Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What are some things the outside world would be shocked to learn about London? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread. Thank you to the team at Quora for making this happen!
I moved to London two years ago from Manchester and was surprised by the following:
1. My gas bill (UK sense, not US sense of “gas”) is cheaper because the central heating kicks in less – it is considerably warmer in London than anywhere else in the UK. The forecast for today is a high of 21C, but in Manchester it’s only 18C. That’s typical all the way around the year.
2. It hardly ever rains. OK, Manchester has a reputation for rain, but in London in my first Summer I think I saw it raining twice.
3. You get used to the tap water. It’s not as good as Manchester tap water (it’s harder), but it’s not as bad as St Albans which is disgusting. It does have limescale in it though, so if you live here and don’t want kidney stones, get a water filter.
4. London is not a city. There is a City of London, but that’s tiny: a square mile or so bounded by Thames and London Wall. It’s really a collection of a hundred or so villages that have merged into each other, each with very distinct characters.
5. The character can actually shift from one end of the street to the other. Where I live the street is perhaps 200 yards long. One end is distinctly different to the other and feels like a different World. Everything is really quite hyperlocal.
6. Social housing is very different in London to the rest of the UK. In the North for example you would have an estate of private housing of perhaps several thousand homes, and next door an estate of social/council housing of similar size. In London, social housing can be a single block of flats sat as an island in the middle of private housing – literally the borough grabbed a bomb site and built on it after WW2. This means you can see a run-down deck access block of flats directly opposite a pricey mansion with a Rolls Royce parked up outside.
7. Londoners have a reputation for rudeness but in fact are very open, welcoming and friendly. Everybody tends to clam up on the tube and bus, but nobody is rude. Except, oddly, for tourists who seem to not understand the basic rules of waiting for people to get off before boarding, etc. which causes Londoners to get angry and possibly verbally abusive.
8. There is more greenery and there are more public parks in London than any other English city I can think of. Peace, solitude and wildlife are in fact everywhere, if you’re prepared to look a little.
9. The bits you think are going to be amazing (theatres, restaurants, etc.) are generally a bit underwhelming but you are caught off guard by the good stuff nobody told you about: the parks, the peace of the suburbs once you get out to Zone 2, the locals, etc.
10. Everywhere takes an hour to get to. Just trust me on this one, if you’re going any distance across London, even if it’s 3-4 miles and you’re getting a taxi, give yourself an hour.
11. The “traditional fish and chips” are awful compared to those you get up North (hint: if the place sells kebabs or pizzas, it’s not a proper fish and chip shop). Also, Chinatown has the worst Chinese food in England (Manchester has the best), but the English, Italian, French, Polish and Portuguese places are better than their contemporaries elsewhere in the UK.
12. By far the most shocking thing though, is probably house prices. Housing policy here depresses me. I am on a healthy income, but will never be able to buy anywhere down here, and my rent is about double what it would be back in Manchester for a similar property.