It’s been over 19 years since I last lived in London. We’re in the final stretch of the pandemic. Masks are not required to be worn. The sun has finally come out. I’ve been living in the city for a month now. I thought I’d share my initial thoughts.
Up until a couple of days ago, it was still a requirement to wear masks. But there’s no requirement to sanitise hands. Things have certainly been a bit quieter, but it’s still a buzzing city. It feels like how it should be, without all the tourists and out-of-towners. How long this will last, who knows, I suspect there will be another outbreak, so we’ll return to some form of lockdown, despite most adults being vaccinated. I get my final jab next weekend.
I have lived in Hong Kong and visited NYC, and those feel like cities. London feels like a really large village. With the low profile of buildings, things being as spread out as they are, and given I live on the river. It just doesn’t seem to have that same smoggy hustle of other major cities. Of course there’s not the regular commute to the office etc, so it’s really hard to tell.
Now I don’t drink coffee anymore, but I am struggling with the fact that there are no coffee shops right outside my doorstep. I have to walk a mile before I find a Starbucks. That does not feel like the city life I have experienced.
I have not used a bus yet, and other than an uber from the train station to my new apartment, I catch trains. Overground, underground and national rail. All fairly reasonably priced. Mostly reliable. Always on time, probably just frequent enough. Not as good as the hong kong trains, but better than the NYC subway. Been fined for not realising I had to tap my Oyster card (London’s prepaid travel card).
I mostly walk. It’s a luxury to me given how little walking I could do in Joburg. I thoroughly enjoy long walks experiencing the city with a new lens I never had in previous years living here. I do miss having a car when getting groceries and having to get somewhere in the rain. But it’s liberating to not having the expense and upkeep of a vehicle. I quite enjoy using my feet. I’m sure it’s contributing to reducing my waistline.
There is certainly a gym culture now, but it’s not quite the same thing as in South Africa. The gyms are small, lack equipment, and are not as well run. But there’s a variety of options in relatively reasonable price ranges. I have the Chelsea club a block away, the Royal family train there, it’s a little out of my price range.
There’s plenty of places to walk, more parks than I ever realised, and space to practice yoga, skip, etc without being bothered. I will have to. leave the city to find trails, but I have not even attempted to branch out.
It’s difficult to go from renting a 3 bedroom apartment in Sandton to renting a room in a flatshare at my age. But at double the cost, it’s the best I could do for now, so I have had to just suck it up. London is certainly expensive for property. I do however live on the river and next to a park. Which is really lovely. It’s only a six-month rental, so I will hopefully find something more to my way of life towards the end of the year.
Museums and galleries
Until recently, it’s been overcasts and miserable since I moved to the city. So it was easy to just stay home. I needed to force myself to get out. So I started booking museums and galleries so I had commitments I had to go to. It’s worked, once I’m out, I tend to wander around a bit more. Museums and galleries are mostly free. It’s best to book beforehand so you don’t have to queue.
I’ve mostly been eating at home. It has helped me saved loads. On occasion, I grab a burger and a shake at 5 Guys. But mostly I frequent my local Tescos and Sainsburys on the daily for my meals. I did enjoy a lovely restaurant with my boss and his girlfriend in Fulham, which is the only time I have gone out for dinner.
I started my new job a few weeks back but only been to the office twice. I work from home, like most people in this new covid life. It’s taking some getting used to all these video chats all day. Harder than I thought managing things this way. As introverted as I am, when it comes to my work, I mostly prefer to be around people. But I have joined a great team, so it’s probably why I’d prefer to be hanging with them than chatting online.
It’s early days
I’ve only been in the city for a month. Despite living here before, there’s a lot of change, mostly in me, so despite most things being ancient and have never changed, I’m excited to explore the new city I live in.