London is…

london
View from the Shard

I’ve been thinking a lot about my time in London, now that I’ve lived here for over four years.  And it got me thinking: how could I possibly begin to describe the wonderful roller-coaster that is the expat experience?

Here’s a starter for ten, at any rate. To me, living in London is…

  • Busy and lonely all at the same time
  • Equal parts filthy and elegant
  • It’s dancing in the middle of the road with a kebab in hand
  • Making friends on the night bus…
  • …and convincing 10 strangers on said night bus to play charades with you
  • Not having time to read that magazine you bought a month ago intending to have some ‘down time’ to read it
  • Crying on the tube about some boy who wasn’t even worth it…
  • …and not even giving a shit what the other passengers think as you snotball into your tissues
  • Then remembering that moment, fondly, years later
  • It’s fine dining and swanky bars
  • Followed by dirty chicken at 2am
  • It’s underground nightclub raves
  • It’s breathtaking art right on your doorstep
  • It’s illegal art-squat-parties-in-abandoned-office-blocks (sponsored by that dodgy cider brand you can’t recall)
  • There’s creativity beyond anything you’ve ever seen
  • There’s all those amazing weekend jaunts to Europe
  • Landing in Gatwick at 730am on a Monday and rocking up to work fresh from an Amsterdam bender, suitcase in hand
  • Trips to the countryside
  • The dodgy shingle beaches
  • The cream teas, cottage pies, eton messes, and many a full English – mmm
  • The many Be At One cocktail bars, dangerously close at all times
  • The realising you’ve tried most of the cocktails on the Be At One list, mostly due to their 2-4-1 offer
  • It’s rudeness beyond anything you’ve ever seen
  • And kindness that exceeds all expectations
  • Constant, exhausting, exhilarating change
  • Where you’ll learn to hate and then love the NHS
  • Where you’ll meet the most interesting people with the most interesting jobs
  • Where you’ll realise that what you thought you wanted maybe wasn’t what you wanted after all
  • It’s a place where someone always wants something from you: be it your money, your time or your ass
  • It’s de-humanising and re-humanising at the same time
  • It’s the fizzing, gleeful delight when summer rolls around and you can picnic in Hyde Park again
  • It’s the simple joy of lazy afternoons in London Fields, followed by insane nights out at The Dolphin on Mare Street – if you’ve never seen a lady swing a bar stool wildly over her head, you haven’t lived
  • It’s buying your entire summer wardrobe in Primark for £60
  • It’s an endless, always-changing cycle of wonderful new friends  and colleagues
  • Plus the solid crew who’ll always have your back
  • It’s nights on the sofa watching back-to-back episodes of Orange Is The New Black because you can’t afford to go out
  • It’s rice-and-bisto for dinner when you really can’t afford to go out
  • It’s champagne and oysters when you can
  • And on the topic of oysters. If the world’s your oyster then surely  London’s the pearl
  • She’ll win you over whether you want her to or not
  • And she’s definitely a lady. A crafty, bonkers, wonderful, brutal lady
  • She’s your boss
  • She’ll make you her bitch
  • And then one day you’ll fight back like you never fought before
  • You’ll win her respect
  • You’ll win your own respect
  • And everything gets a little easier
  • Because, when it all comes down to it, London is life

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