Three years ago to the day, I landed at Heathrow with nothing but a few suitcases in tow. The traffic into town was awful. There was a problem with the flat keys. It rained. Not the most auspicious start to a new chapter. No matter.
The past three years have been incredibly rewarding and I'm grateful to all the people that made it so. Who knows what's in store for me in the future but the past few months away from the City, while very fulfilling, have also given me an appreciation of it.
Yes there are significant downsides as there is to every place: It can be expensive (although with the exchange rate, I think it's comparable to NYC or SF and even cheaper in some aspects). Customer service is kind of an oxymoron (resulting in lowered expectations that get exceeded when you experiences good service). It's filled with transients making lasting friendships harder to make (but works in your favor if you lead a transient life). The weater is truly awful (no sugarcoating this – it really is that bad).
But let me focus on the positives:
- There is no more cosmopolitan city in the world. I get the arguments for NYC and Hong Kong but London draws from all parts of the world. In our office, we have people from the UK, US, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, South Africa, Serbia, Germany, Spain and France!
- Culture and social life. People here have a bias towards doing stuff and meeting up and so it can be a very social place. What's more the cultural life on offer is wide and easily accessed. It's easy to go to a gig every week or check out something like Secret Cinema.
- The parks. For a large city, there is a lot of green space in the city's various parks not to mention the Thames. I'll never get tired of the City's skyline from one of the numerous bridges along the river.
- The ability to travel. London is geographically accessible to so many cool places in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. I know people that have done long weekends in NYC and Mumbai from here.
- The people and their attitude. The cosmopolitan mix means that the people you meet here tend to be very open to meeting new people, traveling to new places and learning about new cultures. I was hanging out at a beer garden along the Thames in Richmond last night and there was a man by himself who looked like Gandalf – long white hair, long white beard, wearing a Ganesha shirt. We struck up a conversation and he told me about growing up in Cornwall, living in Notting Hill for 40 years, twice crossing the Sahara.
And that's why I heart London.