Assuming that things are getting back to somewhat of a normal, should you consider moving to London in 2021?
I’ve lived in the UK for a decade, and in London for about two years. Prior to moving here, I lived in Sheffield and Oxford. This gave me the opportunity to get a real feel for what it is like to live in London as opposed to other places in the UK.
My intention is not to make another list of good versus bad things about London – there are plenty on Google. In this blog, I want to provide you with a personalised overview of what is like to live in the UK capital.
These are my main pros and cons, and they don’t touch on living costs, employment opportunities or Brexit-related legalities but on other aspects, which over time can become deal breakers or lovely aspects of living in a place.
Why London is great
International city. It is difficult to understand just how diverse London is until you live in it. As a tourist, you get some taste but not the full flavour of it.
Yes, there is always something going on that allows you to learn about other peoples and cultures: from art galleries, social clubs and techno parties to university lectures, conferences and museum tours, London offers an inexhaustive list of to-do things through which you can engage with the entire world (virtually or literally).
But that’s not necessarily what I mean by “international city”. I like to walk around London, from Covent Garden, down on Piccadilly street, through Mayfair, across Hyde Park, onto South Kensington and Chelsea and observe people from all over the world strolling, driving, shopping, talking, having coffee outside during summer days and dressed in colourful layers in winter.
Different languages, styles and perfumes, surrounded by beautiful architecture, with plenty of great places to sit down, recover and continue exploring. This is the soul of London to me.
The sunsets are amazing. I’ve always said to my friends that I love to walk towards the end of High Street Kensington at dusk because of how the sun sets over the small bridge that links with Hammersmith. They thought I was crazy. So they bought me a decaf.
You tell me if I’m insane. If you move to London, here is a route you can take at sunset to see the sunlight change the city landscape before your eyes as the night approaches. Start the journey at sunset – the time of the year is not as important, but I prefer the sun beams in summer because they last longer.
From Knightsbridge tube station, go down Sloane Street and turn right on Pont Street where you’ll see the St. Columba’s Church of Scotland – an ivory building surrounded by crimson brick luxury apartments. Until now, the sunset was behind the buildings and only a golden aura around the buildings was visible.
Head towards the church on Pont Street and turn left on Walton Street. Right about now you should see the dim twilight sun illuminating a cosy, white street with different shops on both sides – cafes, interior designers and fashion outlets.
As you walk down Walton Street, the sky would change colours and the light would vary in its temperature. By the time you reach the end of the street (on your right will be a Chanel shop), you would have had many opportunities to take amazing pictures.
Take the Draycott Avenue and turn left on the main Brompton Road. Head down this street into the heart of Chelsea as the last rays of sunlight shine across the sky. Once you are closer to the end of the street (near the stadium), turn right on Redcliff Gardens and walk into Earl’s Court and then towards the end of High Street Kensington.
If, however, you want to enjoy the dusk over South Kensington, you can cross from Draycott Avenue towards Pelham Street and walk straight ahead. Whatever route you take, I am sure you will enjoy a spectacular skyline.
Perpetual contrasts. If you are the creative type, London is one of these places that can offer infinite sources of inspiration.
There is simply no shortage of images or sights to be immortalised in photographs or videos and the abundance of colours and movements, mixed with (mostly) beautiful architecture and a unique energy which tells you “that things are progressing somewhere exciting” provides writers with a huge range of topics to explore. So go out and observe!
There are loads of contrasts in London. Not just aesthetically, but socio-economically as well. Poverty next to opulence is a casual thing to spot all across the capital. So are ultra-modern buildings next to old heritage monuments. Classic cars drive side by side the latest models. Hyped fashion is displayed next to items of eternal style. London is a place of ongoing contrasts, which can fuel the imagination until it begs the artist to start creating something.
This city is a place which has a foot into history and one into the future. The present doesn’t exist, so you can create it.
Why London sucks
The pigeons. It is easy to underestimate just how annoying these flying critters are. Yes, they are cute when you live in the country side and a few jump on your fence each morning to eat the crumbs you put out for them. When there are hundreds flying all over the place, shitting everywhere, opening garbage bags and spreading rotting food on the street, it’s a different story.
These birds are often accompanied by large white (sea)guls which sometimes fight each other, especially during summer days. The noise is an added bonus to the mess they make, particularly around food markets.
Of course, whatever these birds are doing pales in comparison with other messy aspects of London. You’d often walk through piles of garbage waiting to be collected – in the summer these small mountains of food and juices rot too.
In some areas, you’ll see people disposing of their old furniture and useless items in front of the apartment blocks. Add on top of this the occasional large dog shit on the pavement, the smokes and fumes from cars and ventilations, smells of clogged drainage and, again depending on the area, the scent of fried everything and the magic of London can quickly degrade.
The UK capital can be a dirty, miserable place. There is no way around it. But then again, most big metropolises are.
Oxford Street. There are streets in London where you can get stabbed with a high degree of certainty and then there are streets in London where you may wish to be stabbed just to be carried away from there as soon as possible. Oxford Street is one of the latter types of streets.
Before the pandemic, the well-known shopping street was swarming with people gazing at windows, going in and out of shops (all with online presence), carrying large paper bags, bumping into each other, hurrying right and left, loud and sweaty.
I often avoided going through there, except for when I had to cross it for work-related purposes or when I finished swimming at the Marshall Leisure Centre, and I had to take the bus home. You can have a similar experience around Harrods – nope, not for me.
Some tourist areas can be suffocating. Literally. If you want to visit London’s famous sights, or even if you want to go shopping, it is best to do it before 9:30 AM if possible, although is not a guarantee that it won’t be too busy.
The mornings…are depressing. This is probably the worst thing about London, for me. Before 9 AM, Monday to Friday, the streets of the capital are full of people that are rushing towards offices and shops. Their faces are often drained of energy, bored, tired, sad and sometimes angry and rude. To see so many people in these states, daily, can be depressing.
I get it, the economy is important. The GDP graphs have to go up or the news will turn even more sour. But there is a feeling that in London the need to do things is over the top. There is no calm.
So, should you move to London in 2021?