today a lady paid me a compliment, when it should have been entirely the other way around. I was silently bagging my groceries when the woman behind the till asked, wearing the largest of smiles, for my ID. this was so utterly unexpected, irrespective of me buying a bottle of wine, that me handing over my document was the clumsiest of things. and I dare anyone try and show an untrained foreigner where the date of birth on a Romanian ID is... the lady excused herself by saying: I am positive you are over 18 but, by law, we have to challenge everyone who looks younger than 25. and she received completely unexpected assistance from the lady behind me in the queue who said in a very out loud voice: he is definitely younger than 25. just look how pitch dark his beard is! therefore, on your very special and international day, my dear ladies, I thank you for making us smile at the most startling of moments and I wish you the best there is to wish for out there. and by all means, do keep on dazzling us!
3 years ago, almost on the clock, a plane, with me on board, was landing on British soil. at that time, my life was taking me nowhere I would have liked to be, therefore I decided I badly needed a change. and quite a radical one. so I chose to leave Romania and come to London; having no clue about what to expect, whether I fitted in or if I was to enjoy the sudden change and everything it brought along. well, it was - and I still consider it to be to this very day - the best decision I have ever made, and I would have dearly regretted not having chosen to do so. this city has opened my eyes, my mind and my soul. it has taught me to live to the fullest whilst minding the gap and not the rain, filled me with joy and desire to better myself and allowed for my dreams to slowly, but surely become true. and, most of all, it helped me to experience the world without having to actually leave its’ground. for, London, if you ask me, is indeed the hub of this planet, and who can better support my words and exemplify this than the ones inhabiting it? thus, I have asked a number of people from all over the globe to write down their thoughts on this city and to try and explain why, from all the places on Earth, they chose to come here.
Cristina – Romania
because I would rather stand the gray of the clouds than the one of the buildings and of the people; because I much more appreciate sobriety than false politeness; because the majority of the people is well-mannered and good-humoured; because I can experience more cultures at the same time; because I can choose who I want to be and change my mind without having the world around me make a fuss about that; because I want more from me, from others, from life; because I want to have my limits tested in an environment governed by fair-play; because, as a child learning English in school, it fascinated me in such a way I could barely even dare to dream about this city; because London has it all; because my most important weapon at hand is my decision; and because I decided to make use of it. Varun – India In the Manchester derby last season, the enigmatic Mario Balotelli scored the first goal and then later pulled up his jersey to reveal the words that got immortalized in footballing lore – Why Always Me? Everyone knew the answer – ‘because he is the most unpredictable, at times highly frustrating, but ultimately a joy to behold’. It is a bit like that with London.
This city can’t boast of being the prettiest in Europe, let alone the world, the transport system is utterly expensive and oft unreliable, the bars close early, and it is a miracle if you manage to save money at the end of the month. But, it has that one unexplainable quality about it which makes you to want to stay and yearn to live here.
To call London the epicentre of multi-culturalism is doing it injustice. It is not that, but basically the something of a by-product of a child being allowed to pick whatever he likes in a candy store. People from every part of the world are here making this a truly global city. And unlike anywhere else, they have mostly integrated themselves in the London lifestyle.
And it is in this mesh of identity, that London finds its own. The fact that you can walk in for drinks with people from Europe, and end up leaving with a bunch of tangoing South Americans is what makes this city special. It is not ideal, it is not pretty, but it is free. It is free for you to explore, free for you to enjoy, and free for you to find your own space to call home. Nathalia – Brazil I didn’t choose London. London chose me. And I think that is the case for most. London welcomes so well tourists, shows them it´s best side, like a girl on a date who decided to make you fall in love. So then the inevitable happens and you leave everything behind for it. You become a resident, not before passing the exhaustive tests like opening a bank account, finding an affordable rent, getting your NI number, learning how to use the Northen line, which makes no sense at all. But who cares, you are in Love. But dear reader, I assume you´ve reached a stage in life where you understand that love does not last forever. You will soon start hating it, like all the other Londoners, joining them every morning in endless conversations about the horrible weather and tube delays. You will tell yourself that once you’ve reached a certain goal, you will move out. The day comes, you’ve reached all your goals, but you are still around. Why? I will tell you why: the city chose you. You are no longer in love, but forever trapped in this city, which you will not be able to live without. Believe me, I am trying to.
