Newbie Alice White shares her smarts after her first two weeks in the Big Smoke.
Earlier this month I took the plunge and moved down to London from Edinburgh. Before I left Scotland my friends said things like ‘It’s very expensive’ and ‘It’s very unfriendly.’ One of them shrieked ‘You’ll die there!’ which I just ignored, so as not to encourage whatever episode she was having. I broke it off with my boyfriend, quit my job and ditched what, looking back, was a very reasonably priced flat in order to get here. I’m trying not to mind the gap.
It turns out my friends were wrong about a lot of it. Sure, London is busy, loud and has a distinct feeling there’s not enough oxygen for everyone, but (as any asphyxiation enthusiast will tell you) that’s what makes it interesting. Here’s my guide to what to look out for.
1. No one says ‘thank you’ to bus drivers
This is the most shocking thing about London. If you do say thanks the driver will completely ignore you. So who’s really losing out? (Probably me, with my self important view of my own manners.)
2. Your job is the most important thing
People are always asking ‘What do you do?’ It’s equally awful to answer ‘I eat, I drink, I live’ in that obnoxious way that people with questionable jobs announce – just say ‘I sign on but I feel like I’m above it’. I’ve been switching between telling people I work in Boots or that I’m a delivery driver for a Chinese takeaway, because everyone knows what those entail so there are no follow-up questions.
3. The rent situation is as bad as everyone says
London’s high rents aren’t exactly news to anyone, but start comparing how much you now spend on your tiny room with how little it cost to live where you came from and your mind can end up going to dark places. Still, I’m not convinced that living in a van next to a swimming pool is the worst money saving idea I’ve ever had.
4. Everyone blogs for Vice
At least eight people have told me they do this. Maybe it’s like jury duty?
5. You guys love Pret-A-Manger
Sometimes, in my old job, ‘creatives’ would come up from London and demand it for their lunch while we were in the middle of beautiful nowhere. Now I can see why you’re all so hooked – you’re never more 20 metres away from an edible sandwich. I mean, if you needed the toilet you wouldn’t pass up the nearest decent bog, would you?
6. All the big chains, in fact
I did a quick headcount in the queue for Starbucks and seven out of ten people had a Macbook – I thought that was just a stereotype. They got my name right on the cup so no lame, ego-inspired TwitPic. How dare someone who serves a million people a day not listen to you when you proudly shout your name when you’re ordering your favourite boiled liquid? It’s sandwiches and coffee, not blood transfusions for eternal youth or happiness.
7. You spend a lot of time underground
So much so I’m starting to wonder if ‘The Wombles’ is actually allegorical. It doesn’t have quite the same clear message as ‘Animal Farm’, but it’s still broaching some important issues.
8. Tinder is a lot more intense
Don’t roll your eyes at me. Tinder is very much part of non-Londoners lives (if you’re single, or if you’re horrible). But here there are a lot more people in a 2km radius, and each one of them has a photo where they’re snowboarding or with a tiger. Instead of trying to find your exes in the small town you grew up in, it opens up a world of charmers and weirdos. So far, I’ve seen more than one man pretending to be a horse – that’s already too many.
9. People do actually speak to each other
I’ve spoken to so many people. I spoke to a woman outside Bikram yoga the other day and we bonded over how much we both hated it. I shared a cigarette with a casual xenophobe outside a nightclub. I was invited to a party by a group of boys carrying a keg and a bottle of wine ‘for the ladies’. It’s easier to say ‘London is so unfriendly’ when in reality it’s ‘I couldn’t be bothered to talk to anyone either’.
10. You don’t need cash
It’s all cashless this and contactless that. It feels like being in prison, where you’re not allowed to handle currency.
11. But you do need money
All that rigamarole with card machines is just to cover up how much money you’re spending, because if you don’t see it leave your hand, you’re tricked into thinking you weren’t charged. On a side note, I did mishear the bus announcement ‘no longer pay with cash’ as ‘no longer pay with cat shit’, which didn’t surprise me as much as it should have.
12. You can find anything you want
Don’t believe me? Take a look at the ‘casual encounters’ section of the Craigslist personal ads.
New to London? Take a look at 60 amazing things happening in London this July.