London is the first destination that I had only ever visited before I started GnomeTrotting. Thus, before Could I Live Here? Because I’ve visited before, I have a lot more experience with the city and a more complete, perhaps accurate, perception of it. But this is the first trip where I really try to think about it as an expat destination. So let’s get going, shall we?
London is like the New York of Europe. As someone who loves music and theater, London seems to have more going on than any other city on this continent. In fact, the reason I even came back to London for a third time was to see Gillian Anderson in a limited theater run of All About Eve. We took the opportunity to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child just because. And if I had made it a couple of hours earlier on the day I arrived, I would have been able to see my favorite composer in concert. Can you imagine that much culture and entertainment in just one weekend?
But of course, life isn’t all plays and concerts. London for a work-from-home freelancer has a lot to offer. The bar and cafe atmosphere is extensive, laid back and fun. I could totally see myself at the quiet pub downstairs drinking and working and eating too many Scotch eggs. London’s green spaces are peaceful and massive so you can escape the crowds on the tube and the streets, providing much needed balance.
I’m also convinced there’s no better city in the world than London to be a lesbian. Everywhere else, we’re always just borrowing space in the gay bars where the boys go to have all the fun. In London, lady-loving ladies have their own spaces. Even if you’re not gay, I think it’s good for women to be able to scream sing along to Cyndi Lauper every once in a while.
I love British people. I find them just the right mix of fun and serious. I love how good they look in knit sweaters. I love a British accent, especially because it’s shared by people of all shades. It creates a lovely melting pot of people who look fully multicultural but are all undoubtedly British. I love their deadpan humor, and their affinity for social drinking. I always remember an image from one of the recent terror attacks of a guy running away from a shooting with a full beer in hand. Resilient, unflappable, and with the right priorities. There’s nothing like that spirit in people, and I would love to be around it in my day to day life.
The cost of living in London is… prohibitive. I’ve gotten used to my standard of living where I don’t make a lot of money, but I don’t need a lot of money to live comfortably and take like 10 vacations a year. So if I were to live in London, I would definitely need to get a better paying job. Because at two pounds a pop, even a ride on the tube is expensive. Apartment prices are exorbitant. My rent would double for an apartment of the same size. And I love a good gin and tonic, but for $10-12 apiece, I would really need to watch my budget for nights out. God forbid I want an actual cocktail. What good is it to live in a city so vibrant and interesting if I’m too poor to enjoy it?
I hadn’t been to London in at least 5 years, and either my tastes changed or I had definitely misjudged their food. While British food itself is definitely not my favorite cuisine, London has so many culinary influences that it doesn’t matter. The city really does have everything from Michelin-star Indian and sushi to Latin street food. The last thing I expected to find on my visit was a Venezuelan pabellon arepa, but there it was, and it was spectacular. I also love having halloumi on everything. The thought of being able to pick up fresh groceries and dine out at Borough Market makes me want to live in London more than anything else.
The conveniences and inconveniences of London
In small ways, London is amazing and also grating. Ordering and drinking at bars and pubs is straightforward and simple. There’s no tabs or complications. You pay for your drink and sit wherever you want. If you want another round, you get up and buy it. At the pubs, you can usually also order food this way.
You can use contactless cards for all public transportation, so on top of being efficient and constant, it’s also effortless to ride the tube, buses, and even regional train lines to the airport. The crowds can be kind of a bitch though. If I lived in London, I wouldn’t leave the house from Friday to Saturday because there are just too many people out. Camden Market and the theatre district were especially busy over the weekend, which makes getting around a hassle.
Another noticeably annoying thing is being a pedestrian in London. That’s because foot traffic usually follows road traffic, but since cars drive on the opposite side in the UK, no one knows how the fuck to walk. Some people walk to the left of those going in the other direction, and some people walk to the right. Everyone is in everyone’s way all the time.
Total Livability Score 8/10
Aside from some very minor disadvantages, London is an incredible and exciting place to live. File under: cities to move to if I win the Powerball.