London with all of its crime, pollution and lack of common courtesy from commuters nevertheless still remains one of my favorite cities in the world. Granted, you may think that’s typical coming from a born and bred Londoner, but that’s just it, don’t many people berate their own place of upbringing? After two years in Bath studying for my Creative Writing degree I had dreamt of living in Tokyo to get away from the hypocrisy of middle-class life (though I am working-class South Londoner and proud), for those of you reading this on a whim; mission accomplished.
I know many people from the counties of England, detest the smoke and noise of London’s city limits, but honestly living in a place where urban and rural borders are so heavily blurred I admire the fact that it only takes 20 minutes to get some real greenery away from London’s city centre. During my time traveling around Europe I noticed a real lack of live music and although Paris with all its artisans and poets it possesses actively prohibits busking on the streets (maybe it’s time for a revisit, just to be sure). I’m not just talking about the common Underground busker either. London has an array of street artists on every corner, pubs offer open-mic nights for free, every shopping arcade has at least one person playing a violin or guitar.
Of course after being away for so long, one might think that all I’m experiencing is a bout of home-sickness which one has after living almost 4 years abroad, but it’s not just that. During my time in London, I never once appreciated the fact that I could easily see the remnants of Cleopatra of Thebes in The British Museum, nor did I truly acknowledge the fact that if I wanted authentic Indian, Jamaican, Mexican, Peruvian dining they were all accessible to me at anytime (apart from after 11pm).
I never look up, this bad habit was further instilled in me during my time in Tokyo, now come to think of it I think I know why my neck is always sore. Therefore, I decided during this visit to London that I would always (or at least partially) look up. You might think that strange, but truthfully I wished I had done it sooner. Georgian, Victorian, Tudor architecture can also be seen so readily if one just takes their eyes away from the chewing gum engrained pavements. Unlike New York or Tokyo which is shrouded by a concrete jungle, London has a relatively open environment.
Now, what I truly admire about London is its diversity, nationalities from every corner of the world seem to congregate there. British nationals from immigrant parents or an immigrant parent (much like myself) add variety. Homogenous societies rather intimidate me, they make me feel slightly alienated, maybe that comes from my own insecurities, but I never felt that way walking the streets of London. Though London does have it’s fair share of racism, I doubt you’ll be ostracized for being the only one of your race in your company or class.
I’m not adverse to criticizing London, for all its culture, diversity and history, it could do with a decent railway system that runs on time and the price of a pint of Guinness could be reduced to at least £3. Also customer service seems to be deteriorating every time I go back (I’m looking at you Gipsy Hill Rail staff), though I’ve experienced much worse in other countries. I’m making comparisons (I know) though I know this is a sentiment I can’t avoid. My time abroad has matured me in ways that London probably could not have, but if maturing and growing a sense of self means falling in love slightly more with history, culture and diversity then bring it on I say.