Why there is so much to love in London, even in Lockdown!
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
Featured in The Local Way
What a whirlwind year it's been for us all, to say the least! What a fantastical and unexpected journey it's been on my end particularly after moving to what is arguably one of the top high-pressure, competitive cities in the world, without a job or connections. I don't regret one bit of it, and here is why:
Londoners are intellectuals, and care about their history. You can say what you want about East Enders or working class people, but the fact is, you can head over to the Portobello Road Farmer's Market stalls and the Mushroom Man will off-the-cuff spew out material from Wealth of Nations by the father of economics, Adam Smith. I hadn't thought about Adam Smith since studying Sociology in undergrad a decade ago! It makes you feel there's a story around every corner, and anything is possible, even in the most unlikely of circumstances!
I sit on a bench framing the walking path in Hyde Park, overhearing two middle-class dressed men feverishly engaging with one other about the development of horticultural preservation in England. You can ask people about their own history, the history of the city, the nation, or the world, and they are sure to have some insights, or if not, at the least entertain a good conversation!
I've lived in certain places around the world where I couldn't do this, and so my brain feels nourished living in a city where there is intellectual stimulation around every corner, even amidst lockdown during a global pandemic! Amazing!
Politeness! What a strange concept in a city remarked upon as cold and rigid! Despite societal fear hanging in the air, Londoners always say their "Pardon me's," "Please" and "Thank you's." There's a certain semblance of respect and humility paid forward when politeness is shown even in the most nuanced social interactions.
At the top of my head, I can recall a handful of times while living in Australia where spoken politeness was met with the eyebrow raised remark "You're very polite..." in a way not loaded as a compliment. I value the Aussie laidback attitude, but not coming at the price of shrugged off politeness. This is just my view, and everyone prioritises different values.
I often think of the Sunscreen Song, ironically by Aussie Baz Luhrmann, who memorably offers the advice, "Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft." I laugh as I attribute this idea to a number of places I've lived. In each country and city, there was always so much benefit to ingrain and integrate, though if I'd stayed then complacency, laziness, hardness, or even a sheltered attitude would have slowly permeated and then infiltrated.
I love adopting a little piece from each country I live in. It's like what I say at the end of the self-development workshops I run: "Take what resonates, leave what doesn't."
Back to London! You always find an intriguing mix of quirky and classical, the eccentric and traditional merges into a delightful personality of the city. Anyone is welcome in London, everyone fits in even when they don't, and yet preservation of history is still the sweeping undercurrent.
Whistling! This is one of my simple pleasures in London: listening to people at work, whistling like they're on the set of Mary Poppins. This happened to me today as I was turning the corner into my house in Notting Hill, in fact. All the time, you can hear men cleaning gutters, washing windows, carrying paint cans...whistling! It makes me smile, and I love it.
Londoners LOVE their dogs. Sometimes you can even hear them carrying full on conversations on with their pooch, in public, as if they're talking to a friend. A few days ago I overheard a woman speaking with a friend in the park, and I looked up to see she was having a good old chat with her cocker spaniel! As an avid dog-lover, it's just lovely.
Every. Culture. On. The. Planet! Walking through the park (it's all I do these days), you overhear a couple haughtily speaking in German, a few seconds later, two friends pass by speaking in frantic Italian, a British man hurries past chatting on the phone to a colleague about a press release, soon followed by a sweet Polish family rounding up their kids.
It's fascinating to live within a melting pot with so many flavours and options. The most integral substance of this is a feeling of symbiosis akin to Silicon Valley, though instead of business knowledge-transfer, it's a beautiful intermingling of various cultural values, histories, languages, and traditions merging to form the culture of London in its entirety. You have to be here to fully appreciate all of this, and I could go on, but this is simply an abridged version of what I love about this city!
I've been in London for just over a year, and though I won't be here forever, I am really honoured to have experienced these people, places, and venues (within reason, of course, during the "situation"!)
Thanks for reading!