August 31, 2003
Tired of London?

I stumbled upon a discussion happening at a blog called Mad Musings of Me - called Tired of London, Tied of Life?.

Now - it seems that many of the folks commenting to the posting are rallying around the “yeah - get out of the city” thing - but all of that is leaving me really irritated. I live in London - I know I haven’t travelled as extensivley as some people - and, sure, I don’t get away on holiday often enough - but I’m going to have to agree and add further fuel to the comment that Pewari makes about appreciating London more when you’ve been away for a while. And I cringe at the reasons that some of the commenters gave for being drawn to London - e.g. the glamour, the culture, the “rush”, the “being able to say you live in London” thing. I “grew out” of the CoventGarden-esque appeal of Central London a long, long time ago. For me, my appreciation for London arises from the essence of the some of the following things:

  • Provincial towns usually have only one or two railway stations - and for the majority of people - they will NOT be within walking distance. Compare that with London - where most people are within easy walking distance of train-based public transport. In London - you can get around more easily - whereas in provincial towns you stay at home - or you drive, or get driven - and if you live in the countryside you stay on the farm all the time - or else you have to drive your land rover to the nearest provincial town in order to maintain some sanity.
  • In London the staff at the supermarket checkout (usually younger college students) aren’t interested in upholding the fabric of society - they are there to do a job, and do that job as efficiently as possible. Compare that to supermarkets in the provinces, where the checkout operator is stereotypically an older lady - more interested in eeking out precious time by chatting casually to her friend that she has just checked out goods for as she fumbles around in her purse for as much change as posssible. Infuriating. It’s almost as if people in the provinces have no concept of the value of time.
  • It’s hard to put your finger on anything really very tangible to illustrate this point with - but London has so much more of the “service psyche” in it; where shops and facilities - as well as the behaviour of the people who staff them are much more “demand-led” - as opposed to the standards commonly experienced in the provinces - where the behaviour is much more “supply-led”. Outside London - the shopkeeper has the balance of power - Shopkeeper to customer: “you are priveleged to be here - and if I’m on the phone nattering to a friend - then you’ll just have to wait until I’ve finished.” - whereas in London - the shopkeeper wants your business - knowing full well that you could go shop elsewhere if you didn’t like the service.
  • Londoners are less afraid to express emotion to others than folks in the provinces. This is probably due to the greater degree of diversity of cultures in London - the British are naturally a very reserved people - and the further out of London you go (with the exception of places like Birmingham and Leicester and some parts of Leeds/Bradford) the less diverse society becomes - and as a result - there are certain emotions that, conventionally, cannot be expressed in public - like complaining at poor service for example.
  • The buses in London appear have better Brake-Horse-Power - meaning the buses accelerate a lot faster than those on provincial towns - which seem to only just be able to do 0 to 30 in half an hour. Getting around by bus in London is so much more zippier than provincial towns.

OK - so it might just be that London is a haven for impatient, emotionally-sensitive foriegners who are always in a hurry and complaining about bad service - but I’d rather be in a place that caters for this sort than in a place like, say Biggleswade - or Bournemouth - or worst still; Norfolk.

Posted by jag at August 31, 2003 05:23 PM

I could really relate to the last commentor (at least as of now) who complained of hating Southern California after her time in London.

If course, in my opinion, even Norfolk was better than there. Well, nearly…

Posted by: Lisa on August 31, 2003 10:26 PM

Southern California is nice! Well - to visit anyway.

Posted by: Jag on September 1, 2003 08:26 AM

I was living in London (hounslow) for 2 years before moving to Bournemouth last year and I do miss London on many counts.

While I agree on most of the points, I wd beg to differ on the BHP of the buses… They are quite okay here as well.

Posted by: Chakra on September 1, 2003 09:55 AM

Hi Chakra; re bus BHP: maybe it’s a North/South thing?

Posted by: Jag on September 1, 2003 11:33 AM

You’ve missed one - antisocial behaviour (in my experience) is worse in the provinces. At least more noticeable. In Croydon, the problematic antisocial behaviour was really in the evenings at pub closing time in certain parts of the town - easy to avoid. Here in Worcester I have seen 3 acts of criminal damage as I’ve walked past in broad daylight with my 2 year old son. And they didn’t even bother trying to hide what they were doing as soon as they saw they had a witness.

I feel far less safe here walking about than I ever did in Croydon.

Oh and the schooling is just as cruddy out here as it is down there… 20% GCSE passrate in our catchment area secondary with major problems of bullying, absenteeism and classroom disruption.


Posted by: Pewari on September 1, 2003 01:23 PM

Oh, and I forgot the weekly comments in the local rag about how all this behaviour in society is the fault of immigrants, the repeal of the witchcraft law, and homosexuality.

