I was speaking from someone recently via an Internet message board who was asking about living and working in London. He was considering studying in the city and because my company was based there, I seemed to be a good person to ask about the place. Oddly, the fact that I lived 80 miles from the city did not deter him in the slightest for some reason.
Through work and other commitments I spend in excess of two weeks every twelve months in England’s capital. The company’s office is based in central London and we have sites out in Docklands too. Coupled with this we stage quarterly meetings in North London which require several overnight stays a year. Yeah, maybe I can offer a slightly more informed view on the place compared to someone from, say, Bogota.
To get my opinion he asked me a series of questions which I have included below. My answers are fairly brief for the reasons intimated above but they should at least give you a flavor of the place.
How is it to live in London?
I wouldn’t know. When I stay the night in London which I do about seven days a year, I love it. It’s such a cosmopolitan place and there’s always something going on. It always amazes me the amount of people you see in the early hours. It doesn’t seem to matter where you are, you’ll always find a pub or a international eatery in a previously unseen alley way serving drinks and food at some ungodly hour. It’s great – you’ll certainly never go hungry in London!
What is your daily routine?
When I visit the capital I arrive at London Kings Cross station at about 0930 on the fast National Express train from Peterborough. From there I catch the Northern Line tube to Borough High Street which passes through Angel, Bank and London Bridge stations. The tube journey takes about 20 minutes from KX to my office.
I have lunch from one of the nearby cafes or buy a sandwich from the local supermarket or bakery. I then tend to head back to Kings Cross circa 1545 to avoid the other commuters on the rush hour home.
How do you go around the city?
Usually the tube but I sometimes need to go to Docklands which may involve the Docklands Light Railway. This is a raised track that offers great views of the city as you move out from the centre. I rarely use buses as I don’t know the city well enough but I do use cabs occasionally for those places too far from tube stops.
Most commuters and residents use what are known as Oyster cards which greatly reduce ticket costs – often by more than 50% – and speeds up journey times as you do not need to purchase tickets for your travel. The cards can be topped up electronically and you scan the card as you enter and leave a station and your debited funds accordingly.
Which is your favorite place?
I love Camden Market and Covent Garden. Both represent a different side to the city with the former being less touristy than the latter. Camden is a multi-cultural area but seems to cater for pretty much anyone of any interest with the wide variety of stalls on offer.
Elsewhere, it’s quite something to walk along the Thames and see these world famous landmarks all in a row too. You almost feel that you part of a Hollywood film set because it seems so conveniently laid out for the tourist.
What do you dislike about London?
Sometimes, if you’re on Oxford Street for instance, the sheer mass of people that walk in front of you gets a bit tiring after a while. My personal reason for being in this part of town is the well-stocked HMV and Virgin mega-stores which makes the experience marginally more bearable. London is also very grubby in places so hopefully the 2012 Olympic games will help alleviate that particular issue.
What do you see for the city in the coming years?
The Olympics should regenerate much of London and consequently improve the transport system which is looking very tired in places. It’s getting better but there’s a long way to go.
The worry is terrorism after the 7/7 bombings and a number of my colleagues have been constantly harassed by stop and search policies just for looking a bit foreign with a rucksack. Once fair enough – but 8 times in 9 months would be very annoying when you are just trying to live your life.
Overall London is a great place to visit but it may get overwhelming to live and work everyday. You only have to look at some of the tired faces travelling too and from work to see the stress that some feel. Personally, I have the balance just right and feel very privileged to have one of the world’s greatest cities less than hour from my front door.