I’ve lived in London for years and years now. Firstly I lived in a one-bedroom flat on the Isle of Dogs (east London, near Canary Wharf) for about a year before moving to various house shares in inner-east London and now I am moving to the south east. Here are a few of my thoughts on living in London. The nice and the nitty-gritty.
1. It Can Be Expensive
It’s expensive. Like unless you want to rent a room with no window in an 8-person houseshare in zone 6 and spend hours commuting in every day, you are looking at spending 1/3 – 1/2 (easily) of your monthly wage on rent. Then unless you live close to where you work, you will have to pay for transport. I’ve actually found public transport costs to be more reasonable and reliable in London though.
It’s not just rent and travel. When you’re living the urban lifestyle, the only local shops are your Tesco Metros or Tesco Express, which typically charge more for things like loo roll. Don’t get me started on the price of beer. I rejoiced the other day when I found a pub that sold pints for £3.95 (a rip off to everyone else still, I’m sure), because in London most pints are around £5.
2. There Are So Many Free Things To Do
There are some free things to do, when you are feeling the end-of-month sting. Museums are free to go into (and we have so many excellent ones), and there are so many parks and interesting streets to explore when you are feeling the pinch. Sometimes at the weekend when we get the odd spot of sunshine and I do not want to be cooped up indoors, I take my camera out with me and explore – all with no burden on my pocket!
3. It Can Be Lonely (But Not Always)
Even though it is busy, it can sometimes be so incredibly lonely. I don’t know about you, but before I moved to London I had the idea in my head that I’d be out almost every night forming new friendship groups, and I’d keep those friends for years. Instead, it has turned out to be pretty difficult. People mainly keep themselves to themselves and unless you work for a massive company you find most of your colleagues either live outside of London so do not want to come back to the city to socialise, or already have friends from home.
Although it is hard, there are ways to form new friendships, you just need to make more of an effort than you usually need to. There are lots of Facebook groups where newcomers to London and those just looking to widen their social circle post every day asking if anyone wants to meet up, even if it is just for a coffee. You never know – you might click with them and form a solid friendship. If you’re more into music, there are SofarSounds gigs that are held regularly and as they are a bit more personal you can meet people that way.
4. Where You Live Matters
Where you live can impact greatly on your experience of London. I’m not saying at all that one area is better than another, I’d never say “you have to live in these postcodes as everywhere else is horrible”.
It depends totally on what you like. But I’d definitely recommend having a walk through certain areas before deciding to rent (or buy) there. You may prefer leafy suburbs that are more quiet and have a local greengrocer and coffee shop with outdoor seating areas, but that are quite far from the centre of London and therefore you will have a lengthy commute and need to worry about catching the last train Friday night drinks. Alternatively, you might find you can forgo being surrounded by green spaces and live more centrally. You might be lucky enough to live within walking distance of the fringes of central London, but you will probably have to deal with the noise and high rents.
For pointers on where to live though, generally the west, north west and south west are quite expensive. Places like Chelsea, Maida Vale etc. Clapham is quite central and has a leafy feel, but trains are so busy during rush hour if you want a stress-free commute it is probably not worth considering. Some places in east London are gentrified such as Shoreditch and Hoxton, but nearby Bethnal Green still has some affordable housing and is a short walk from the City of London.
Likewise, south east has some nice pockets. Dulwich is quite upmarket but nearby places are more affordable. I’m moving to Bermondsey next week and it is a short walk from London Bridge and has nice river walks, as well as a huge park and good transport links.
Do you live in London? If not, have you ever thought about it?