I grew up not far from London, so as long as I remember have visited London regularly. Seeing the incredible landmarks and darting through the busy streets has been a familiar experience for me my whole life, so what’s changed since moving to London? Here are a few of my observations since living in London, and a couple of suggested things to know when moving to London!
There’s Rubbish Everywhere
There’s rubbish pretty much everywhere. Walking to work in the mornings can be like an assault course of dodging food cartons, skipping over spilled coffee, and avoiding a face full of blowing napkins. It’s not pleasant, however, it’s by no means the worst conditions I’ve experienced in the world. The worst aspect is probably the fact there are plenty of bins and recycling points pretty much every few steps. Why they become overflowing with rubbish or people simply don’t bother with discarding of their litter in the right way escapes me.
I find it such a tragedy that such a modern and wealthy city can’t convince its residents to clean up their act. I’ve considered taking bin bags out with me daily just to clear up the streets near me as I go about my day, I only wish others thought the same! Maybe I’m missing something, but if anyone has any info on this topic I’d love to hear it – and help to make a change!
People Are Bad At Recycling
That’s a rather sweeping generalisation of course, but as far as I’ve noticed, many people really struggle with effective recycling. Whether this is down to a lack of education from the council, a lack of facilities, or just laziness is another question!
Recycling is notoriously confusing when you have councils running things in multiple different ways from one another, and even more so in London where each borough appears to have their own systems. If you’re moving to London soon, brush up on how recycling works in your area. Make as much of an effort as you can to know what is and isn’t recyclable, and ensure you’re doing it!
Some Groceries Are Harder To Find
It took me 4 months to find parsnips in London. FOUR MONTHS. While parsnips are by no means a life or death essential, it still seemed like quite a basic product to have in larger supermarkets.
On the other hand, some groceries can be found in excess. I see prepackaged good everywhere, which is by no means unusual elsewhere in the UK, but it became glaringly obvious to me that pretty much everything seemed to come wrapped in rustling, non-recyclable plastic. Sigh.
A tip for moving to London is to be prepared to go a little out of your way for the things you want. And make the most of existing local knowledge – your colleagues, friends, housemates, or neighbours might know of a great market just around the corner that you never knew existed!
It’s Better To Avoid The Tube
The London underground has become an icon for the city, with visitors often making quite the event of taking their first ride on the tube. However, any Londoner, commuter, or even regular tube-taker will agree and let you vehemently know how much they dislike the tube. The Central Line is hotter than the sun, Bank is too confusing, the branches of the Northern Line are frustrating, Oxford Circus is shut due to congestion, there’s engineering works on the Circle Line… the annoyances are seemingly never-ending!
Living so centrally in Regent’s Park, I’ve found the quickest and most pleasant way to make my way around the city is simply to walk. Work is a 15 minute walk, Camden is 20, King’s Cross is the same: why would I even bother?!
If you’re considering a move to London but looking to live a little further afield, you’ll often find it easier to catch a bus (cheaper, cleaner, easier, overall happier!), or on occasion take an Uber, and even a black cab in times of need. There are even the rental bikes scattered throughout the city if you’re feeling brave (please take all precautions when riding a bicycle in London)! With so many other ways to get around London, you’d wonder why anyone still catches the tube at all. Of course, they have significant benefits and cover the whole city in a generally reliable and efficient way, but in my experience, it’s a last resort.
Council Buildings Have Thin Walls
Ever heard your neighbour cough? Or your housemate snore? In ex-council buildings, it’s pretty much the norm. You have to either get used to it, get into a few arguments, or embrace the life of the earplugs. I’m somewhere in the middle of them all as I do enjoy my peace and quiet, but accept that it’s not always an option!
When looking for accommodation during your move to central London, you might just have to find whatever is available. But, if you can be a little pickier try to get a flat on the top floor of a council building, or a corner flat with only one adjoining neighbour. This should reduce the noise that you hear from those around you. Or, look for flats with a thicker walls – often converted townhouses or new-builds will be more soundproof (but may be pricier).
London Is A City Of Convenience
Touching on the lack of and abundance of certain products mentioned above, I moved to London on the assumption that it has everything you could want at the drop of a hat. Or does it? When searching for bigger stores with more options or niche items that aren’t in the everyday necessities, it’s hard to find!
Central London shops stock the basics for everyday, on the go life. There is little that suggests preparation or planning for the long term. Think microwave dinners, meal deals, limited range of stock, brand names rather than own-brand products, and so on. When you live in these places, it can be hard to effectively budget for normal items, because everything is restricted and catered for those who just work in the area. As someone who prefers to bring a packed lunch, it took me a while to get used to the idea that some people buy their meal out every single day… And would be able to try somewhere new every day for a month!
Being such a city of convenience means going out of your way to find the better deals, the cheaper options, and the wider variety. It’s not exactly a big problem, but it’s certainly noticeable when you live and work in such a central part of this big city. Consider your needs when moving to London, and whether this would be a problem for you. If you love cooking unique and niche meals, central London living might make it harder to come by those ingredients.
Central London Has A Population Of Office Workers
This is probably no surprise, and is heavily connected to the point above, but London’s central areas are made up almost entirely of office workers and tourists.
