If you have any experience with long term travel this post is likely to make you go “duh!” It is full of obvious points that support an obvious conclusion. None the less, we spent a month in London as an experiment and I wanted to record the results.
This is going to be pretty negative so be ready for that.
London does not really work for long term travelers for a few very good reasons.
Accommodation and rent in London is famously expensive. For the cost of a new high rise apartment with a big TV, a swimming pool and a cleaner elsewhere in the world, in London you get a shoe-box to live in with just enough room to hang up your jacket. You will need your jacket too because…
London weather occupies a particularly undesirable range.
With average maximum temperatures ranging from 9 to 23 degrees (Celsius) t-shirt weather is a rare occurrence. Average minimums of 5 to 15 mean that it is also not cold enough to snow properly. Too cold for shorts and t-shirts, not cold enough for skiing.
Oh, but rainfall is amazingly consistent throughout the year. Different times of year get more or less rain but no month can, statistically speaking, expect less than 15 days where it rains at least a little. So if you like rain, London has that in buckets.
This is possibly tied to it just being generally an expensive place.
Similar to Australia, there seems to be an assumption that good food means expensive food and that finding good food should be reserved for those who have done their research. If you are prepared to seek it out and plop down a big chunk of your hard earned cash you can indeed get world class food but that is the case pretty much everywhere on this planet. There is virtually nowhere where the application of time and money can not get a good meal.
While Londonites say “there is good food, you just need to know where to go” I would argue that requiring local knowledge is the definition of a bad food location. In good food locations you don't need local knowledge to get a great meal because you stumble on it without even trying.
An Employee-centric Culture
In the places where nomads tend to congregate (Chiang Mai, Bali etc) you will meet a lot of foreigners with some sort of entrepreneurial edge to them. Even if they are not outright running their own business they are freelancing or spending their spare time working on some side project.
This extreme preference for not being a conventional employee seems to be vastly less common in London where banks, insurance companies and similar large institutions rule the roost. This is personal preference of course but I missed getting talking to strangers and hearing about their new iphone app, the headaches they are having getting their widget manufactured in China or how their website just got slammed by Google because of some shady SEO trick they now regret.
The biggest problem of all is that there really isn't anything to offset these negatives for us. Salaries can be high but we aren't looking for a job. There is plenty of night life but as a married couple with a young child we aren't really interested in that. The museums are wonderful but there is only so long you can spend in museums, especially with a baby in tow. There is just nothing in London that makes us think “this makes it worth it.”
So if you are a young single person looking for a big city experience, London could work for you. If you are in banking, insurance, corporate IT or similar, London could work for you too. But if you are more interested in a high quality of life at reasonable prices, steer clear.
Finally, Tina and Graham, we will see you again soon. Either we will be passing through or you can come visit us somewhere sunny 🙂