Social Commentary

London: Love it or Leave It

Notting Hill Photo 2016 NHYM

I was reading the BA High Life Magazine on my British Airways flight over the Christmas holidays and noted that London has become the number 1 Global Powerhouse City in the Global City Index 2016 based on the findings from the Jones Lang Lasalle Cities Research Center flagship publication, Globalisation and Competition: The New World of Cities. It is interesting to note that in this Index, London has overtaken New York to the top spot. There has always been a New York vs. London competition, but it has become much fiercer in recent years, with New York previously being the clear leader in the 90s. So where does that leave us? Here is the list of cities it ranked:

‘The global powerhouses*

1.London Great Britain
‘In a neck-and-neck race with New York, London’s muscle as a financial centre, property market honeypot, education hub and cultural trendsetter just give it the edge as the ultimate global powerhouse.’

2. New York USA
‘With one of the world’s strongest city brands, New York has the highest city GDP per capita anywhere on the planet. Shaping the world from fashion to finance, New York’s dynamism creates an unbreakable centrifugal force that’s both economic and cultural.’

3. Tokyo Japan
‘Currently booming as a destination for Asian tourists, Japan’s capital has the largest city economy in the world. With a low crime rate and excellent transport boosting its ranking, efficient, well-managed Tokyo is also the world’s safest megacity.’

4. Paris France
‘The world’s most beautiful metropolis remains the most cosmopolitan of continental capitals. Paris dominates France’s economy, while its leading universities help attract a higher proportion of graduate migrants than any other world city.’

5. Hong Kong SAR China
‘Its journey from factory town to global financial pivot, travel gateway and trendsetter has been complete for some time now. Hong Kong’s density also makes it super-efficient, with shorter commutes than in any of the other global powerhouses.’

6. Singapore Republic of Singapore
‘Widely considered the most liveable city in the Big Six, business-friendly Singapore also leads the group for the quality of its transport, communication and energy infrastructure. The city’s initially slow growth as a cultural centre is speeding up.’

*For more city rankings and further information, read on:


‘Is It Really Worth It?’

I am fascinated by London and used to be one of its biggest advocates, lobbyists and promoters. ‘It’s a beautiful, liveable city with green parks and gardens, top restaurants, diverse cultural activities, full of vibrancy, interesting and inspiring people, and an international community like no other,’ used to be my daily mantra. But lately, that enthusiasm has slowly wavered and waned alongside the frantic pace of £20,000 birthday parties, our over scheduled activities/playdates/birthday parties, its competitive educational system and its parents, the FOMO, and actually seeing what life would be like living somewhere else i.e.: in the sun, with my sangria at hand, right before a siesta. So, is it really worth it?

We all have one of those friends that has been living in London for decades and has been threatening to leave it ever since he/she arrived. But just last September, one of those friends actually took the plunge and did it: He uprooted his family and moved them to sunnier climes, swapping rain for siestas in the sun and the tube for sangrias by the water in the Balearics. He became the number one propagandist of ‘Let’s Leave London’ and one of his devotees asked me ‘Do you seriously think raising a child in London is better than raising one here where the sun shines everyday?’ she asked incredulously, eyes-wide-open, and jaw-dropping, after I declined the invitation to move to the Balearics. After I got over the fact that it was a slightly in-your-face rude statement, it did get me thinking about my current existence in London.

Of course, not everyone has the choice to leave London, but more and more people are heading out of the city for a better lifestyle. London, at its best, offers a cosmopolitan city with diverse cultural, financial and educational opportunities not found in many places in the world. At its worst, it is eye-poppingly expensive (£145,000 for two private school educations + full time nanny before taxes per year then top that off with holidays, food, mortgages and the pull of Net-a-Porter), it rains 106 days a year (just look out of the window today, that’s almost one out of every three days), and the global Superrich are slowly pushing away the middling-rich out of our neighbourhoods.

On top of that, my friends are heading an exodus out of London. First came the friend who left in September. In February, another one leaves, and one of my closest friends already has an exit plan for September 2017. They are leaving for lifestyle reasons, job reasons, or realising that for a 150 sqm flat in London you can get 350 sqm on the continent. Another acquaintance is just tired of London and its hectic pace ‘I can’t remember the last time I had a free weekend spending time with my husband and my children. It’s usually one activity or birthday after another.’ She has decided to move back to her home town for three months for a breather while her husband stays on and visits on the weekend. Other friends have been living ‘double lives,’ where a husband works during the week in one city, and comes back to London on the weekends. Eventually, that arrangement usually has to end. And hopefully not in divorce. Soon, I will be left with a flight to catch every weekend to see those exiled friends.

