For those of you who have decided to take the leap into moving to the big capital, first of all, congratulations! However, I know that there will be many of you that will be worried about moving here, because for most of us it’ll be the first time that we actually live by ourselves, and there’s a lot that we need to consider. And so with that, we have compiled a list of a few common misconceptions about moving and living in London to ease some of your minds hopefully, and remind you that’s it’s definitely all going to be worth it in the end.
1. Londoners are miserable
If I had a penny for every time I heard this come out of someone’s mouth, I’m pretty sure I would be able to afford all the houses in Kensington (and those are some very expensive houses!). But to a certain degree, I completely understand where they’re coming from, but there are a few factors to take into account that make this a common misconception.
In a capital city, so many people are in a rush most of the time because a lot of their lives revolve around work, meetings and schedules; they may come across as rude, but I can guarantee that’s never their true intentions. If you’re from the North where everyone smiles at you in the mornings, then you’re probably going to have a shock when no one even attempts to make any eye contact with you on the tube, but it’s all about knowing the best times and places to strike up a conversation. Sure, it might not be exactly wise to try and talk to someone during rush hour on a cramped Victoria line, but anywhere and any other time, people do actually have the time to interact.
If you’re worried that everyone you come across doesn’t want to get to know you, then maybe you’re looking for it in all the wrong places. The best way to meet and talk to people is on nights out because whether that be in a bar or a club, you’re all there to have some fun and let your hair down for the night; it’s out of work hours, no one’s in a rush or stressed about getting things done, so take a breath and get to know as many people as you want. It’s all about timing.
2. You can’t afford to do anything in London
London is expensive. Yes. Period. It’s a capital city; it’d be silly to assume that it’s not. But ultimately, it’s up to you how expensive London is. If you want to dine in the most extravagant restaurants in Kensington and Mayfair or rent a flat in Marylebone, then you will need a lot of money in the bank. However, for your average student, a lot of these aren’t possible, and there are actually tons of hidden gems that you just need to keep an eye out for. There are many galleries and monuments, such as Tate Modern and Sky Garden, that offer free entry for the general public if you decide to do some sightseeing during your stay, and so only the refreshments and specific exhibitions will cost money.
Also, although we can’t go out yet (fingers are still crossed for June 21st), a lot of clubs throughout the city offer discounted entry and drinks throughout the night, so definitely make sure to keep your student ID with you at all times, because chances are you’ll always get some money off with it. As we previously mentioned, it would be super nice to dine in the affluent areas of London, but make sure to also venture out into Camden or Hackney and support some of their local cafes. There, you’ll find some home-baked, locally sourced food for a much cheaper price (we’re talking £2 lattes cheap), and fresh produce, especially at the markets. It’s important to stay on top of things when living in the city, because there are so many new deals being released daily that will allow you to save some serious coin during your stay.
3. You’ll never get used to your surroundings
Moving to a city that spans over one and a half thousand kilometres is definitely not for the faint-hearted or home bugs, and it’s very easy to think that you’ll never get used to navigating your way around it (I know that Citymapper was certainly my best friend at the beginning). However, as with most things, time is of the essence, and you’ll very quickly learn your ins and outs of the capital, much like a sixth sense, because greater London is huge, granted, but London itself is actually not that big. When you first move here, it’s enough to feel like a small fish in a gigantic pond, but over time you’ll begin to see so many familiar faces. When I worked in a bakery on Oxford Street (and let me tell you, it was nowhere near as easy as it sounds), I began to see the same people come in for their morning cappuccinos and croissants: business associates, scaffolders, journalists, the lot. And so eventually, we just naturally got chatting and got to know each other’s life stories quite well. Much like anything in this city, it just takes some time to adjust, but once you do, most journeys will just become second nature.
Another common misconception about London is that there is just pollution everywhere and no one cares about the environment or their surroundings; however, if you live there for even just a week, you’ll see how incorrect that statement actually is. The capital has introduced so many different forms of transport in order to reduce the amount of pollution, such as bikes, scooters, electric cars and toll roads (where you actually have to pay to drive on them) and it’s definitely making a difference, especially to the skyline. The first accommodation I stayed in was in Walthamstow, East London, in a 6th floor flat, and trust me when I say the view was breathtaking – it really was! I could see the Shard, the Gherkin, Queen Elizabeth’s Olympic Park, and so much more from my window, and you’ll never get sick of the view, especially during sunset or sunrise.
Another idea is that because London is the capital, there’s just tall buildings everywhere and no greenery at all, and to that, all I can say is that you’re looking in all the wrong places. Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill (where you can see the entire skyline from the top) are just a handful of the most beautiful gardens you can venture out to for picnics, walks and fresh air. So although pollution is a huge problem, not just in London but across the world, many precautions are being taken to reduce this, so make sure to take this misconception with a pinch of salt.
5. London is a dangerous city
As with any place across the world, it comes with its better and worse areas, which can definitely be a topic of concern for many students moving to London. However, the capital centre itself is actually pretty safe, and so all it takes is knowing where is best to go at what times. WalkSafe is an app that visualises crime reports published by the police and lets you know where they’ve been committed depending on your location. In addition, the app also scans the road ahead to notify you of the crimes that have been committed in nearby areas, so if you ever feel like you’re lost or unaware of where the best place to go, then this can help you stay extra alert. I feel that it’s important to mention this because although the idea that London is dangerous is a common misconception, it’s always important to stay informed about your surroundings, wherever you are.
6. You’re going to be alone in the big city
Moving somewhere that no one knows who you are and you don’t know who anyone is can be scary, and I know that definitely was the case when I moved to London. However, the most important thing that you can do is look at it from the opposite angle: yes, it’s daunting and huge and busy, but that’s the best thing about the capital! Moving here gives you the chance to reinvent yourself and become the person you’ve always wanted to be, whether more outgoing, more adventurous, or even more spontaneous. Taking advantage of being able to do all the things you were always scared to do when you lived back home is one of the best things about living here because I know the hustle and bustle can be intimidating, and that you can start to feel alone in such a busy place. But all it takes is meeting one person for your entire outlook to change on the city. So go up to people at university and work and strike up that conversation with them, because from then on you’ll meet so many different personalities that you’ll start to form a proper connection with, and you’ll wonder why you ever worried about being lonely in the first place.
We’re sure that this list could have probably just gone on and on with the common misconceptions about moving and living in London. However, we hope that these few main ones have helped to give you a slight insight into what living in the capital is actually like. If you love the hustle and bustle, the skylines and the capital life, then moving here is one of the best decisions you could possibly make (you’re welcome).