How To Cope With Living In London

I have to admit to a little guilty pleasure, the Mumsnet AIBU thread. If you’re not familiar with it, AIBU stands for “Am I Being Unreasonable?” and the answer is quite often yes, yes you really are.

This week someone asked “AIBU to wonder how people cope living in London” which reminded me that I haven’t written for quite some time about just what a great place to live this is. The “Southwark” part of this blogs title comes from my London borough afterall.

The mistake the OP (original poster) had made, was coming to London as a tourist. Yes there are a lot of people here and yes the tube is packed and horrible in rush hour in the summer. The big tourist attractions are little better. But London has high standards. If you only give her a day or two, she’ll let you see the sights and not care if you have to be crammed in with a thousand other people to do it. But if you put in the time, the effort she deserves, then she lets you have the good bits.

I’ve been here for thirteen years now and I still only really know patches of this huge city but here are just some of the things I love about living here:

The Transport:

No, really.
The tube isn’t awful all the time and when it’s not it’s a great way to get about. My visiting parents once declared; “oh good only 10 mintues till the next one” after we just missed a tube. Everyone else on the platform was incensed it was that long, a two minute wait is far more normal. But the thing is, it’s not just about the tube. Where I live there isn’t even a tube line. In fact you don’t need transport a lot of the time. From my house I can walk to several different shopping streets, two sports centers, the doctors, dentists, three children’s centers, school and more than half a dozen parks and playgrounds. The shiny new network of segregated cycle ways means I can now ride my bike to work almost entirely off road. The buses, trains and London overground service get me anywhere else in the city. Our car is mainly for trips to other places which just aren’t so, well, good.

It’s a great place to raise kids:

Firstly London has really good schools. Years ago they were awful, but for a quite a while now they have been the best in the country. Then there is all the free stuff to do with kids. The national history museum, science museum, British museum, V&A, National Gallery, Tate Modern etc. etc. etc. are all free. So there is no need to drag around for hours after it stopped being fun so that you see it all in your one day window. We can hop on a bus or train, look around for an hour and then go to the park for a bit. Safe in the knowledge that we can come back any time we like. Oh and the bus and train are free for the kids too. For older teens this means the whole great city is there to entertain them, for nothing. For MissE it’s meant a long list of cheap or free school trips. No need to pay for a coach when the class can all just pop on the bus at the end of the road.

You can be whoever you want to be:

In London you are never the weirdest person on the bus, and (for the most part) that’s a good thing. You can dress however the heck you like (just do it like you meant it). There is no single “normal” to blend into anyway. Want to go sailing and horse riding? Ok, knitting group? Coding class? Art house cinema? Whatever your passion (with the possible exception of Bobsleigh I suppose) you can do it in London. You’ll probably also find others who share it, who come from your home country and are seeking out the same food, or maybe even like the same odd kind of music as you.

There is always something new to discover:

You could spend a lifetime visiting different London restaurants, trying new international cuisines and never get to all the good ones. You can never tire of sightseeing either. Once you move beyond the obvious tourist sites there is still so much to see. I recently altered my route to work a little and discovered some of the Inns of court. There are beautiful churches, cobbled streets and grand Georgian squares. It’s all a short walk from St Paul’s Cathedral but you have to find and step through the unassuming archway on Fleet street to get in. Few tourists notice it, so it feels like a secret, hidden world.

So yes it is busy and hectic. The tube is horrible in the summer (and worse in the winter when it’s almost as hot but you’re wearing a coat). The house prices are horrific and the rents not much better and maybe one day I will move on somewhere else, who knows. But for now I for one am not just coping with living in London, I’m loving it.


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