Tolumi – Nigeria My move to the UK was as a result of the need to further my education, the first three years of my life in the UK, I lived in Brighton. I loved Brighton, its sedate pace of life, the fact that there was a beach 10mins away from my house and I could never imagine living in the topsy-turvy world of London…
That was until “The Girl” came along. She lived in London and I in Brighton, after a while, the weekend visits and Skype conversations did not cut it anymore and I soon found myself commuting from London to Brighton to work on a fairly regular basis. So one day, after a lot of thought, I quit my job, packed my bags and moved to Wimbledon. The stated reason was I needed a new start with better job opportunities which could only be found in London. The real reason was that Brighton lost its glamour because “The Girl” wasn’t there. She remains the reason I reside in London still, because home is where she is and while she was a London girl, she is now my girl. Mari - Norway Change is a strange thing, sometimes it’s a blessing sometimes it’s a curse, and quite often it is very hard to know which it is. If you told me 2 years ago that I’d be living in London and enjoying it, I would have laughed in your face. No, seriously, I never wanted to move here and had to be dragged here kicking and screaming.
Yet to my lasting astonishment, I love it… So what is it about this place that has me enthralled? It is hard to describe, but there is something about London, it does not embrace you like a smaller place might do, but it allows you to be yourself, unapologetically. And unless you want to you do not have to do it alone, this city has space for every kind of weirdo. (I class myself as a weirdo, so this is a compliment) Even more than that what London provides for me is a respite. This sufferer of seriously itchy feet might finally have found a place that provides enough stimulation and diversity to provide peace. So there you have it, for me London represents peace of mind. At least for now…
Kalle – Finland
Before I moved to London, I had travelled, worked and lived on the other side of the world for three years. So when I moved back to Europe, I wanted to experience all the things my home continent has to offer. London was the natural centre to settle down in; it’s the biggest, most international, colourful, multicultural and well-connected city in Europe. It had the most variety to offer. I live in a shared house with three other people, we’ve had mice in the house, it’s cold in the winter and the plumbing is from the 18th century. Sure, I could have gone back to my home country – Finland - and earn more money, live in a nicer house, safer environment and have better overall conditions of living, but that was not what mattered the most. What mattered was the experiences, both work and life. After three years in London I still love it. Every week I find a new restaurant to try, new beer to sample, new festival to attend, new band to see, new exhibition to go to, new culture to try to understand, or new challenge at work to overcome. It’s also so well connected that I can always quite easily pop out to see all those other great places. And I never feel sad when I have to come back. Catia - France
Fun Young Fresh Freedom Culture Centre World Music Abbey Road Joy Movement Surprise Excitement Multicultural Enriching Rock Décalé Adventure Discovery Novelty Tate Modern Eccentric Thames Order Green Colourful Inspiring Energy Theatre Camden Crazy Innovating Plaisir Pub Rencontres Secret Hidden Shard Tower Bridge Greenwich Elisabeth Friends Flatmate Afternoon Tea Brave Tremplin Passion Creative Artist Fashion Cheers French Fries Gastro Vertige Excess Dance Museum Art Notting Hill Market Promenade Hair Hampstead Extravagance Spicy Posh Eurostar Love Fever Shoes Dress Scene Oubli Life New Always Hasard Warm Guitar Books Travel Comedie Speakers Experience Laugh Photo Sunday Gallery Streets Chic Scones Accent Dream Multicolour
this city is a state of mind. when here, you forget about the rest of the world, because
"remember Moses Morales, the Mayan guide I told you about? the last night I was with him, he told me about his father, who had died, but Moses wouldn't believe it. he said if they dug his father's body up, he'd be gone. they planted a seed over his grave. the seed became a tree. Moses said his father became part of that tree. he grew into the wood, into the bloom and when a sparrow ate the tree's fruit, his father flew with the birds. he said death was his father's road to awe. that's what he called it: the road to awe."