It makes the majority of Londoners look positively tolerant.

I’m not homesick… much.

Posted by: Pewari on September 1, 2003 01:24 PM

Oh and buses? What are they?! Only ones that stop near here go nowhere useful on a very irregular basis!

London Transport was ace in comparison.

I’ll shut up now. Promise.

Posted by: Pewari on September 1, 2003 01:29 PM

:-) !

Posted by: Jag on September 1, 2003 02:00 PM

You think :o)

Posted by: Pewari on September 1, 2003 07:54 PM

I’m afraid I stand by my “I like London, but I don’t like living here” statement, but I’m like this with most cities. After a trip into central London I generally end up coughing black chunks up for two or three days afterwards. People are generally rude, thoughtless, and purely out for themselves.

Meeting new people is incredibly difficult due to a seeming absolute taboo on talking to anyone who you don’t know. Say “hi” to someone on a train and they’ll probably think you’re borderline insane.

From Pew’s comments about her new area, I’m afraid I’ve come to this conclusion: where she lives sucks as much as London does!

Don’t get me wrong - London has it’s upside too, most notibly an extremely broad range of lifestyles and one of the finest ranges of shops you could ask for. All in all though I’d swap it for Southern California. ;-)

Posted by: Mitchell on September 2, 2003 01:31 PM

Hi Mitchell, I think I agree with your first para - for those reasons as well as the fact that I find Central London (museums and galleries aside) extremely tiresome. I haven’t tripped into “tourist” Central London for anything other than essential errands or work for years.

Meeting people? It’s funny - because I only thought about this hard when you mentioned it - and you’re absolutely right I guess - I’ve never “met anybody new” in London either - but then I’ve never set out to either. All my friends and acquaintances made in London have been through work, study or neighbours/community.

Having spent a long time in the US some years back - including Southern CA (and having holidayed there recently) - I would say that it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world - but I wouldn’t want to permanently settle there.

ps - thx for visiting here!

Posted by: Jag on September 2, 2003 02:02 PM

Hi, I’m thinking of moving to London and looking at the pros and cons. I currently live in… wait for it… Norfolk! I used to love London but now I’m not so sure and I’m afraid your arguments have done little to convince me for the following reasons…

Your first point: there are trains in London and not in provincial towns. London needs trains due to the sheer size / distances. In smaller towns you can walk! So why are trains such a bonus?

Second point: The value of time. Some would say a friendly face at a shop is a valuable thing. I know its annoying when you’re in the queue.. but isn’t chatting to a customer (especially i.e. an old lonely one) a valuable way to spend a few minutes?

The next two points you make seem to cancel out each other… first you say that service is better in London, then you say that Londoners are better at complaining about poor service? All I know is that Europeans, Australians and Americans I’ve met in London all say that London has the worst service in the world.

Finally, you say that London’s buses are faster. Sorry but fast buses aren’t exactly top of my list of reasons to move town.

I don’t mean to be rude - but is there anything else you can say to convince me that London is a better place to live? :o)

Posted by: Katy on December 20, 2004 03:04 PM

Hi Katy - wow, and thanks very much for your very constructive feedback! I guess I was taking a little risk in alienating folks from Norfolk! I am guessing that you “got” the parody in my posting!

Anyway - in response to your points (which I hope you will understand are just as “parodied”)

Re Trains: yep - well London sure does need them. I guess I have been stuck in provincial towns trying to work out how to get from A to B without a car far too many times before! ;-)

Re far-too-friendly-shop-assistants: I guess I’m typical of Londoners: not enough time to wait spending time in queues - and generally just cold and uninterested!

Re service: we Londoners expect fast/efficient service - and if we don’t get it then we are not afraid to complain! That was my point there I think.

Re buses: well i guess I’m not trying to convince people to switch their home town to London - so I stand by my comment re the buses. But I guess the bias towards London buses is because this journal that I write my thoughts in( is inspired somewhat by my beloved London bus - which cannot possibly compare to buses anywhere else in the world!

And so onto your final point: well the answer is “no not really” - I really can’t say anything to convince you - because if you don’t “get it” (i.e. that london is the coolest city on the planet to live in) then it’s probably better a place without you!

Oops! I hope you don’t get too offended by my tongue in cheek there! Seriously though - I welcome you to our city - London really is a great place - and I’m sure you will love it really - we are a friendly bunch, honestly! And do let me know whether you make it down here - it really is a place apart from Norfolk - believe me - I have spent some time in Norfolk before (a day at the seaside in Cromer when I was a kid and I hated it) - and so it really doesn’t compare!


Posted by: Jag on December 20, 2004 08:41 PM
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