Random things I like and dislike about living in London: 6 month edition!
*I’m linking up with Marcia’s Healthy Slice for her January “Runfessions”- this post isn’t exactly all runfessions but some are running related!
As of January 27, I will have been living in London for 6 months. If you’re new here, my husband and I (plus our two vizsla dogs Ruth & Matilda) relocated here from MInneapolis at the end of July. We will be here for at least 3 years; time is flying by!
I thought I’d share a random list of things I love and hate about living in London; well, let’s say like and dislike, love and hate are too strong of words for most of these! And some of them are both likes and dislikes at the same time…
I like the London weather! As a runner who broke her leg not once, but twice (2008 and 2018– the 10 year curse?) slipping on the ice when running in the winter in Minnesota, I love that icy days in London are VERY rare; even days of running in tights/ leggings are rare (for me- its almost always shorts weather!)
Okay, even though I like the weather, I’ll admit that the rain can be a little draining. It can be tough to get out the door some mornings in a downpour and the winter has been very wet so far. However, I will choose the milder temps with rain every single day over the brutal Minnesota winters.
Do I miss snow? Nah; I got it when we went to Lapland and I’m getting lots of it right now as we are currently snowboarding in the French Alps at Val-d’Isere. I’m all good on snow. 🙂
I like NOT driving.
I do not miss driving one bit, which is kinda funny as this is one of the things Dustin misses the most. But I am not interested in cars; going for a drive is not relaxing. I’m not a confident driver; I find it very stressful.
I much prefer the taking the train and/or walking, which is the way of the world in London for most (and definitely the way of the world for us as we haven’t decided to buy a car yet.) I do, however, miss getting anywhere fast– you can’t pop out to Target or Lund’s & Byerly’s to stock up on a bunch of things and drive them home in your car. To be fair, stores like Target don’t really exist, at least not near us. Waitrose & Partners (in London) is somewhat close to a Lund’s & Byerly’s for groceries. In London, we shop much more frequently since we have to carry it home, and honestly, most items have a lot less preservatives here, so you need to eat them quickly! Grocery shopping and household goods shopping is a much more planned-out endeavor. This is definitely one of Dustin’s dislikes but I think it’s just part of living in Europe (and a big city with no car.)
Of course, I like the DOGS! The dog-friendly pubs, the dogs in cute jackets, the dogs off-lead in all the parks, and the muddy dogs at the Heath having the time of their lives.
I absolutely love the dogs of London (including mine, who seem pretty happy here!)
Spaniels, “sausage dogs”, terriers, Irish wolf-hounds. Dogs, dogs everywhere!
One of my favorite common breeds of dog in London would be the spaniels; there are TON of spaniels here and a lot of them have these adorable haircuts. I absolutely love them.
(This is not my picture, found it HERE, but this is a perfect example!) Now picture this guy covered in mud zipping around Hampstead Heath. That’s London!
There are quite a few vizslas in London, more than I would usually see in Minneapolis. Though one dislike is that Ruth & Matilda stand out as American vizslas because their tails are docked. We didn’t have a choice in the US, but tail docking is not common here for vizslas. U.S. breeders say that docking isn’t for aesthetic reasons but rather because hunting vizslas will often break their tails when working the field. Whether that’s valid or not, I do feel embarrassed when people call us out on this (which they have; Brits aren’t generally afraid to call it like it is.)
But I digress…I definitely love dogs in London.
Don’t forget about dogs on the tube!
Not everyone is a responsible dog owner, so yes, there is often dog poop on the sidewalk. Watch your step.
I like the foxes! Very rarely does a day go by in London (particularly Hampstead) without a fox sighting. There is a pair of foxes who taunt Ruth from our backyard/garden. I wouldn’t say Ruth likes the foxes, but I get a kick out of seeing them everywhere.
The foxes- or, their poop. (There seems to be a pattern here; I like the animals but not the poop!)
The foxes poop all over our yard and it is not to be confused with dog poop. They also knock over the local compost bins and leave rotting food out for my dogs to try to snarf up! Not my favorite part about the foxes. But this is their world too…I still love them.
I love Hampstead Heath! And living near it.
“Hampstead Heath (locally known simply as the Heath) is an ancient heath in London, spanning 320 hectares (790 acres). This grassy public space sits astride a sandy ridge, one of the highest points in London, running from Hampstead to Highgate.The heath is rambling and hilly, embracing ponds, recent and ancient woodlands, a lido, playgrounds, and a training track, and it adjoins the former stately home of Kenwood House and its estate. The south-east part of the heath is Parliament Hill, from which the view over London is protected by law.”
I love the Heath for the dogs, for Parliament track, for the view from Parliament Hill, and basically for all the green space in the middle of a major city. It’s amazing.
…I like the quieter start to my work day; this one might be unique to my role, but most of my immediate team is still in the US (the broader team has a presence in London.) When I arrive at the office, I’m able to ease into my morning, catch up on emails, prepare for afternoon meetings, and feel pretty accomplished by lunch. It’s not that I’m not a morning person, I am up early to run nearly every morning, but in Minneapolis, it used to be rush/rush/rush and then no time to eat breakfast or even prepare for the day before the work craziness began, and that’s generally not the case for me now.
Instead, it’s a much calmer morning through lunch, and then, at 1 or 2 pm, everything goes bonkers.
Yet this is also a dislike, as it’s hard to end my day at 6 or 7 pm, as that’s when my team is really revving up. I want to be responsive and as helpful as possible, but often the work day ends up dragging to 8, 9, 10 pm…
I like learning about another culture. I know England is not that different that the U.S. but it is different. Trust me! And I have really enjoyed observing these differences; I enjoy learning about the politics, the history, the royal family, people’s thoughts on the royal family, British quirks, the different accents for the different part of the U.K; it’s all really interesting to me.
