Another week-end, another trip away. I continue to live a life of exploration. Having now visited and experienced another city, in the UK this time. The city was friendly, it was fun, it was fine. Would I want to live there? – Not a chance. It just doesn’t compare with London. How could it?
As I arrived back in London, I looked around at those on the rail platform. Not a single smile. I glanced again, to confirm. This time, one smile, as she was chatting to a mate. I asked myself a question, not for the first time. Are Londoners happy?
Londoners – Know the opportunities
London has so much to do. Sights, concerts, sports, activities, restaurants.
Career wise, I compare the job board of a Big 4 consultancy, narrowed down with a couple of relevant search terms. I get 8 pages of results. I try the same company elsewhere, no search terms, I get 8 results, countrywide. The roles in London are more varied, more specific, whatever you are looking for, the opportunities are here.
If I have a mate is looking for a new job. I consult my mental rolodex and generally I know of at least three people in the industry, perhaps even at the specific company they are looking at.
Londoners – Feel inclusive isolation
Weird is normal in London. So no one stands out as weird. London is inclusive like few other places in the world. Sure, not everyone, all of the time. But we are getting there. The paradox is that London so inclusive that no-one stands out. This can be lonely, how can one feel special? Like a worker bee in the hive, we feel part of something special, but we are do not always feel special in ourselves.
I remember coming back after a week-end in Barcelona. Questioning whether London was for me. It was raining, my train was delayed, I heard echoes of my mate saying his move to Barcelona was the best move they had ever made. I decided Barcelona is not for me, I began to consider other options, globally (Londoners think Global), some definite “maybes”, whatever that means. But I’d be giving up so much if I moved. Perhaps later I will move, moving is always in the back of my mind. Sometimes the front.
Londoners – Know more people, know fewer people
Londoners know more people, but have less friends or perhaps more accurately it takes longer to build lasting friendships. Sometimes paradoxically a friendship built on one event can last a lifetime, as Londoners know time is short.
With factors like time to travel and schedules already being so full, even close friends may only be visited every 3-6 months. This gap stretches with children being born and the inevitable migration to the commuter belt.
The void is often filled by colleagues, often they are more than colleagues, if not quite friends. We will regularly socialise after work, but seldom on the week-end.
Londoners – Feed the addiction
Despite living and working all over the world and having travelled to many more cities. I keep coming back to London. Anywhere else is boring for the longer term. I see pictures of mates doing amazing things where they live, the next week I see the same pictures, they are doing the same things. Rinse and repeat. I feel like if I moved there, I’d be going there to retire, at least retire to a certain degree of monotony. I won’t retire in London, I couldn’t, I wouldn’t want to, it wouldn’t let me.
London is a drug, with highs and lows. Ebbing and flowing from the party, to the hangover, to the next party. There are more highs, more lows. Bigger highs, bigger lows. It is the natural order. Big is only big compared to small. Hot draws its fame from cold. Dry is nothing without wet.
Perhaps this is why there are so few smiles in London. We go from high to low. Or perhaps it is something simpler?
Londoners – Find it tiring
“…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” – Samuel Johnson
There is so much variety that the paradox of choice is profound. The question is, are people who are tired of London, tired of life? – No, I don’t think so, I just think they are tired.
There is so much stimulus, so much activity, it is difficult to turn it off. Like a high performance athlete, we know we can only compete at this level for so long, some will last for longer, others for a shorter period. We realise there will come a time for retirement from London.
Londoners – It is time to stop being grumpy
Circling back to the Train Platform with people looking forlorn and grumpy, no smiles. My feeling is that Londoners are happy with life in general, we are just often grumpy in the moment as we are tired and it is time for us to snap out of it, because grumpiness is contagious.
- Londoners need to embrace being tired, we need to recognise we are living an adventure. We need to recognise that tiredness is evidence of this adventure. Between the adventures we need to rest more, get more sleep, recharge for the next adventure.
- We mirror one another, an innate instinct. So if we make a conscious effort to smile more, people will mirror. We need to make an effort to be friendlier, take a moment to smile and remember our manners. Look into the eye of a person serving us that Latte, thank them for it with sincerity.
- Our commutes are often the killer of our happiness in the moment, the length of them, the congestion, the frustrating behaviour of other inconsiderate passengers. More and more we should work at least one day from home. Reducing time lost to travel and congestion on our public transport. We also need to use our travel time better. Read, listen, practice mindfulness.
- We need to break the self-awareness bubble. Realise everyone on a bus or train has the same objective as us, so we need to make space, take off our backpacks, move down the carriage, let people off first.
- We need some perspective. 20 minutes delayed? – Pff’d. I grew up needing to arrive 1 hr before a bus arrived on the off chance it was early. Typically it was 2 hrs delayed.
- We need to recognise what a privileged life we are living!
Londoners are happy in life, but often not happy in the moment. I chose to be happy in both. Happiness is a choice and I choose it.