London, lovingly nicknamed The Big Smoke by locals, is undoubtedly an amazing place to live. There are endless restaurants to try, museums to visit and parks to relax in. Not to mention pubs and nightclubs to spend Friday nights with friends, making new friends. You can build a career here with opportunities to specialise in almost anything and the London living wage is higher than anywhere in the UK. Even though you’ll be spending half, or more of your wage on rent, it feels worth it for the experience! Doesn’t sound that hard to survive in London, right?
But after a few months, maybe a year the novelty can start to wear off. You stop ignoring London’s less appealing sides and start to feel the constant competition there is to live successfully. Luckily, there are so many ways to make life that bit easier here. So this is my advice to newcomers on how to survive in London.
SPEND TIME WITH YOUR FRIENDS BUT REMEMBER TO SCHEDULE TIME FOR YOURSELF
London is an amazing city when you have people to experience it with. If you don’t, it can suddenly become very lonely which is strange because it really feels like you’re never more than 6 feet from another person. They say the same for rats and coffee shops but that’s another story. That being said, the pressure to be social in London can be overwhelming. I find myself craving solitude but often don’t have time to give myself any time to be alone. There is always something to do, meals with friends, galleries, drinks… it’s non-stop. But to survive in London, taking a bit of time to chill by yourself is essential.
TRY NOT TO GET CAUGHT IN THE RAT RACE AND AVOID THE TUBE WHENEVER POSSIBLE
Easier said than done! There’s a rhythm to life here which is so easy to fall into, without even realising it’s happening. Work all week, drinks on Friday, day out on Saturday, relax on Sunday and repeat. But to survive in London for an extended amount of time, mixing it up is incredibly important. Work isn’t always a priority, a commute is time to relax and the weekend is for trying new things. This stops time flying by quite as quickly.
Rush hour on the tube can only be suffered so many times and it’s no secret that people act completely differently underground. So potentially the best piece of advice I can give to help you survive in London is to avoid the tube as much as possible. Take the bus instead and watch the world go by. You’ll start to understand the layout of London and work out which distances are actually walkable. Or even better, get a bike! There are so many cycle highways and cycle to work schemes that it’s really worth looking into.
SEEK GREEN SPACES OR GET AWAY FOR THE WEEKEND
It’s so easy to forget you’re in London when spending a day in the park and there is nothing more relaxing than ignoring the big, busy city around you. Fresh air, grass and reconnecting with nature at the weekend after spending 5 days in an office is life sustaining! And some of the parks in London are actually really beautiful. Hampstead Heath is particularly nice and you can swim in the famous ponds there all year round, if you’re brave enough. When I lived in South London I also loved Brockwell Park. It’s very hilly which completely blocks all views of the city!
Even better than spending a day in the park is actually getting out of the city for an often, well-deserved break. There are so many beautiful places you can go to on a day trip from London. Some of my favourites are Hastings, Hever Castle and Brighton. You can’t beat sea air and having a swim in the summer. Booking train tickets in advance makes it reasonably affordable for the day or if you want to treat yourself, an Airbnb is always fun!
MAKE HOME YOUR SANCTUARY
London is enormous, competitive and exhausting. After a long day at work or non-stop weekend it’s fundamental to have a sanctuary to retreat to where you feel comfortable and relaxed. If you don’t like your home, life here becomes tricky. It’s 100% worth spending time and maybe a little bit of money on your home, even if it’s rented. Without even realising, having surroundings that you actually like will make you feel a million times better.
DON’T LET THE DATING SCENE GET YOU DOWN AND TRY NOT TO COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS
The dating scene in London is insane, like nowhere else I have ever experienced. You have to be tough because arseholes are found in concentrated numbers here and making sure this doesn’t get you down is so important. I could write a whole other post on this subject but the main thing is to rise above any negativity thrown your way. On the flip side, there are obviously plenty of amazing people here, more good than bad! So, if you want to date then amazing but don’t feel the pressure if you really don’t have time or desire to put yourself out there.
London is also full of extremely successful people at the top of their game, smashing life left, right and centre. Not to mention how well everyone dresses, their fitness achievements and so on! It can be hard not to compare yourself to the people around you. But it’s essential to avoid doing just that and to always keep in mind that no matter how perfect someone seems, everyone has their issues. Instead, use other people’s success to motivate and inspire you in your life.
BE AMBITIOUS BUT DON’T LET WORK CONSUME YOU
Like I said before, London is full of young, successful, career minded people. And the big smoke constantly attracts more of the young and ambitious as this is where the jobs are. Not to mention the money and fun. So be ambitious, it’s a great quality to possess. But to survive in London you have to remember that the next promotion or pay rise isn’t everything and life outside of work is actually more important. Otherwise you run the risk of burning out very quickly!
FIND A STRESS RELIEVING HOBBY
There is so much to do in London that if you don’t already have a stress relieving hobby, it won’t be hard to find a new one. My go to is climbing and recently I have been giving running a go. Sport ties in with so many other points that help me survive in London. It gives me time to myself, time in green spaces, distracts from work and dating… what more could I want? Plus, staying fit when there are so many temptations (see The Ultimate Vegan Food Guide to London to understand what I’m dealing with!) around me is important. Of course, if sport isn’t your thing you could take up sketching, learning a language, join a book club and so on.
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR WEEKDAY EVENINGS AND AVOID CENTRAL LONDON AT THE WEEKEND
Time flies in London, especially when you have a full time job. So ideally you don’t want to be spending every evening, when you get home from work, in front of the TV. Find ways to relax that make you feel accomplished and fulfilled such as going for a run or joining a class for to learn something new! A Netflix session is needed occasionally, there’s no doubt about that. But rather than chilling on your own, occasionally make it a movie night with friends or invite people over for a meal (takeaway?).
As for the weekend, they become incredibly precious and Londoners are great for making plans to fill them. But some top advice to survive in London and not end up hating it, is to avoid central London at the weekend! It’s so crowded and full of tourists. The main attractions are unbearable, especially in the summer. If I want to visit a museum or have another reason to head into central, I try to go as early as possible to miss the crowds.
FILL YOUR HOME WITH PLANTS
This one is easy. Head to Colombia Road Flower Market, find yourself some bargains and fill your home. The air quality will improve as will your mood. If you want to be extra, maybe try growing your own herbs and vegetables if you have the space. My flat has a balcony and I have filled it as I find gardening super relaxing.
BUILD A THICK SKIN BUT ALWAYS REMAIN KIND
London is a big city and like all big cities, you develop a thick skin living in it. You’re surrounded by grittiness, poverty, thoughtlessness everyday which can be vaguely demoralising. But as long as you stay thoughtful and empathetic to the people around you, from all walks of life, you’ll be fine. A lesson I have learnt here is people are self involved naturally but when something bad happens, they come together. And that is such a nice feeling and thing to be a part of. So if you’re having a bad day, remember that the city has your back. Then you’ll be able to survive in London or even better, thrive in London, no matter what.