Back in December, I moved to London to work in Business Insider’s newly opened UK bureau after living in New York City for a year and a half.
I’m an Ohio native, so these are the two big cities that I know best. While I definitely miss some aspects of New York City life — like custom salads and liquid butter on popcorn — London just does some things better than the Big Apple.
Here’s what I like better about life in London:
London is known for its iconic, red double-decker buses, and for good reason. They might get a little rowdy at night, but they’re mostly clean and comfortable and get you from point A to point B pretty easily. New York City buses tend to be more crowded, slow, and dingy. The biggest perk of the London buses is getting to sit up top and enjoy the view out of the big window in front. It’s like taking a comfortable city tour for £1.50 ($US2.37).
Speaking of public transportation, the London Underground is miles ahead of the New York City subway in terms of design and cleanliness. The stations are heated and look more modern than the subway stations in New York, and the trains themselves have padded seats instead of the hard plastic found on New York’s subway trains. The downside, as you can see above, is that the tube’s compact design makes it hard to squeeze onto some trains during rush hour.
There’s no shortage of good Indian food in London. It’s certainly possible to find Indian food in New York, but it’s not as prevalent or typically as good. In London, you can find high-end Indian, quick lunch spots for delicious curry, and sit-down restaurants that are more mid-market. It’s a nice departure from the Italian and Mexican food that’s more common (and better) in New York.
Many people in Britain scoff at the “drip” coffee that Americans drink, and stores have a bigger selection of espresso machines than regular coffee makers. If you ask for coffee at a cafe or lunch spot, the person behind the counter will often assume you mean some sort of espresso-and-milk drink rather than the kind of coffee that slow-drips into a pot.
Espresso drinks typically have a better flavour and texture than regular coffee, so this is a welcome change for me. But American troops who served overseas in World War II didn’t seem to agree. They watered down espresso to make it taste more like the coffee they were used to, hence the name of the espresso-and-water drink we know as the “Americano.”
New York has some great architecture, but London is older and has fewer skyscrapers and more intricately designed buildings. London is much more spread out than New York, and the winding brick and cobblestone streets in central and western London are incredibly charming.
I’ve found London’s real estate market much easier to navigate than New York’s.
London apartments still cost a lot of money to rent, but the inventory is better and the apartments are bigger. Most of them also come fully furnished, and the leases are much more flexible. Six-month leases are common here, but in New York nearly every landlord wants to lock you in to a full-year lease.
The pubs I’ve wandered into in London are, on average, far better than your average New York bar. They’re incredibly cosy and charming. From the flower boxes that adorn the outside of pubs to the bookshelves and armchairs inside them, London pubs feel more like a living room than a dive.
New York has plenty of farmers markets, especially in spring and summer. However, London markets are a more regular installation in many neighbourhoods across the city, and they offer a wide variety of goods, produce, and prepared foods.
There’s the Columbia Road Flower Market for greenery and flowers, Borough Market for freshly prepared food and local ingredients, and Brick Lane Market for fashion. Going to a market is a regular weekend activity for many people in London.
Television news programs aren’t nearly as hyperlocal as they are in the US. I hear a lot more international news on Sky, ITV, and BBC than I did on most news channels back in the US. Some of that probably has to do with the fact that the UK isn’t nearly as big and spread out as the US, but I’ve noticed that in general British people seem to be more interested than Americans in what’s going on abroad.
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