Thursday, June 13, 2013

Big City Living: The Questions I Get Asked Back Home

Sometimes, my mom's friends will ask me, "So, what's the biggest difference between living in London and Puyallup [city in Washington where I'm from, population c. 38,000]?" And I kind of just want to show them this picture:

This, really. Crowds. Black cabs. Tourists. Lots of tourists. Busy. Hectic. Go, go, go. Bus. Foot. Walk. Trample. Push. Shove. Win.

And then they ask, "What's so good about living in London? Why do you like living there so much?" In those exact words. The mental image of chaotic Oxford Circus during rush hour flashes before me and suddenly, I'm at a loss for words. I think about it for a beat or two, before offering something along the lines of, "Well, there's always something to do." Faltering. "I like the pace of the city?" Question?

I can't really explain why I love London living so much. I'm not even sure I do, but I know I love the view of Southbank from Waterloo bridge on a sunny day as the Thames sparkles like a snaking bracelet, reflecting Westminster and the London Eye; seeing St. Paul during sunset, even on a grey, rainy day as I approach the foot bridge from the Tate Modern; shouting praise from the top tier seats at the Globe after a particularly rousing performance of All's Well That Ends Well; marching down High Holborn on my way in to work, feeling purposeful with a cup of Nero coffee in my hand, thinking, 'this is my life, this is me, this is who I am'; getting on a high speed train from St Pancras to Leicestershire and being thrust into the English countryside in less than an hour; that moment when I place my crisp, white linen napkin across my lap on a date night in Marylebone; lying on my back in a garden in Maida Vale, counting the number of Virgin Atlantic or British Airways planes making their way across the ocean; listening to the third movement from the Shostakovich 5th Symphony on the Overground back to Dalston after a Royal Orchestral Society rehearsal in St. John's Wood; shopping imported Scandinavian fashion on Regent Street with my Qatari-American best friend after a cup of vanilla rooibos tea.

But I can't explain all of this; can't offer it to them in one, simple, straightforward answer. Instead, I fidget and stutter, finding it difficult to describe what it's like to live in one of the most thrilling, cosmopolitan, forward-thinking, culturally diverse, fast-paced cities in the world. I feel like that nine- year-old again, who, when asked where she went on her summer vacation, was met with blank stares and disgusted looks from her classmates upon uttering, "Hong Kong", when everyone else went to Disneyland and Universal Studios, Florida. Or Hawaii.

I'm anticipating a lot of questions this summer, as we head back for our wedding reception in Seattle. I think I'll just answer with, "I don't know." But of course I do.


  1. I get this question a lot. I think the answer "There's always something to do" is close but perhaps it's more like "There's always *anything* to do."
    Like, anything. ANYTHING.

    Want to take up yoga? There is a class within a mile of you starting within 5 minutes.
    Want to drink alcohol that's been produced within a few hundred yards of the venue? You're spoilt for choice.
    Want to see a real Egyptian mummy? London's got you covered.
    Want to say you've seen work by the world's greatest artists, performers, musicians, authors, dancers, playwrights, designers and architects? It'll take 2 days to see it all but it's ALL here.

    There's never a question of whether London has something. It's just a question of where it is and which tube stop is closest. THAT is why it's so great to live in London.

  2. this post is just too perfect.


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