Believe it or not, there is a whole country that sits just outside of the M25. I certainly forgot that fact when I lived there and I’m sure I’m not alone in doing this. Most people who live in London love living in London and wouldn’t consider living everywhere else. A large number of people, particularly when they are starting out in life consider moving there and it’s easy to see why on the face of it.
There are more opportunities, more jobs and better shops. There are world famous tourist attractions and quirky galleries hidden in side streets. People enjoy the faster paced lifestyle there and find it exciting and dynamic. There are oldy-worldy pubs, exclusive bars and a world famous nightlife. New restaurants pop up on a whim in secret locations and there are more fried chicken shops that you can shake a (drum) stick at. But more than that, there is a buzz that you cannot describe. There is a comfort associated with being anonymous in a big city and I find that it’s harder to feel lonely when so many people surround you. I still feel that comfort 12 years after I moved away whenever I first arrive into Kings Cross Station.
A few days in however and little things start to remind me why I left. Little things that when combined make you think ‘why exactly are people choosing to live here again?!’. I read a statistic a few weeks ago that claimed the average salary in London is £30,000 but the average house price is 14 times that amount. Housing is so expensive you cannot actually afford live anywhere of a habitable size or where you can hand on heart say you feel safe walking down the street on your own at night. If you are one of the lucky ones who can, you are so skint from paying the rent or mortgage that you cannot actually afford to leave said accommodation and enjoy all the things that attracted you to the city in the first place. Which means you can only afford to go out once every 3 months at a push. So you basically might as well live somewhere nicer and cheaper outside of London, visit every 3 months, stay in a nice central hotel while you do so and avoid the inevitable ordeal of a tube/night bus journey back to the outskirts where you are likely to be residing.
If I’d decided to get a job in the scientific industry and return to London after I graduated I would have had two options in terms of living arrangements: Move back in with my parents or share a house with a group of friends. Both fine as a short term measure but in the longer term my sanity would have been compromised.
It is an unhappy truth but a truth it is. Maybe one day when I can command a large salary I may be able to afford a decent standard of living in my home town.
Then again, maybe I’ve found out that there is much more to life than living in London; that all the things which I describe can be found via other means. That one can be equally, if not more so happy living somewhere else.