In my daydreams, I realise that we could easily quit London and retire in a beach hut on an island in the Gulf of Thailand. But while my love affair with London and its pastel, Grade II listed houses, restaurant offerings and private gardens is not over, it has certainly hit a bumpy spot. Just like any relationship. It’s about time I recapture my love for it, or move on.

What are your thoughts on London? Are you a Lover or a Leaver? What are your favourite parts of London? 






10 thoughts on “London: Love it or Leave It

  1. Love and hate it. The air quality is now so bad that London has used up its air pollutant level for the year in the first week. No wonder so many have allergies and issues. My husband has two friends who have moved to Bath and one to Kent. They sold up and live in an amazing home mortgage free and walk for their school run. My husband is a Brit so he has more ties here but I am ready to go but he says the rest of the world wants to come here and I have to remind them they are usually war torn refugees or out of work EU citizens only looking to work. My friends in Australia have a pool and a garden and Australia isn’t cheap and yet my house though worth 5 times their homes has a “terrace”. I think a pied a terre where you come 3 months a year for the culture is when London is at its best!

    • Thanks so much for your comment! Yes I know what you mean… I certainly love lots about it but there are definitely things I don’t love… but not planning to go anywhere just yet! Keep dreaming of Australia! Sounds lovely!!

  2. We lived in London for a period of time years ago – even then it was apparent that our child would need to be privately schooled if we lived there and as a New Zealanders this was not the life for us I noticed that we spent in 2 days what most people earned in one week and we were quite frugal – London melts money

    The last time I was in London I went because of the the Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy – I was lucky with the weather and my hotel was fine too but I could not help noticing how the middle-classes are being pushed to margins never mind fairly normal working people. I sometimes felt that the english had become strangers and unwelcome in their own city. What is the point of being a Londoner if you can’t enjoy what it has to offer?

    People of vast great wealth were affecting the look and sound of the city – just seeing the behaviour at Horse Guards and in St James’ Park never mind the traffic and the competitive shopping was chilling; every time I open Country life and read the figures on the latest listings it strikes me as astonishing. Surely everybody is aware of where most of this extraordinary money is coming from? and why it loves to hang out in London where the common law and Westminster system protects it? Is it a right balance, should locals be priced out of most amenities?

    I love to visit London – its vast cultural heritage and physical beauty is extraordinary but I would not live there again – in today’s world of cheap and speedy air travel its far better to live in New Zealand or Australia and visit for special occasions. Quality of life consists of friends, fresh air, abundant space both indoors and out, decent work, bearable commuting as well as cultural and sporting activities. In the “joined-up” world that modern communications offer – nowhere in the developed world need be excluded from the cultural heritage of the rest of the world.

    Last year I chose to spend a month in Paris – it was heaven I had an apartment a travel card and a pass for the Louvre. Every day I could Skype, text, whatsapp or speak to family and friends in my part of the world whilst enjoying that great city – when I come to London again I would do the same – its great for an injection of “other” and “exciting” but real living … no.

  3. It’s interesting to see that more and more people aren’t ‘feeling the love’ any more. It seems so many of our friends are planning an exit plan of their own that there are less and less reasons to go back. My friend is loving it in Bristol and those of us who have gone further afield don’t see any rush to move back! I really hope that you either find the love again or come up with an exit strategy all of your own! Thanks for another interesting post. xx

    • Hello! Thanks for your comment! Yes, more and more people I know are leaving, but luckily there are also always people arriving too to balance it out. I am sure I will find the love again 🙂 i am not quite ready to leave and actually couldn’t anyway just yet…. thanks also for the support! Xx

      • Hello! The same is true of Dubai, people arrive to replace the leavers! It’s fun to meet new people and they can add a lot to your life as they see you as you are now rather than with years of history which is refreshing. I think London has a lot to offer and you definitely make the most of it! It’s Valentines soon – maybe London will woo you all over again! xxx

  4. We lived more than 5 years in Paris and as soon my husband said we had to go to London I started to cry, so you can see the love I had at that time for this city. Now it’s been almost 6 years we are living here and I can say it’s growing in my heart the love for London. I love the parks, the cultural diversity and the cosmopolitan life, and specially all the inspiring people I encounter everyday.
    It’s unbelievable but now I can’t imagine live else where. Maybe because Paris is only 2.5 hours away? =)
    My girls are very lucky to live in a place so rich like London but because I grew in the beautiful country side in Portugal I also know the most important thing is to have present parents who love you and show you the world, beaches, cities, and incredible places and people. So London now is just the perfect place =) xxx

  5. Emma says:

    It’s interesting to see that the middle rich also find London too expensive. I am an ordinary worker and witnessing the city I am living in – a beautiful, unique city – becoming like an amusement park for tourists and the super riches is quite disheartening.

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