Most people dream of living, studying and working in the UK’s capital city. They move to London and realise it was the best and worst decision they ever made. Although, for many, the years of living in London are the poorest financially, they are also the richest in experiences. Whether it’s marching for women’s rights, clubbing in an abandoned car wash or queuing for an hour outside a new cafe that charges £5.50 for a bowl of cornflakes, London is the place to be.
But it’s hard, right? It’s chaotic, fast-paced and fucking expensive. It’s the one place that forces you to feel a sense of achievement when you can buy branded chocolate digestives rather than Asda’s Smart Price. So, for all the newbies or the current inhabitants who are still struggling to get it right in London, here are some things you need to do to survive living in the city.
Accept The Tube
London’s notorious underground system is a sweat pit of delays, overcrowding and fruitless strikes from transport staff. But it’s the quickest way to get around. You need to find the balance between being both polite and completely ruthless. If you are determined to get on the tube, then trust me, you will fit on. Although your body may be contorted and you’re struggling to breathe, you will make it to your tube stop without dying. But, check what time the service suspends at night, not everything runs past midnight and taxis are a rip off.
TOP TIP: To make your life easier, the doors of the tube all open exactly where the paint on the edge of the platform has rubbed off- so make sure that’s where you stand.
Reject The Tube
If, like me, you can’t hack the smell of 300 armpits in one confined space then get acquainted with the bus system (or invest in a bike). The bus system tends to be most prevalent in the more deprived areas of London where the council can’t be arsed building a tube station. Although this means that the rental prices for housing is lower, you will spend most of your life running after buses. What’s great about buses though, is that it’s the place where you meet strange characters. I once sat by a mute woman who kept showing me the contents of her bag which was the lid off a Dairylea Triangles box, duct tape and a black bag you’d use for picking up dog shit.
TOP TIP: Download the Citymapper app. It will save your life.
Grow A Backbone
The people of London, deep down, are really nice and if you ask them for help they would respond. But at the same time, everyone has their own business to attend to which means you might get pushed and shoved ‘accidentally’ and you most definitely will hear the phrases ‘MOVE!’ “For fucks sake!’ ‘I’m going to punch you in a minute.’ The best thing you can do, is to let it go. It’s not personal.
TOP TIP: Adopt a neutral facial expression for when someone shouts at you and wear headphones. Sometimes, I wear mine and they’re not even attached to anything just so I don’t have to listen/ respond to other people. *Mimes I can’t hear you sorry*.
Grasp The Geography
London is sort of like a mini country in itself with lots of little small areas. They each have their own personality, ways of living and community. For example, most people living in Shoreditch have a nose piercing and a long black coat. People in Peckham have half a shaved head and dress like they’re stuck in the 90’s. And people in Clapham tend to be either Kiwi or Aussie, so they wear flip-flops and only consume avocados and flat whites. But look, I’m not saying become a chameleon, I’m saying learn to embrace it.
TOP TIP: Visit every place in London at least once. And invest in at least one black outfit.
Search For Home
Once you know the geography, you’ll be ready to pick a place to settle. But finding a home is by far the hardest and most stressful thing you will do in London (apart from getting trapped in the tube doors, which is REALLY stressful). You need to be quick and try not to just settle for the first house you come across. If you don’t like where you live, you will have a considerably more negative experience of London.
TOP TIP: Trust your gut; if it feels weird and dodgy, then it is.
Track The Pennies
Perhaps a bit obvious, but it makes sense to now suggest that you keep track of your money. London is a pretty exciting place and before you know it, you’ve said yes to every social event. But life in the city can be pretty pricey. Keep track of your spending, even if that means creating a weekly budget to stick to. Trust me, London is one of the hardest places to live in if you’re struggling financially. When I first moved here, I lived off a tin of soup a day. It was a low point that I suggest you do all you can to avoid.
If you’re looking for an easy, quick way to manage your money, check out Loot here. The app lets you budget, put money aside and use your contactless card abroad without any additional charges. So at least you can start enjoying living in London.