Last February I left my small hometown for the bright lights of the city with a suitcase of clothes and no idea when/if I would return. 400 odd days later and I’ve been living in London for over a year now – it’s pretty crazy to think how much my life has changed.
I have always been drawn to the fast paced buzz of city life – there’s so much to do and see, but as a newbie to London you can often feel like a tourist(and that’s not a good thing). The best way to get to know a new place is by exploring, sometimes getting a little lost and learning where the locals go. I absolutely LOVE living in London right now and although I don’t know if I can class myself as a true ‘Londoner’ yet, I wanted to share a few things that I’ve learnt in my first year living in London:
1. Walk fast or get out of the way
City dwellers walk fast. They are always in a hurry and need to get to somewhere more important than where you’re going. Nobody has any patience and they definitely don’t have time to dawdle behind tourists. Living in London is nothing like coming to London for a day trip. In the city there is a whole new speed of walking; I call it ‘London mode’ and it’s basically walking with purpose. I literally zone out and get my march on; weaving, over taking and tutting at all of the tourists that suddenly stop. Even if you are lost and don’t have a clue where you are going, walk with purpose and you will fit in.
2. Be prepared to be grumpy 95% of the time.
In a city as big as London, what are the chances that you are going to see a person ever again? Pretty slim. Unfortunately this means that everyone is out for themselves and manners are pretty hard to come by. Pregnant lady needing a seat on a packed train? Watch everyone avoid eye contact and be oblivious. Bags on seats, skipping queues and people forcing themselves onto the tube before you have had the chance to get off – this is daily life in London. If you value your personal space, maybe London is not for you. Day in, day out you will be pushed, shoved, squashed, smoked on and wheeled into by a suitcase. London helps you grow a thick skin, and I’m not talking about the layer of pollution. Don’t expect a sorry from someone that has just bashed into you because they will already be gone by the time you turn around. Nobody* cares about you and the sooner you realise this, the better your day will be (*Ok, there are some nice people out there sometimes).
3. And with the other 5%, be happy.
With your new busy jet-set city life, make sure you set aside time to do things that really make you happy. Go to the gym, go to museums, try every curry house on Brick Lane – let go of the stress! There is SO much happening in this amazing city, you just have to find out about these things. Which leads me onto…
4. Free magazines – need to know info.
Time Out on Tuesday(and available from Topman on Oxford Street and The Proud Archivist in Haggerston all week). Stylist on Wednesday. The Shortlist on Thursday. Sport on Friday. You will usually find people handing them out at (busy)tube stations in the morning so keep an eye out.
5. Everything is better when the sun is out.
London is a beautiful city and looks glorious when the sun is shining. It’s amazing what a few rays can do: everyone is happier and some people are even nice, win win! Visit the city farms, flower markets and green spaces dotted around the city – I went to Greenwich at the weekend and I didn’t feel like I was in London anymore.
6. You can walk everywhere, you just need the Citymapper app!
‘Walk from Waterloo to Covent Garden – are you crazy!?’ Walking is the best way to stumble across London’s quirks. It doesn’t take as long as you think and depending on the time of day, it will probably be quicker than sitting in traffic. Nothing crazes me more than people that get on the bus for 2 stops – WHY!? As a newbie to London you’re not going to have a clue where you’re going, and there are some places in London that you shouldn’t walk around (I’m sure you’ll have either heard about them or will be able to feel it), but with Citymapper on your phone you will never be lost. Until your phone dies… then you’re screwed. You simply type in where you want to go and it gives you options; on foot, by bus or tube, or a combination.
7. If it’s raining or too far to walk, the bus is your friend and the tube is your enemy.
Sometimes they can be a bit overcrowded, and with the worst kinds of people (taking up 2 seats, having no idea about personal space or shouting into their phone), but if you have a bit of time it’s a lot nicer than the tube. First of all, there are windows so you get to see London – this is really important to help you get your bearings. Secondly, who wants to be squashed like a sweaty sardine on the tube?
8. You don’t have to run for the bus
Unless you’re already late, because the likelihood is that will be another in less than 5 mins.
9. Travelcards trump pay as you go.
Sure, oyster fares are capped at £10ish peak and £7ish off-peak per day, but if you’re travelling to and from work at 8am and 6pm 5 times a week that is like £50. And that is just for the weekdays. A zones 1-3 travelcard costs £37.70 for 7 days unlimited travel (within zones 1 to 3). So not only have I saved £13, but I’ve also got my weekend travel covered too. Travelcards are the way forward if you ask me…
10. Save pennies where you can.
Where there is a Sainsburys, there usually is a Tesco so if you have the time, nip across the road to compare prices because the chances are that one will have your item on offer. As tempting and convenient as a Pret sandwich is, buying one for your lunch everyday is not the best move for your bank balance. By making your sandwich/pasta/soup the night before you can save so much money – and it’s a lot healthier too! We all know that renting in the city is pretty expensive, so why not use that kitchen that you’re paying for?
11. Points equal prizes
Aslong as it’s free and you’re not signing your life away, sign up to points cards. Tesco clubcard & Nectar card = free food. Boots advantage card = free make up/paracetamol. Nandos card = free chicken. Cafe Nero & Costa card = free coffee.
12. Avoid central/Westfields at the weekend.
You have dealt with crowds all week. The rest of London has the weekend off too so it’s going to be even busier – why would you put yourself through that? London + Tourists + School kids + City workers = @£^£@! This is exactly what late night shopping is for – who is in H&M at 8pm on a Tuesday? Just me 🙂
And those are just a few things that will help to make your life better in London. I’m not an expert yet though – there is still so much more to learn…
Sometimes it stresses me out, but I love living in London and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else right now. New to London? Have some tips of your own? Let me know in the comments 🙂