A neo-gothic bell tower, a gigantic Ferris wheel by the river, large neon advertising on the curved corner of two avenues, two-level red buses running everywhere, endless rows of terraced houses – just a few of the iconic images of London. It is a city of contrast. Hectic and peaceful, old and modern, industrial and green all at the same time. It’s European but with a look and feel that is very different from any other continental capital city. Newcomers find the city alien but exciting. They visit a few museums, take a stroll in St James’ Park, watch as the guards change in front of Buckingham Palace, raid the shops in Oxford Street, venture into the clubs on the very first weekend, just as they were advised by their friends who have been to London before. But is London only about entertainment?
I moved to London more than ten years ago with unspeakable expectations. I still remember the feeling I had looking at the unusual skyline and the seemingly haphazard streets from the ‘Waterloo to Surbiton’ train, on my way to a friend who was kind enough to put me up for a night. It was joyful anxiety. I knew it there and then that this city could be my home, but if I was to lose direction, it would chew me up and spit me out. It became my home. Oddly enough, I spent my time in central London – zone 1 – , seeing the iconic places only in the first year.
I gradually fell in love with an entirely different aspect of London. It’s arguably Europe’s most populous city, and yet it is here that I learnt the true meaning of the word “tolerance”. I can go for months on end without getting angry or frustrated or sad. Work and life in suburban London has shaped me into the person I am.
Visitors, I encourage you to see all the famous sights and try every thrill London has to offer. Take a few moments too to observe people in the street, on the tube, in the cafés. It is worth the study.