to admit that the north of England is absolutely stunning, especially that there Yorkshire (sorry Lancashire dwellers). The countryside is like none I’ve seen anywhere else, with glorious rolling hills, plush greenness and an abundance of nature it’s hard not to feel humbled by. The cities – York, Newcastle and Liverpool are among my favourites – give the area a brilliant vibrancy that it’s hard to duplicate anywhere else. But sometimes, when I pass by Big Ben in a cab at midnight after a long day at work, the sight catches my breath. When I discover something new – like climbing to the top of Primrose Hill, or seeing the steam rising off the warm water of London Fields Lido in the dark and cold of winter – I have to blink twice to believe that it’s real. London is as beautiful as the north, it’s just a different beautiful. You’ve just got to look for it in different places. You’ve just got to allow yourself to see it.
3) Myth: You’ll have to live in a shoebox, infested by rats
Reality: Ok. So this one might not be a total myth. There is a strong chance you will live in a shithole at some point during your time in London. While I’ve been incredibly lucky with the places I’ve lived, I’ve seen some truly awful places with extortionate rents in amongst the tens of properties I’ve viewed in my time here. BUT if you’re willing to move a little further afield than the likes of Brixton, Clapham into zone 3 (my only points of reference are south of the river, sorry) you can find some pretty nice places with relatively (key word) affordable rents. Rent will be considerably higher than if you still lived at home and don’t even get me started on house prices, but the horror stories aren’t always true. Sometimes they are, but not always. You just adapt. I mean, I lived in a property where you couldn’t stand up in the shower for two years, no questions asked. Your priorities change. That’s what living in London is about.
Reality: I’ve lived here for four years, regularly shout about how much I love it to anyone who’ll listen (this article is exhibit A) and some of my friends still ask when I’m coming home. I think I will go back one day, but right now, I absolutely can’t picture myself leaving anytime soon. *Please see comment below from my good friend Carly. For the most part, they do only do it because they like you
5) Myth: You’ll never call London “home”
Reality: For a long time, this was absolutely true for me. I still yearned for the north often for the first few years I lived here (and sometimes I still do) but probably about a year ago, I realised that my heart had settled, very comfortably, in my little section of London.
You’ll never be able to afford to do anything Reality: Yes. Things are more expensive in London. Yes, it’s incredibly rare you can buy a round of drinks for less than £20. But that doesn’t mean you can’t afford to do anything. London is awash with things to do for free and these things don’t just appeal to tourists. Museum exhibitions change all the time, there’s always something new to see at the V&A and the art galleries always have new new works on display. Apps like yPlan and Time Out London aim to make everything that bit more affordable for local people, so when you can afford to do something, you rarely have to pay full price for it. Comedy for a fiver here, deals on drinks for a tenner here, discounts and savings on food there – there’s always something affordable to do. Some of the best things I’ve done in London have been an absolute steal – and they’ve often been booked last minute. 7) Myth: Public transport in London is completely useless
Reality: While I will admit that some days, public transport in London can leave you at your wits end, there’s a lot of days when it runs incredibly smoothly. I always say the fact that people get stressed out when they have to wait more than 5 minutes for a tube is really telling of the level of service Londoners are used to. In my home town, I used to have to wait for two hours to get a bus to my college. Aforementioned bus would then take neck end of 90 mins to make a journey which I could manage in about 22 mins in my car once I’d passed my test (and that’s without speeding). I will admit that I don’t know many people who dwell in zone 2 or further afield who haven’t experienced a journey time that has been at least tripled by some transport nightmare. Be that signalling failures, passenger incidents, or something equally as bizarre as that fateful day when someone spilled concrete in the control room at Victoria, we’ve all had hellish journeys across the capital, but we usually get from a to b in one piece, often just a little more sweaty than we’d like.
8) Myth: You’ll never learn your way around
Reality: You’ll learn your way around surprisingly quickly. Once in a while, you’ll be wandering around somewhere you think you don’t know, then you’ll turn a corner and realise you’ve been here before. Another piece of your London map falls into place. You stop having to look at tube maps before you go on every journey. You’ll have conversations with your other half discussing the best route to go while none-Londoners look on as if watching a tennis match, glancing from person to person as you throw suggestions around.
9) Myth: London is MASSIVE
Reality: Greater London is massive. London is not that massive. You’ll be surprised how often you bump into faces you know. One of the things I love most about London is it’s a size that offers just the right amount of anonymity balanced with just the right amount of not being a big fish in a small pond. For me, moving to London was like when I moved up to secondary school, in that it was terrifying but after just a few short months I realised just how small this city actually is…
All that said, I still love going back to my roots and hitting up the North once in a while. I mean – it’s excellent. They call Yorkshire God’s Country for a reason you know.