15 April 2015

How To Survive In London

Great, the only picture I have of
me at work is eating a burrito..

Firstly, apologies for the length of time since my last post. March was so busy for me with family birthdays, a trip to Amsterdam (I've got a post to follow about this trip), loads of extra work etc. etc. This post has been in the planning stages for quite some time so hopefully you all will like it.

I've been living in London for five and a half months now (can you believe it?) and I think I am finally starting to get the hang of it. It sounds like a really long time to get used to living somewhere but for someone who has lived in the countryside for 21 years of her life, London is quite a big change!

So I thought I would create a 'How To Guide' for living in London. I used the word 'survive' because sometimes it can feel like a real jungle.

Food comes second

Although there are loads of amazing places to eat in London, there aren't many cheap ones. My work backs onto Leather Lane which hosts the most eclectic mix of food stalls and shops. There's falafel shacks, burritos shops, special cheese toasties stalls, juice carts, massive salad stops, pretty much everything you could want to eat. But I rarely let myself 'eat from the street' because in London, everything is on a budget!

Most offices these days have a communal kitchen (I'm yet to find anyone who doesn't have one) with a kettle and a microwave. If you're clever you can easily save £30 a week by bringing in your own food, whether it's leftovers, a can of soup or a home-made ham sandwich. It might not be that exciting but it saves you money to spend on all the other tempting things to do in London.

The nightmare that is the tube at rush hour 

The tube is one thing that you really cannot prepare yourself for. Even if you catch a jam-packed bus every now and then, it's nothing like catching the tube at rush hour everyday. In my first month or so I used to work an extra hour each day just to avoid it.

You'll soon learn that there is absolutely no such thing as personal space on the tube. In fact I could tell you quite a few stories about my escapades on the tube but I might save that for another post (let me know if you're interested).

Never fear though, there are a couple of tips which can make catching the tube not that bad:

Firstly, make sure you take your coat off, and your backpack (tube etiquette for you there), before you get on because it is always super hot and you don't want to turn up to work sweating like you've just run all the way there.

Try to learn which side the doors open. If you're going to be on for a couple of stops, you want to be on the opposite side to where the doors open because there's always more space that side. The most space is down the aisles between the seats but then you have to hold on and if you're short like me, that's not ideal.

The amazing Frozen Oyster wallet I was
 given for Christmas (best present ever!)
Remember where the exist are on the platforms. This can take a while, but if it's your daily commute it's worth it. Getting into the carriage the right distance along can save quite a bit of time if you're in a rush to get to work. Platforms in central London are quite busy at rush hour.

Keep your oyster card/contactless debit card in one of those wallets. Everyone hates the guy who gets to the front of the queue then holds everyone up while they mess about looking for their card. If you're going to use it every day you want to keep it safe anyway.

Pace yourself - seriously!

Going out for drinks in London is entirely different to student drinking or a pint in the local pub. For a start, it's at least double the cost. Like food, it's hard to find an alcoholic drink that costs less than £5. Even soft drinks are expensive.

Cocktails, cocktails and more cocktails.. Seems to be all everyone
wants to drink in London! 
Money's not the only reason you should pace yourself though. Heading straight from work to the bar can be a  dangerously long session. Even if you finish late on Friday at 6:30pm, if you're planning to go on to a club that's a solid 5.5 hours drinking! Probably longer than you had in mind at the start of the night..

It's important also if you're heading straight from work to grab something to eat first. You'll most likely be heading home on your own at the end of the night unless you've made other plans or stay at a friends, so you need to be capable of looking after yourself.

Take everything free you can get your hands on

Piccadilly Circus shot by me on my first week in London.
Granted there are a lot of different expenses to consider in London but there's also a lot of free things as well. Perhaps the best thing about catching the tube is the amount of free weekly literature you get offered - from the Metro every morning and the Evening Standard to Time Out magazine, InStyle and Sport.

There are also loads of free events and things to do, such as sightseeing. Just because you live in London doesn't mean you can't act like a tourist as well. A trip to see the Houses of Parliament, The London Eye or Trafalgar Square can be just as interesting as paying a hefty amount to see the crown jewels in the Tower of London. So do some research (probably by reading Time Out magazine or looking on their website) and find something free to do instead.

An antidote to feeling like a small fish in a HUGE pond

It's quite easy to feel insignificant in a big city like London, especially if you come from a small town like me. There are so many people buzzing around you with their own problems, priorities and interests. You can catch the same tube at the same times everyday and never see the same people. That's just how it is. But there are actually quite a few positives to this. If you do something stupid (normally getting on or off the tube) it really doesn't matter because you'll never see those people again anyway. If you want to lip-sync to your favourite Jessie J song on the tube who cares. There is so much diversity in London that it gives you have the freedom to do whatever you want, wear whatever you and act however you want (within reason). So although at first it's a little intimidating, London's actually quite empowering!

Hopefully I've covered a lot of the main issues you might face living in London. Most of all, make sure you enjoy it because otherwise you might as well live somewhere that's cheaper with fresher air!

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