What Nobody Will Tell You About London

The good, the bad and the ugly of Old Blighty

She’s pretty but she’s mean…. Get ready for some real talk about London. Photo by Natanael Vieira on Unsplash

Everyone’s here to ‘be a creative’

Oh man, if I have to hear one more time… Basically, everyone’s here to do something ‘creative’, myself included. It’s a good thing to know before you get here: most people come for the promise of exploring their deepest hidden talent, in the hope they’ll finally find their niche. Competition is fierce, so get ready. I am absolutely just one of those hipsters, typing away at my computer in the corner of a faux-independent coffee shop in Soho. Practice your ‘I’m really interested in your artistic pursuit’ face too, because you’re going to need it.

This is not the town of romance

Although I have found love now after four years, let me just warn you: I was single in London for 2+ years, because almost everyone here is an absolute douche-crumpet when it comes to relationships. Most people are here to ‘discover themselves’ or ‘have a good time’ and that usually means sleeping with as many people as possible and never talking to them again. Fine for some, but not a romance novel ending. There are more fuckboys than pigeons, and it’s a problem. Swipe left.

Brexit confuses everyone

Nobody knows what is going on, so it’s basically pointless to ask. Every day I feel a little less welcome when I listen to nation-wide politics, but chances are your London buds didn’t vote for Brexit, so don’t hassle them about it. They’re also in the 9th circle of hell every time a headline on Brexit appears, to the point where many have lost the will to discuss it.

Forever an ‘acquaintance’, never a ‘friend’

London is one of those cities where nobody has time, everybody is rushing around, and the British are masters of maintaining the acquaintance. There are lots of levels of acquaintance — like, say, 10 levels? From ‘person I would talk to in a queue if I had to’ to ‘person I would not ignore on a tube platform’ through to ‘person I’ve exchanged occasional life information with’ etc. The steps are so incremental. Pushing through to actual friendship can feel tough.

There is a lot of necessary bureaucracy… no way around it

As with moving anywhere, there’s a bunch of bureaucratic stuff you need to get in place. It always kills me when I hear of people who just up and randomly moved here and then were like ‘oh, what’s an Oyster card?’ Because seriously, how will you survive?

  1. Open a bank account. You can only do this with an address…
  2. Get a National Insurance Number from a JobCentre (if you intend to ever work here). Book ahead of time, as it takes a while.
She’s pretty, but she’s mean. Welcome to London! Photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash

Everybody’s hustling, so get ready

Unless you’re coming here to be a banker, you’re going to notice the cost of living take a sharp upturn. Most people I know do a job and about a thousand side gigs, because of the whole I’m-here-to-be-a-creative thing, which usually means they have a main source of income and lots of hopeful side projects. I am one of these people.

Nobody is going to just offer you help

Sounds harsh but it’s true. Nobody just offers up help, if they don’t have to. If you really need something and you make it known, help will be given to you. But nobody’s going to just offer it up. You’ve got to fight for that, too. Make it known, seek out services. Helpful links as follows:

On the up side…

There are all kinds of people to meet

While it can be hard to really get to know people well, the fantastic thing is that all kinds of people are here. It’s so incredibly diverse and interesting, so as long as you have the energy to keep looking and keep meeting people, you will eventually find just the kind of people you are looking for.

The travel opportunities are awesome

You’re right here. I mean… I’m from Australia. So I’m used to being about a billion hours away from anywhere that isn’t still Australia, so living in Europe is brilliant. I’ve travelled all around the continent and beyond and it is basically amazing and excellent. Long weekend in Prague? Quick trip to Paris? Nip over to a beach in Spain? Please and thank you.

Every part of London is unique

The vibe around town varies a lot from one part to the next. Get acquainted — the most fun can be had just walking London, piece by piece. Get to know the greenery of the north-west, the fancy shops in the west-west, the incredible red-brick structures of north London, the endless coffee shops of the inner east, the markets dotted all over town, the hum of the Southbank… Basically every bit of London offers up a new and exciting thing, and people soon find their favourite haunts that help to express exactly what they always felt was true about themselves.

The food and the coffee is a lot better than you’d think

The great benefit of such a mixed and diverse city is the sheer amount of culinary and coffee experiences on offer. It’s true that this wasn’t the case until more recently — British cuisine leaves a little to be desired, and you don’t need me to make any jokes about this. They’ve all been made already. But the great news is that everybody’s brought their fab cuisine to this town! So now, it’s awesome.

You will not be as stimulated anywhere else — and much of it is free

Are you into post-feminist installation art that integrates VR? Then you’re in luck. Whatever stuff you’re into, it’s here. The best of the world’s culture, art, music, film — whatever. A cultural delight at every turn. If you’re an art fiend like I am, the Barbican, the Tate Modern and Tate Britain, the National Gallery are a few places to start… They all have a mix of free and paid cultural things to enjoy. I’ve got an article dedicated to all the ways you can get cultural stuff on the cheap in London coming soon.

The chance that you will get to do what you want to do is very possible

Yeah, okay, every man and his dog wants to be a creative here. But the amazing thing is that you’re pretty likely to be able to actually do it in London. There’s no way I would have had the opportunity to do half the amazing and crazy things I have been able to do here, back home in Sydney.

Some final words of advice…

Come here with the expectation that you’ll have to work hard. At people, at finding a job, at carving out your niche. Come ready to give up on whatever you thought London would be. Be open and ready — it will surprise you, it will challenge you, and you will grow as a person. It will test your resolve and your patience. But if you are willing to stick it out, it will reward you. London doesn’t care about you as an individual. That may sound harsh, but it is also quite freeing. You can be anyone here, and do anything.

Emerging fiction author, London Writers Award 2020. Working on my debut novel, rep’d by Kate Evans @ PFD. Podcasting on Author Not Present.

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