The running community! Its true I haven’t found my home (yet) in a run club (though I have been trying out a few: one through Tracksmith and one with the Serpentine Running Club), but there are hundreds of them in London.
There are many local races. There are free 5k parkruns at all local parks every Saturday.
There are also so many run commuters, just like me!
There are many well-maintained parks with lovely running routes. I like having Parliament track, a community track, right next door, and there are multiple other community tracks in London. A public track was something my running friends and I always thought Minneapolis needed; it’s cool that there are so many here.
(“Dislike”- I miss my running friends of course and my running community back home.)
The travel! In our 6 months here, we have been to the Cotswolds (British countryside), Porto/Portugal, Budapest/Hungary, Lapland/Finland, snowboarding in the Alps in Val d’Isere/France (+ Dustin ran the Amsterdam marathon when I had Covid– dislike on covid, ha!)
I also like that people want to come visit me here!
My younger sister/husband + SIL/BIL were here in October, my sister Erin was here in November; she’ll be back again in March with her whole family and my dad (yay!) and my oldest sister is coming with her family in June. I also have some friends visiting from Minneapolis in May- can’t wait!
I look forward to hosting more guests (even though our flat is small.)
Strikes…It took a month to receive our missing snowboard bag from before Christmas. Due to the baggage claim workers’ strike over the holiday, our bag, with thousands of others, was stuck at Heathrow indefinitely.
I know there is a lot more to all the strikes (I’m trying to learn more to understand) but there are A LOT of strikes here. In our six months here, there have been train strikes, tube strikes, ambulance driver strikes, Royal Mail strikes, Heathrow baggage claim strikes and others.
The pub life! The Brits love their pubs. In the summer, I got a kick out of how everyone gathers on the curb outside of the pubs (not just to smoke, but just to chill with a pint!) In the rainy winter, there’s nothing like a cozy British pub for a Sunday roast.
Every neighborhood/street/corner has a unique and often historical pub.
The food! London is a gigantic city and every type of food you want is available, from 60+ Michelin-starred options to street markets and Sunday roasts at the pub (of course) and more. The eating is good here.
Food I miss:
There are specific places in Minneapolis that miss: Punch pizza, Pizzeria Lola, tacos at Centro, and several of the craft breweries in my home city. I also miss peanut butter, unlimited access to nuun, Gatorade, and American style “English muffins.” Yes, its funny that I miss English muffins while in England, but what I’m missing are American-style English muffins; here I can usually only find crumpets, which are similar, but more doughy/moist (still good, just not the same.)
The shopping! I have a few British brands that I enjoy: Sweaty Betty (technically, I already was a fan of their Stamina sports bra, but have now ventured a lot more into their athleisure since the stores are everywhere), Boden (always a fan!) Reiss, anything at Liberty (the most beautiful department store), Mint Velvet, VIVAIA (a knockoff Rothy’s brand), Bash, Sandro, Maje. I am also enjoying the department stores here, it’s so different than the U.S. where department stores seem to be dying a slow death; here, you have Selfridges, Liberty, John Lewis, Harvey Nichols, Harrod’s, and more- and they seem to be thriving!
There are certain brands that I can’t get here that I miss: Oiselle, Rabbit, Rothy’s, Patagonia, J.Crew.
Also, beds are different sizes, i.e. I wanted to buy a new duvet for our king sized bed and “king-sized” is hard to find here, though you can find super-king, but a super-king is not the same width as a US king. I ended up ordering one from the US and paying the international shipping to get it here.
A few more random things I don’t like:
- the random duties that we have to pay on packages from the US! My dad sent us some peanut butter and Gatorade via Fedex and he was honest about what it was and the value (which was not high), and we had to pay £80 duties after it was delivered! I don’t fully understand this, but my colleagues have said its very common and your best bet is to have visitors “mule” things here, like nuun and American peanut butter. Let me know if you’re coming this way, ha!
- There are a lot more smokers here than Minneapolis. If you’re sitting outside at a pub or restaurant, people will probably be smoking.
- Litter/trash- sadly, it exists, probably like any big city.
- Rats; we haven’t seen as many since we moved to Hampstead away from the river Thames.Maybe that’s only because of the foxes keeping them away!
- Sending wire transfers- venmo or paypal are not very common here. I have had to wire people money (including appointment fees for private doctors) multiple times, which was new to me and a little uncomfortable at first.
And a few more things that I DO like!
- All the reading I get done on my commute on the tube; I don’t have wifi on the train, so I read on my kindle instead of scrolling my phone. This is a very good thing!
- Run commuting; it’s very common here. My office has showers/lockers/towels. Its fine to leave stuff in the office too.
- “See it. Say it. Sorted.”- My sister Laurie gets it!
- British TV- I loved Ricky Gervais’s Derek and am enjoying Motherland on Netflix. Made in Chelsea is my replacement Housewives trash TV.
- My dentist! To be fair, I go to a private dentist, not the NHS, but my initial teeth cleaning there was the best I’ve ever had. My teeth feel amazing.
- The neighborhood-y aspect of life; our dentist, our GP, our vet- all within a 5 minute walk. When I had to pick up a prescription, the GP listed off 10 different pharmacies that were less than a 5 minute walk from our flat. Which is great, since we don’t have a car!
I know that I promised a post about the challenges of London; to an extent, the is it, as I touch on quite a few of them here. Despite the hard parts, I think my “likes” very much outweigh my dislikes. I’ll check in again in another 6 months at the 1 year mark!
I’m linking up with Marcia for her monthly Runfessions, check it out!
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