The Realities of Living in London | Alex Brown
London, the city that never sleeps, the heart of the old empire that also never sleeps. The city that you’re sold as dreams and lights by all those who visit it. You know what the problem with listening to those people? They visited it, but they didn’t stay for more than a week. Having lived in this ‘Met-trocity’ for what will soon be three years I’ve really been reflecting on my life choices and my time in the city. More than anything else I want to assist those contemplating moving here whether for study or for work or simply for ‘pleasure’ or even a better life.
If I were to put it simply, I would give you this one-word advice on moving to the capital; Don’t.
London is no city of dreams and certainly not one in which you will feel fulfilled. Many will read these words and cry that my experience was subjective, and this is true. But there are elements which no one can deny and that all Londoners will experience if they have not already whether they are 20 or 70, married or single, living in the centre or the suburbs. Chief among these shared experiences is loneliness. The London man is a lonely man, he lives generally in solace of his own thoughts and feelings. There are moments of uplift when he has a partner or gets time away from the city, but generally he lives a singular life in a city whose leader boasts of connectivity. This is because of both the work life he has and the social life he has. Both of these things in the capital rely on a common presupposition; that you have known no alternative to the life you now live and that you cannot escape from the cycle. Again, thankfully I have lived a long period of my life in the countryside in a suburban town and as such I know life does not have to be this way.
In his work life he is crushed into a cog in the machine in every way more so than in any other city or town, his individuality ejected, his mind dejected but his experience collective. From the Goldman Sachs Banker to the Parliamentary researcher and from the school cleaner to the binman all are forced into an elaborate machine that will spit you out if you do not fit its predetermined shapes. This ensures he feels isolated in his situation because he feels his is uniquely depressing, but the grand illusion must be shattered because again if one thing is true, it is that these experiences are shared by every Londoner.
With regards to the social life of the Londoner, he has two choices, he attends a pretentious museum or art gallery to reassure himself that his life is not as bad as those who had lived before him, this is affirmed quite I admit when he sees the Tate Modern. His other choice is to go out onto town and get absolutely, paralytically drunk. This option provides the most immediate escape from the pressure and regimented nature of the city but provides no real satisfaction. All it really does is affirm to him the next day that he will do this same thing for the rest of his life, because he knows no better. This is the life of the lonely Londoner.
London is without doubt the most soul-crushing, lonely, cold and above all else uncaring place I have had the displeasure of living in. People live here for their entire lives and cannot escape (assuming they want to and have not been caught in the grand illusion that life is somehow better in the glass city). There are so many more minor things that impact one’s life whilst they live here alongside that core issue of loneliness. The oppressively modern and simplistic architecture that grinds you down as you see it everywhere you go. Another is the endless attitude of entitlement from those born and bred here is repulsive to those like me who have nothing they have. Such an attitude is encapsulated in their attitude towards the (what they think is high) pricing of public transport, something that I think would collectively bring Londoners out on strike.
There was a time when I believed this city to be the centre of the universe as farcical and naïve as that sounds. I regard it now as the worst city in the United Kingdom having visited all but one of the major cities (Manchester has eluded me but I’m sure I’ll have the ‘pleasure’ at some point). If you are truly considering moving here, then you should reconsider because you will be crushed quicker than a rebellion in Stalinist Russia. Or to put it as blunt as possible –
DON’T DO IT.