This January marks five years since I arrived in London on a grey, wintery day. As I first stepped out of the car and found the ex-council building I would be calling home towering in front of me, I felt underwhelmed and wondered what had possessed me to move halfway across the world to a city I had never visited where I knew a total of 4 people (brand new husband included).
If first impressions lasted that much, I might have found myself packing my bags and on a plane to sunny South South Africa soon after. Instead, it didn’t take long for me to warm up to the city, it’s hidden gems and endearing quirks.
Moving to a brand new continent is not for everyone but if you’ve ever had the opportunity to have a stint in London, you will understand its magnetic charm. These are some of my favourite things about living in London.
Music to my ears
London is the definition of cosmopolitan evidenced by the diversity of its residents. In a given day, I hear chatter in a multitude of different languages and accents and at times it can be hard to believe you are in the Capital of England. Everyone from the cashier at the supermarket to cabbies and office workers seem to have originated from somewhere else. It makes London the ideal melting pot of cultures to really broaden your horizons.
Europe in less than two hours
Having not travelled very much before, I found that changed once I moved to London and acquired my very first Schengen visa. With its close proximity to most continental European destinations and reasonable airfares offered by budget airlines, London is great for planning weekend city getaways and seeing an entirely different country in just a couple days. If you are an avid traveler, all you need in London is your passport, maybe a Schengen visa and a great travel companion, and the world (or at least Europe) is your oyster.
The Tube (and the buses)
Coming from a country with very few public transport options, I am amazed at how well the tube system operates. Even with all its strikes, delays, hotter-than-hell central line, people getting ill on the train and sometimes inconveniently jumping in front of the tracks at rush hour, commuting to work is pretty fast, efficient and for the most part painless (not including the occasional smelly armpit you might find yourself wedged under).
These feet were made for walking
Prior to moving here, I pretty much drove everywhere I needed to go. Once I settled here, I found myself reliant on public transport and by extension ended up waking a lot more than I was used to. I soon realised that London is a city built for walking. Not only is it very scenic (think long walks on the Southbank on a summer’s night), your calf muscles will thank you later. I love walking along London Bridge on my way home from work most evenings and even five years later, I metaphorically pinch myself when I realise how lucky I am to have postcard pretty views every single day!
The diversity of people in London means that you find yourself spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out. Like most big cities, London has a large selection on offer but what makes it unique is that it’s easy to find authentic food in your cuisine of choice that will rival the best in the world. From curries to sushi, the options are endless and you can find yourself trying out new places more often than your wallet would like. If you like eating good food, London is a great place to be; however, I am yet to find junk food that can rival the options in South Africa.
Entertainment doesn’t have to cost a pretty penny
While the cost of living in London is infamously high and living anywhere near the centre of the City comes at a price, London offers so much that comes at no cost at all. From the Royal Parks to the many markets and museums, a fantastic day out can easily cost next to nothing. If you are anything like me, just marvelling at the architecture in the city, walking along the river and finding oddly named streets is entertainment enough.
There are so many more bits about London I love and sometimes hate (every real Londoner has a love-hate relationship with the city) but for the most part, I love how it never gets old. I’m surprised that even after living here for five years, I routinely stumble across little cobblestoned alleyways I love, learn a new fact about the city or visit an area I’ve never been to before and it feels like I could never tire of it. Sometimes it’s easy to take it for granted and I realise there are so many things I’ve not done in London because I think there will always be another opportunity to do it so this year, I have promised myself to spend more time exploring London. Watch this space for more of my living and loving London adventures!