“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
Samuel Johnson

Telling people I’m from London when I travel outside of the UK, and especially outside of Europe, there are usually one of two reactions I get: “Yeah, I lived in London for a year, it was great, but I wouldn’t go back” or “wow, I’d love to go to London, it must be amazing…why did you ever leave?”

While I’ve learnt a kind of pride for my home city, I am not one of those Londoners who thinks they are somehow better than everyone else who isn’t from London or that it’s the best city in the world and there couldn’t possibly be anywhere any better. Certainly London has many wonderful aspects (as well as several terrible ones), but that's just not who I am.

Green Park, London
Green Park, London

You see, I used to hate London.

I was born there, I grew up in East London and went to university in central London and there was a time in my early twenties when I fantasised about quitting my course and flying off to just about anywhere else.

I now realise that was less to do with the city than my mental state at the time. I was not in a happy, healthy place emotionally, being on the verge of depression and not knowing what to do with my life after university…but that’s a different story.

When I was 23, I left London to start teaching English in Austria, happy to finally get out of this place I’d found so oppressive. Slowly, though, I realised with each return visit to my home city, that actually, it’s a pretty cool place and has a lot going for it.

elephant octopus
elephant octopus in Shoreditch

As I see it, many of the reasons I like London are similar to why I love Berlin so much: the multiculturalism, the diversity of food and the sheer range of opportunities. But there are also many, many reasons I dislike London: how expensive it is (especially to use the public and transport and eat out), the sheer size meaning it takes forever to get anywhere, how stressed out everyone is and the weather…to name a few.

I can completely understand why people, especially people in their 20s and 30s, would move to London and stay for a year or two, have an amazing time, perhaps advance their career, but then leave for somewhere (simply put) better, or at least with a better standard of living.

more Shoreditch street art
more Shoreditch street art

In my opinion, this idea of someone ever wanting to leave London meaning they are tired of life is outdated. I believe that living there full time is a struggle, mostly financial, though also emotional.

As much as I would never want to live in London again, it will always be my hometown. While I still firmly believe that there are much better places to live, and I'll still both slag it off and stand up for it with the loving affection one has for a younger sibling, I will continue to return to visit, and enjoy and appreciate what it has to offer.

Now, not to be too much of a Debbie Downer on my hometown, I’m going to end by rounding up some excellent tips from other bloggers for when you visit London. The general consensus seems to be that it is a very expensive place to visit, but also very worthwhile – these guys love it!

Money saving tips

Things to do


part of the London skyline, the Gherkin on the right
part of the London skyline, the Gherkin on the right

Do you love or hate the place you’re from? If you’ve left, would you ever consider going back? And what are your best tips for visiting London?

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