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?