The Big Smoke. Yes, London for those of you not familiar with its pollution-based nickname. It is our nation’s capital and it has been my home for the last fortnight.
I’ve been to London many times before, whether that’s been on school trips, short breaks with family and friends or for sporting events.
But this time was different, because this was no short break and I was going down south for working purposes – a 10-day placement at Lonely Planet Traveller magazine, right at the heart of the city centre in their stunning offices on Blackfriars Road.
And while I was meant to be there to gain journalistic experience to go towards my degree and future career, I knew that it would be an educational experience in more ways than one.
I knew that living in London would be a taste of something different. I’ve spent the last three years living in Manchester, which is a great city itself. But it isn’t London, a place in its own little bubble; almost a country within a country (and many Brits believe it’s governed that way, too). I was ready to taste a piece of the pie.
Because hotels are so overpriced down there, I had to look for alternatives. I’m not sure what else I’d have done if it wasn’t for Airbnb aside from fork out an indecent amount of money, but it was a lifesaver and I was able to rent two rooms for a week each. One on the west side of London in Harrow, and one on the east in Newham.
This wasn’t some prolonged tourist trip with a twist, it was enactment of true capital life – the tube commute, the city centre gyms, the ridiculous choice of places to eat at lunchtime. Everything.
Immersing myself in the London experience gave me the opportunity to formulate a lot of thoughts and opinions and, in many ways, was quite the eye-opener.
So, without further ado, here’s what I learned from living and working in London for two weeks.
No wonder Londoners are grumpy
British people as a whole are known for their good manners, but the in-country stereotype would suggest that northerners are more hospitable than their southern neighbours. After spending the last 14 days in London, I would concur, but at the same time I find it difficult to blame the capital’s population for their collective mood.
Most people working in London always seem to be in a rush, as though time is of the essence. It’s a fast-paced city and nobody embodies it more than the city’s workers. I live my life at a similar pace, and quite often would be confronted by someone awkwardly stopping in place right in front of me, or stuck behind the slowest of walkers.
The first couple of times are okay, but when it’s happening repeatedly it soon becomes infuriating. So many people have no special awareness, and it’s not just tourists either.
Maybe Mayor Sadiq Khan needs to introduce a fast walking lane. They have sections on the roads specifically for bikes, is it time for those on foot to join them?
Going to the gym in the city centre is convenient, but horrendous
When I went down to London I wanted to carry on the health kick I’ve just started, which meant finding a gym to visit that was close to work. As I was staying in separate places across the two weeks, it made no sense to have a gym outside of the city centre which was nice and convenient for when the working day came to a close.
I was looking at monthly passes, but when you combined the cost of a month’s membership plus a joining fee, the cheapest options were hovering around the £50 mark. A ridiculous rip-off.
Fortunately, Martin Lewis over at Money Saving Expert had a solution – free gym passes. I was able to get two free three-day gym passes to two different gyms, allowing me to work out for no cost at all. Obviously, I couldn’t let on to staff that this was all just a ruse, and had to act like I was genuinely interested in pursuing a full-time membership. But it was worth it to work out at no cost to me.
Both gyms I went to were really nice, and so London, but they were also horrendously busy. It didn’t help that I went right after work, an idea shared by seemingly everyone else, and to complete a proper work out took either an extreme amount of fortune, or an inordinate amount of time and patience.
It was okay for me because I was only there for a couple of weeks, but I couldn’t go to the gym after work if I lived in London permanently. There are too many people working out at the same time and being a gym regular is already enough work without standing around waiting endlessly for others to finish up with the equipment you want.
I love the tube
I’ve become a massive fan of underground train networks in cities after travelling to so many places. They’re mostly efficient and regular forms of transport, easy to use, easy to understand and also a novelty coming from a place that has an overground tram network as its main form of citywide transportation.
Usually, novelty tends to wear away, and I was a little apprehensive that the same would happen with the London Underground. Yet what happened was quite the opposite. I really enjoyed using the tube every day. At rush hour it wasn’t amazing, but the world’s oldest metro system is really fun to use. If you can get a seat, there’s opportunity to get some work done on the commute, and most stations are equipped with Wi-Fi, giving intermittent coverage and preventing my data from rapidly
The London Underground is by far the best public transport network in the country, and that’s with all the delays, strikes and moaning that seem to frequently be in the news.
London offices are exactly as I imagined
As I sat down at my computer one morning, I glanced up to see one of the conference rooms being cleared out. I wondered why people were removing chairs and tables and soon it became clear with the commencement of a yoga class for people working at Lonely Planet.
Is there anything more London than a mid-morning yoga session at work? I think not.
Add in free fruit and sandwiches, water coolers, a whole host of needless things and a great view, and there you have the typical London workplace.