I love London. Creative start ups, a fashion hotspot, fabulous restaurants and a buzzing cultural scene. London is where it’s at.
Unless you’re new in town. For newbie expats it can feel like everyone’s away at a fabulous party, but your invitation got lost in the post.
You hear colleagues waxing lyrical about an amazing new exhibition, before discovering tickets sold out three months ago. You hear about a great pop up restaurant in your area, to find a summer long waiting list. You spend so much time underground navigating the spaghetti maps of London’s tube that you’re vitamin D deficient, and when you finally do surface into the open air, you choke on smog.
Hang in there. London is like the loud girl at a party. First she’s annoying, then she turns out to be rather fun and soon she becomes your best friend.
Here are some tips to help you on your way, along with more from fellow Expaters, lifestyle bloggers and lifelong Londoners.
‘Walk. It’s the best way to get to know London. The Tube steals your sense of direction so you never get to learn how all the places join up. Usually places are closer than you think, and walking means you tend to stumble across the prettiest (or weirdest) little places that you would never know existed otherwise’. Victoria Purcell, theresident.co.uk
‘Take a double decker bus tour – it’s a great way to get your bearings’. Nikki, an Aussie Expater living in Belgium.
‘Hit bars and restaurants during the week. If a top-ticket restaurant lives up to its hype, then you’ll need to book way ahead… [so] go for lunch where set menus are often an absolute steal’. Chloe Jessica Payne, Luxe City Guides.
‘Sign up for supper clubs. They’re a great way to make friends… You’ll also discover just how friendly and hospitable Londoners can be, as well as a whole bunch of quirky venues you’d probably never discover otherwise’. Victoria Purcell, theresident.co.uk
If you’re a movie fan, consider membership to the British Film Institute. Costing from just £40 per year it grants you priority booking for the highly sought after London film festivals. The BFI Southbank restaurant isn’t half bad either.
Exercise in a group. I’ve never been one for sweaty underground prisons (aka gyms) but London has a huge array of group exercise options. From park bootcamps, balletcise classes, hula hooping, or parkour, you’ll make friends and endorphins.
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Join the discussion. From the crisis in Syria to guerilla gardening, there is no shortage on thought provoking debates in the city. Intelligence Squared, the Frontline Club, the Southbank Centre, 5×15, Daunt Books and the British Library are just some of my favourites.
‘Explore London’s hidden gems. Pick any tube stop and visit it. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll find, and how far you’ll go’. Mike Grover, Matrix Concierge.
Photo by ijclark
If you’ve got a lengthy commute, do like the locals and read a book. You’ll (almost) forget about that sweaty armpit in your face as you lose yourself in a novel.
For a breath of fresh air, check out London’s parks, including lesser known ones such as the tranquil Kyoto Garden in Holland Park. For more, see this post by Time Out London.
If London’s still taking its toll on you, meditate the savvy way. The Headspace app is a popular choice among Londoners seeking to combat anxiety, depression, insomnia or stress.
Photo by Davide D’Amico