Essays

I’m not moving to London

Rumors of my imminent departure from the District have been greatly exaggerated.

That said, I love London!

I’m less than 24 hours away from hopping my morning flight out of Heathrow and back into my “real world.” The moment I land, I’m 100% back on because 3 hours after landing, I’m back on a plane, this time for work. That is not how I originally planned it, but real life doesn’t aways follow the rules.

Speaking of that…

I should have come to London years ago. And I tried, many, many times. I have well-meaning friends who ask me: “How come you never worked in London?” That question always made a tiny part of me a little mad, but it’s not their fault. They couldn’t possibly of known how many times I tried:

  1. “No, we need you here in New York.”
  2. “No, we’ll send someone who works for you because we can’t have you away from this office for two months.”
  3. “No, not this year, maybe next year, we’ll see.”
  4. “No, there aren’t any roles at your level available.”

And no, no, no, and no… I gave up in 2015 after 8 years of asking and 8 years of trying across various companies, various roles, and via a multitude of methods. It’s good to knock on doors, but if the door you keep knocking on doesn’t open, maybe it’s time to try another door?

I went on holiday to Dublin a few years back and was charmed all the way down my toes. From the moment the taxi dropped me off in the center of Dublin, I knew, “I could do this.” Dublin is London’s smaller, more charming little sibling. Younger and more brash, and I loved it.

Finally, I started coming to London on business and I slid easily into the vibe of the town. I had well-meaning friends who had ‘warned’ me that Londoners could be cold and standoffish. I’m glad I didn’t take those warnings to heart because that didn’t happen! There was a pace and vigor to London that suited me from the get-go, and I always felt that if I had just a little more time, I’d have been able to discern if it really was right for me–

This time I had time. I wasn’t here on business, stopping over between cities or trips, not, it was just for me at my own leisure. I learned a lot. Therefore, in the spirit of sharing, some things one ought know about little London:

  1. It is the most diverse place I’ve ever been to in my life and I’m from NYC. Every color and tongue is found in every part of the city. A person opens his or her mouth and you’ve no idea what accent or voice is about to come out – I love it!
  2. I don’t stick out here (see #1). I’m not remarkable; I blend in, well, me, not my shoes, (those are still pretty unique). It is nice to not be an object of special regard.
  3. Both better and worse manners. Particularly good and sometimes appalling, often while drinking.
  4. Oh, as regards to drinking, they do it quite a lot here, from lunch through to after work. This is not a shy drinking culture; no history of prohibition in these parts.
  5. Most people I’ve encountered have a broader sense of the world because all roads of the world do not lead to Rome, rather to London.
  6. The city is not The City – they are different. Coat of arms and all!
  7. The train system is vast, simple, and functional, and not just within the city.
  8. You can’t get bored. You like pubs? Trip and hit one. Theatre? Buyer’s choice. Sport? Get at it. Music, art, pop-up events and exhibitions? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Shopping? I couldn’t stop myself from rampaging through the markets!
  9. How about food, you like that, too? Good, because God loves London and I have been spoiled every single day! From proper xiao long bao and waffle egg cakes in Chinatown, to an insanely good Korean restaurant, JinJuu just off of Carnaby. Fresh pasta in Canary Wharf, Spanish tapas in Soho, and a meat pie to end all meat pies from a food truck off of South Bank.
  10. And if that is not enough, just walk. Just walk and walk, up hills and down, into random gardens sprinkled throughout the city – London is very green – along the River Thames and over the bridges (Blackfriars, Millennium, London) – you will get lost and you’ll be fine with it.

I love London. Old Londinium, two times hit by plague, cholera, and war, and yet still here, growing, and truly inviting all the peoples of the world to come. (We’ll save my feelings on Brexit for another post).

Despite all of the above and the breathiness of my tone, I’m not moving to London. Rumors are just that: rumors. I also love the District. I have been building a life there and getting to know my new town well; I’m not ready to pull up stakes yet.

All said, I will be spending more time in London for fun, friends, and family. Landing in Heathrow, grabbing the express train to Paddington, and swapping my DCOneCard for my Oyster Card, is as familiar now as putting on an old, favorite sweater.

I won’t lie to myself. There is a possible future for me in this land that encompasses both old and new, that is ancient and yet painfully cool and modern. I just won’t place any bets or timelines on it now. It’s not a plan, or even a leaning towards, just…

A breath in its general direction, north and east and across the Atlantic, a 7-hour flight that then gives me easy access to all the Ceylon tea that I love to drink in the morning–

See you next time, Londontown. Keep my flat warm for me.

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