“Do you know the Queen?” “Were you at the Royal Wedding?” “Do you live in a palace and drink tea all day, every day?”
These are all misconceptions that people (particularly Americans) have about London. As a Londoner currently based in Texas, the fallacies surrounding London are often thrown at me. To a tourist, London may be seen as a fairy tale city of architecture, treasure-filled museums, theatre, diverse accents, large parks and ethnic food, but to someone who lives in the city, the experience may be extremely different. From a Londoner to a tourist, here is a full representation of what it is to be a true Londoner.
London Has Ghettos
When you think of London you think of palaces and kingdoms, right? Wrong. London has a higher population of knife crime than any other city in the world, particularly in places like Peckham and Hackney (my hometown). For many years these cities were known as the “no go” area. Car jacking’s, theft, rap, killings, really any crime you could possibly think of occurred in these cities. Now don’t get me wrong, growing up in Hackney was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. You will meet the most genuine people, have the best neighbors and truly have the most memorable childhood experience London has to offer. However, the cliche of London being a Winter Wonderland royal palace of a city is totally wrong.
London Is Expensive
Despite London being a place where many opportunities arrive and present themselves to you, the city is known for is expensive city to live in. The weekly transportation alone can cost you up to £385.20 (that’s about $541). According Expatica, it’s normal to for someone to spend up to 2/3 of their paycheck on rent alone. Even with a 50 percent income tax going to be slapped on those earning more than GBP £150,000 per year in the UK, the tax rate is still cheaper compared to Denmark (59 percent for top bracket) and Netherlands (52 percent).
Growing up in London, your next door neighbors are truly a reflection of the diversity that exists. The city provides a community where Indians, Somalians, Africans, Caribbeans or really any nationality you could ever think of live together and respect each other’s differences. While the issue of racism, discrimination and pure ignorance still exists, London is truly a place where differences within each other are accepted. From the Turkish man who owns the local shish kebab to the Chinese man who’s fried rice makes you cheat on your Atkins diet to the Jamaican Lady who makes the best curry goat you’ve ever tasted in your life, differences are embraced.
Public Transportation Is Bae
Compared to many other locations within the world, taking public transport is totally normal and a completely reliable means of transport. From the Bus 242 to the red central line train you are able to get to wherever you need to in a decent amount of time. While public transport may be expensive, it is a convenience. Guys, there is even a train to get you from London to Paris in two hours. You seriously can’t beat it.
The Weather Is Unpredictable
Yes, all the rumors you’ve heard are true. The weather in London truly sucks. London is the only place where all four seasons can take place in one minute. You really don’t know what to expect when leaving the house. Carrying an umbrella all day, every day, can be an added annoyance, but it’s very necessary.
Don’t Believe the Hype:
As a Londoner, I often get the question, “So where should I visit first?” My response is, honestly, don’t follow the hype. A lot of the hot spots people will tell you to visit are definitely not worth the experience or price. A perfect example of this would be the London Eye. Paying $50 for a one-hour view of London hardly seems worth it, particularly as a college student when you can get the same view from your hotel room.
- Find a concert or bar area to go to with some friends. If you like Adele, Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran, there are many other artists like them with just as much talent, and it only costs about £5 to get in.
- Find a great non-chain restaurant, and by non-chain I mean the corner guy who sells Kebab’s for less than £5. Also try and find a local fish and chips shop. Believe it or not, London isn’t big on the fancy restaurants, especially because they are all so expensive.
- There are also many museums and historical monuments that are completely free of charge to paint you the complete and honest picture about England and Europe as a whole. The Imperial Museum, London Art Museum, Natural History Museum and many more should be on your list.
Don’t get me wrong, London is a great place and appreciate the opportunities it affords its residents. The experience of living in the monumental and historical city is unquestionably an amazing opportunity. We love London as a city. It’s more spread out with more green spaces and more excitement. There is always something to do for FREE. The city is also definitely college friendly, but caters to everyone of every age. Hopefully if you’re visiting London sometime soon these tips will help guide your visit.
(P.S. Make sure if you’re in Hackney you visit Mr. Cod’s Fish and Chips. Tell him Ashley sent you. You wont regret it!)