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We have now been living in London nearly a year and it’s fair to say that time has flown. Having lived in North London many many moons ago, I thought I had the city pegged but it looks like I was wrong. Here are few surprising things I have learnt over the past months.
1. Not much opens early i.e. before 10am – especially out of the tourist zones. That includes cafes, libraries, museums, shops. This is completely baffling to me and frustrating when on the hunt for a caffeine hit.
2. Nothing really gets busy until around 12pm – shops, cafes, museums, galleries. So if you are organised in the mornings you can really have a crowd free London experience. Let me tell you, the dinosaur exhibit at the Natural History Museum is best avoided on weekend afternoons. Ditto for Oxford Street.
3. Community spirit and participation is incredible. A LOT of funding is being stripped out of local services in the UK and residents are stepping up to fill the gap and ensure public spaces such as libraries and parks are maintained. I would be lost with the highly active hyper local Facebook and social network groups sharing everything from plumber recommendations to tips on childcare and other services. There are also many local playgroups and play centres that are great for meeting other parents and getting the kids out of the house.
4. Creative accounting. There are some very interesting ways people have secured funding and support for local services. As an example, a local play and adventure centre has been built in our area as a contractual requirement by the council for a new development. The centre is run by a group selected via tender process by the council who requires the group to provide play centre services but can use the facilities outside the contracted hours to generate revenue. I had never come across this type of arrangement in Australia – happy to be proven wrong however!
5. It doesn’t rain that much. Yes, of course a comment on the weather.. I am a Melburnian after all! A friend told me in the first months that we moved here that it really doesn’t rain very often in London. I was quite sceptical but you know, she has been right so far (thanks Kirsten). I’ve probably gone and jinxed it now.
What has surprised you about living in London?