A few of us are turning 30 this year.
Maybe you’ve seen us around: we’re the ones with the fear in our eyes, skinny jeans on our legs and double rum and cokes in each hand, yelling “BUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?” on the Kingsland Road circa 3am.
Over the last 29 years I’ve come to realise that not only is London a brilliant place to grow up, but it’s also a brilliant place to work and live when you’re not ready to grow up.
And, I hope, it’ll be an even better place to drag myself kicking, screaming and consuming huge amounts of medicinal gin into my thirties.
So in an effort to prove that the wild nights, hungover days and numerous flat rentals have been worth more than the thousands of pounds they’ve cost me financially, here are some things I’ve learnt about living, commuting and working in this massive city so far.
1. Londoners are not unfriendly.
In general, the good people of this city will try and help you if they can – unless you’re a chugger, it’s 7:30am, or their bus is coming.
2. But no, they’ll never want to chat on the tube.
The underground is like a sanctuary. It’s the only place we can stop, put our music in, and have a little quiet time. Don’t ruin it with your campaigns to make it otherwise.
3. You should always have at least one spare Oyster card handy.
Keep one in a drawer. Stash one in your wallet. Hide one under the mat. You’ll need it – and if you don’t, I definitely will.
4. The bus is loads better than the Underground.
Imagine the tube, but cheaper, loads better, and with more free seats in the morning. Game changer, my friends. Game changer.
5. London makes people obsessed with their bank balance.
When people first move here, they go a bit money mad: the lack of it, how to get more, what their friends earn, how much everything costs compared to where they’ve been living up until now, and whether they should pack it all in and become a banker. This doesn’t really ever go away completely, but after a while they’ll realise:
6. You will never earn enough money here.
Sorry. London’s a bastard like that, always showing you things you can’t have. So here’s what you do: you get a salary that covers the rent, work hard, earn a bit more, then get on with enjoying what you’ve got. Usually in a shot glass.
7. The best things in London are free.
If you’re bored, skint, and don’t have anything to do, congratulations: this is the easiest place to find something that costs £0. It’s also the best place to meet people who can help blag you in.
8. London warps your concept of how much things should cost.
Paying £8.50 for a cocktail is normal, and I don’t know what this means any more.
8. Always go exploring on a weekday.
The best days off are the ones where you do everything that seems like too much effort on a Saturday. Shop, eat, drink, look, get the Clipper, museum hop, walk without people getting in your way – and, yes, go to the zoo.
9. Shortening your commute – even a little bit – is the best thing ever.
If you’re living in Zones 1-3 and your commute still takes longer than an hour, either move your house, or move your work. You will be instantaneously happier, and that extra 15 minutes in bed will be the reason why.
10. Do a job you like.
Don’t be one of those people that bores on about how unhappy they are in their job – you’re in London. Change it. You’ve got a better chance of succeeding at doing that here than anywhere else in the country.
11. Work somewhere sociable.
Preferably with people who like standing outside the pub after work on Fridays. And Mondays. And Tuesdays. Sometimes Wednesdays. Definitely Thursdays.
12. Don’t date people who have just moved to London.
They’re enthusiastic, full of good intentions, have masses of ambition and every other attractive quality you can think of, but the bright city lights will usually end up shining brighter than you do. Don’t take it too personally. Give ‘em a year or two for mild discontent to set in.
13. This is the best place in the world to be single.
The other night I heard this rumour that outside of London, whole friendship groups of twenty-somethings are settling down and getting married ‘n’ stuff. Which is a bit mental.
14. It’s also the best place in the world if you don’t want to be single.
You can meet people on the tube, waiting for a night bus, at house viewings, on Hampstead Heath, eating dinner, at pubs, in a park, through Twitter, or in your block of flats. And if they’re not in any of those places, they’ll probably be on Tinder.
15. London is a very, very small place.
Never underestimate how often you will bump into people you thought (or hoped) you’d never see again. Seriously. They’re everywhere.
16. Renting is a good thing.
Do not, I repeat, do not feel crap because you can’t afford to buy in London. Funding a landlord’s Barbados timeshare isn’t a waste of money if you’re happy, don’t want to live further out, or, y’know, don’t have a spare £500,000.
17. Looking for a house share is probably the least fun thing ever.
Always be picky. Hearing your housemates’ key turn in the front door should inspire “woohoo! Someone’s home!” joy, not “urgh, go away” despair.
18. You should always live with people you can go for beers with.
It just makes life easier when you all come home drunk and noisy at the same time.
19. The ideal housemates are usually friends-of-friends.
Research (by me) has proven that the best people to live with are those you meet via a mutual friend. The more tenuous the connection the better. It gives you slightly more reassurance that they’re not mental.
20. Uber is the best invention ever.
Sorry black cabs. I’ve shelved the moral outrage and embraced the cheap cabs home.
21. Most “street food” festivals are a rip off.
I have yet to come away feeling satisfied after paying £10 for a ticket, then £5-10 for food I’ve queued half an hour for.
22. Going to the cinema on your own is amazing.
Prince Charles Cinema. A good documentary. Sunday afternoon. Go see whatever’s on, switch off your phone and sit in the dark for a bit.
23. There is no day that cannot be improved by seeing a dog on the bus / tube.
This is a scientific fact.
24. Dishoom is the best restaurant ever.
Lamb raan, black daal, East India gimlet: worth queuing for.
25. North London is better than south.
Shut up, it’s my list.
Feel free to pass on this knowledge to your friends. Or at least send me a consolation birthday present in a month’s time.