At the weekends, places around the city and in central London just don’t bother opening at all. This includes cafes, restaurants, shops, and more – it’s not worth their time to open on a Saturday or Sunday! This even extends to their opening hours, where supermarket stores will open at significantly reduced hours. I assume this is due to a big drop in business, and it certainly makes you realise just how many people are in the area for reasons other than living!
As someone who does live centrally, I don’t mind it. One thing I was afraid I’d miss after moving from Surrey would be the peaceful weekends surrounded by nature. Although I don’t have the Surrey countryside, I appreciate the calmer environment, the quieter streets, less rubbish, and the chance to actually appreciate the city more. Not to mention the fact it means I don’t have to queue for a pint at the pub, and the gyms have 10% of the usual people!
Everyone Wants To Know How Much Rent You Pay In London
Discussing rent prices in London is like a competitive sport. As is finding a place to rent on websites such as SpareRoom. I can’t even begin to explain how lucky I was to find myself living so centrally, and I am told by my housemates that they were inundated with offers, queries, requests from desperate renters looking for something affordable, central, and normal.
It goes without saying that the more central you are the higher the price, but this is not the only area that sees extortionate housing costs. London is infamously expensive to live in, with the average salary accommodating but not really justifying the high living expenses.
Enter your search for a room or flat to rent in London with caution, remembering that if it looks to good to be true, it probably is. Set yourself a realistic but reasonable budget, see what’s out there, and just keep looking. New places are popping up literally every day, so it pays off to keep an eye out and constantly message, respond, and indicate interest in the places that tick the boxes. It’s also worth remembering that you’ll almost always have to compromise on something. Remember those thin walls? Yep, I believe that the sound pollution I live with is my compromise. Which in the grand scheme of things, is pretty darn good!
Rich And Poor Areas Are Scarily Juxtaposed
This is something we already knew and I was well-aware of before moving to London, but now I actually live in such a neighbourhood it’s become glaringly obvious, and I feel the differences so much more.
My cheap and cheerful council flat is fine for a room-renter only living temporarily in such a location, but for many this is the area they’re bringing up their kids, building a life, maybe even retiring. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but what I find most intriguing about central London living is that you can be in these very normal areas of tall flats, surrounded by the litter and the tooting cars, and just mere steps away you are suddenly transported to a movie set-esque street instead. Grand, historical houses with their expensive cars out front, the neatly-kept gardens and clearly sign-posted private mews. All within just a few metres they back onto one another. I’m always curious to know how these areas became so contrasting!
This is more of an observation than a tip on living centrally, however, I would certainly suggest looking into the area you’d like to live in before moving to London. If you’re hoping for the cliche Notting Hill type streets at every turn, you’ll likely be disappointed as the range of styles and housing options are much, much more varied and come at significantly different price points. Like with any big move: do your research beforehand!
Walking To Work Is the Best Way To Start The Day
This is likely pretty specific to my situation, but in a bustling city such as London, the chance to calmly walk to work in pretty much a straight line is heavenly. Once I pass the hectic Euston Road, I have the pleasure of walking through the beautiful Fitzroy Square and down Fitzrovia’s many gorgeous streets lined with unique cafes and boutique restaurants to my office. It’s drastically improved both my travel time to and from work, as well as my mood as I no longer have to spend 1.5 hours on a train!
Travelling across London can be stressful at the best of times, let alone commuting at peak rush hour. When possible, take the opportunity to walk more of your journey, it’s a lot more pleasant and means you’ll get to see some of the beautiful city, and maybe spot a few ideas for pubs to try out!
Not Having A Garden Is Easier When You Find A Favourite Park
Having little or no private outdoor space becomes less of a problem when you start exploring the beautiful parks in London. With much more green space than you might think, not having a yard of your own is soon irrelevant when you find that perfect spot to catch some rays in the sunshine with a great book!
My personal little area is tucked away in the rose garden of Regent’s Park (fancy or what?!) where I like to sit amongst the beautiful coloured flowers and enjoy some time in the (relatively) fresh air. There are ponds, benches, playing fields, dog parks, art installations, shading trees, birds, squirrels, and so much more to enjoy in all of London’s best parks, so why not go out and explore them?! Plus a big bonus is you don’t have to mow the lawn, simply take your rubbish with you and you’re done!
There Are Constant Road Works And Construction
I don’t think London will ever stop being built. There seems to be a new road closure, diversion, temporary footpath, demolition, new build, or renovation every single day. Construction sites seem to unfathomably appear out of nowhere and it sure makes living in central London noisy.
Of course, the city is loud enough as it is due to traffic, residents, airplanes, and more – but adding in a mixer or drill doesn’t exactly help matters!
These are just the few observations I’ve made in my short time living here that I didn’t necessarily anticipate. Of course, my experience is not going to be the same as anyone else’s. I’m sure depending on the area you live on your length of time living in London things may change, so we’ll see how it goes!
What I can confirm, however, is that moving to London is pretty darn cool, and living in Central London is a totally unique experience. With so much culture, history, and beauty at every turn I feel incredibly lucky to call the city my home.
What quirks have you noticed about the city you live in? Are you considering moving to London? Is there anything you’d like to know about living in London? Let me know!
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