It’s been over 7 years since we moved back from London and it’s been a whirlwind of growing up since then. Properties have been bought and sold, we’ve tied the knot and started our family.
We were lucky enough to visit my parents back in Ol Blighty this year as they’re living there on a ‘Golden Gap Year’. Whilst it was a wonderful trip, it definitely made me realise how lucky we are in Sydney. For one thing, when it’s 36 degrees there are ample places in Sydney to go for a swim. Not so in London, as we found out.
I left from this latest trip feeling glad that I wasn’t raising a family in London. It’s too big and dirty, there are too many people and it can feel claustrophobic. Plus, hot or cold, the weather sucks. However despite all that, I loved my time living there and there are still some things I miss about that amazing city.
This is the main reason why so many of us Aussies make the pilgrimage to London. Drive for a few hours and you’re in France or spend £50 on a budget flight and you can get almost anywhere. Sometimes I wish I could drive for a few hours and find myself somewhere foreign and exotic, rather than just in Dubbo.
You can get any food in the world in London and most of it won’t cost a bomb. While we were there, we did the alphabet of dining. African, Burmese, Cuban, Danish… etc. Our most memorable was taking a few buses to some traditional Ghanian restaurant in north-east London. We were the only non-African people in the restaurant and when we asked what plantain was, they were so surprised they just described it as ‘food’. For the record, it was delicious!
I’m not massively into live music but I sure was in London. Almost every band we saw was less than £19 a ticket and we saw some of our favourite bands 2 or 3 times in the 18 months we lived there. Back in Australia, we have spent $80 to see the very same bands. Thanks to our geography, we don’t often get the good acts here and when we do it’s prohibitively expensive.
The public transport
Tubes every 2 minutes, buses, overlands, walking. London is just so easy to get around. Sure, it might take a while and you might be so squashed that your nose is in someone’s armpit the whole way, but you can get everywhere you need to on public transport.
This isn’t really about the people because most of our friends from London are back in Sydney. It’s the type of relationships we forged while we were there. It’s having one of my best friends living 5 minutes away and being able to go to the local pub every Monday night for bluegrass and Thai. It’s the bonds forged on countless trips to the continent, spending Christmas in foreign countries and getting lost on roadtrips. It’s the camaraderie of being Aussies in London together that just can’t be replicated when you get back home.
This one really bugs me about Sydney. In London, if you asked people last minute to go for a drink or to head to Hyde Park as the weather is nice, you’d get a decent crowd. People would bring their other friends and you would get to know other people and expand your network. Here, everyone is so busy. We all have family obligations, lots of friends to catch up with and heaps of commitments on the weekends. Every time I try to organise something spontaneously with people I generally get few positive responses. However I’ll often have something planned when someone tries to organise something last minute with me. We schedule up our free time and it leaves no room for spontaneity. I don’t know how to change that but it was something I loved about my London life.
Whilst I love being in Sydney, I’ll always remember my time in London with such fondness. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll go back and do a Golden Gap Year like the parents!