5 Reasons Not to Live in London

Or any other capital city

Eliza Lita
Feb 24 · 6 min read
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in London, with a view of the Thames
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in London, with a view of the Thames
Photo by Eva Dang on Unsplash

London is overrated. So is probably any other capital city in the world, unless you have a lot of money to make sure you can live comfortably. I learned about the ugliest aspects of my London dream, turned nightmare, at the worst possible time of my life. But, in retrospect, it was better to find out earlier than later why London was not for me.

Almost four years ago I made what would become the most disastrous decision of my life. And thank God I managed to undo it. I was 19 when I moved to London from across Europe. I was alone, about to start my degree, and entirely oblivious as to how much I would struggle because of the very city I thought would offer me everything I could ever need.

My London-based university was not my first choice. Far from it. But I went there thinking “well, it’s London, what can go wrong?”. The campus was on the Thames, it was beautiful, large, looked promising, and modern. It was all fun and games until I had to go to the supermarket to buy some food and homeware. That’s when I realised I’d made a monumental mistake.

The nearest supermarket was within a shopping centre a few bus stops away. I was yet to receive my Oyster (London travel card), so I decided to walk, as there was no other way to pay for public transport — another awful thing about London — since my debit card was not contactless. Once I was out of the campus, there was a little neighbourhood and then wilderness. It was terrifying. I kept thinking “why is there so much deserted field at the heart of one of the world’s most praised cities?”

By the end of my horrendous year living in London, I reached the conclusion it’s like a little pearl wrapped in too much brown packaging and shared by too many people. It takes a lot of effort to enjoy it at its fullest — and a lot of risks. And if you’re considering it as a place where you could settle down, I made a list to make you think again.

1. I Only Saw The Big Tourist Points Three Times

Remember those dreamy historical spots in London? It took me three, sardine can-like tube rides and 1 hour to get anywhere near them. That’s the equivalent of reading 100 book pages. Or cooking a healthy meal. Or doing a full-body workout. But who cared, if I had the thrill of gushingly answering “London” every time I got asked where I lived?

I saw Big Ben once, but it was under restoration anyway. I passed by the Tower of London and London Eye a few times but never stopped to visit. I was a first-year student and had little money to spend on tourist activities. I went to Trafalgar Square a couple of times. I saw the British Museum, the Art Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, which were nice. But every time I would go out to see the city, it would knock the life out of me. Which brings me to my next point.

2. It’s Suffocating

Crowds outside Westminster Abbey on a dark day
Crowds outside Westminster Abbey on a dark day
Westminster Abbey, 2017. Picture provided by the author.

Those large, imposing buildings, often look like they might fall on you at any point. The narrow streets don’t help. It’s pretty and picturesque for a second, but once that picture’s taken, believe me, you just want to get away.

Not only that but the crowds. Need I say more? The crowds are horrendous. It could be my claustrophobia. But there is little space to move anywhere. It’s like a miniature Earth is living in the centre of London only. Everyone is in London. Everyone.

It’s exhausting to go anywhere without changing an awful lot of trains. I hate riding the tube because it makes me feel uneasy and insecure, people are busting into each other everywhere, as if they’re moving without a certain direction. Everything is just way too suffocating to even be able to enjoy the moment.

3. Wilderness and Emptiness

You might think settling in London is a grand opportunity. Living in the same city as the Queen and most of the Game of Thrones cast. What else could you ask for? Sorry to break your starstruck dreams, but beyond the beautiful castles and pebble-stoned streets, there’s nothing.

Yes, shockingly, a few bus stops away from Westminster, there’s only pure (and deserted) field. On my second day there, my dad and I went for a walk (London, baby!). It was great until we stepped out of the neighbourhood and found ourselves in the middle of nowhere. There were bushes reaching above our heads, thistles and nettles everywhere, no sign of civilisation. Except for the noisy North Circular.

So we had to go back to the boring area where we were temporarily living, get a £5 sandwich at Subway and spend the rest of the day on the couch, watching TV.

4. It’s Unsettling

An abandoned building covered in graffiti in East London
An abandoned building covered in graffiti in East London
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Visualise yourself in a picture-perfect coffee shop, enjoying a custard slice and a shot of espresso. The double-deckers are passing by and stylish, trenchcoat-wearing ladies stroll along the street. But also, in a dark corner, a strange man is watching you. Or doing something mildly creepy. It happened to me in the tube. On the street. At the bus stop. Everywhere. And not at night.

I remember going through Canning Town station one evening. It was entirely empty. I was alone in an empty underground station and it felt like something from a horror movie, where you know something tragic can happen at any point. For that experience alone, I’m so happy I moved out of London.

5. You Depend On Public Transport

My campus in the Royal Docks was at least three tube rides away from anything worth seeing. The whole city is built so that you can only get to certain places on public transport or by car. You can barely enjoy a day out without stressing about catching the tube back home. The traffic is famously revolting too. Buses are a recipe for disaster. It takes ages for them to get anywhere.

This might not seem like a big deal for some people. But it was a huge deal for me. I like walking. I like accessibility. I enjoy exploring places. I didn’t move to a foreign country to only see it from a train. But the reality is, in London, unless you’re an established millionaire with a house in the city centre, walking anywhere is simply almost impossible.

Final Thoughts

I’m not saying everyone should now take London off their list and make a significant life change because of this one article. But had I read something like this before making my final university choice, it would have surely made me reconsider. I should have done more research before going head-first into it thinking it’s just like you see it on Google Images.

If you take one thing from this article, take this: capital cities are not what you expect and more often than not, a smaller town can make you much happier. It certainly worked for me.

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Eliza Lita

Written by

Freelance journalist. Niches: books, writing, fitness, and lifestyle. | Founder and editor-in-chief: Coffee Time Reviews. | Library Mouse | Language nerd.

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

Eliza Lita

Written by

Freelance journalist. Niches: books, writing, fitness, and lifestyle. | Founder and editor-in-chief: Coffee Time Reviews. | Library Mouse | Language nerd.

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

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