Random things I like and dislike about living in London: 6 month edition!
*I’m linking up with Marcia’s Healthy Slice for her January “Runfessions”- this post isn’t exactly all runfessions but some are running related!
As of January 27, I will have been living in London for 6 months. If you’re new here, my husband and I (plus our two vizsla dogs Ruth & Matilda) relocated here from MInneapolis at the end of July. We will be here for at least 3 years; time is flying by!
I thought I’d share a random list of things I love and hate about living in London; well, let’s say like and dislike, love and hate are too strong of words for most of these! And some of them are both likes and dislikes at the same time…
I like the London weather! As a runner who broke her leg not once, but twice (2008 and 2018– the 10 year curse?) slipping on the ice when running in the winter in Minnesota, I love that icy days in London are VERY rare; even days of running in tights/ leggings are rare (for me- its almost always shorts weather!)
Okay, even though I like the weather, I’ll admit that the rain can be a little draining. It can be tough to get out the door some mornings in a downpour and the winter has been very wet so far. However, I will choose the milder temps with rain every single day over the brutal Minnesota winters.
Do I miss snow? Nah; I got it when we went to Lapland and I’m getting lots of it right now as we are currently snowboarding in the French Alps at Val-d’Isere. I’m all good on snow. 🙂
I like NOT driving.
I do not miss driving one bit, which is kinda funny as this is one of the things Dustin misses the most. But I am not interested in cars; going for a drive is not relaxing. I’m not a confident driver; I find it very stressful.
I much prefer the taking the train and/or walking, which is the way of the world in London for most (and definitely the way of the world for us as we haven’t decided to buy a car yet.) I do, however, miss getting anywhere fast– you can’t pop out to Target or Lund’s & Byerly’s to stock up on a bunch of things and drive them home in your car. To be fair, stores like Target don’t really exist, at least not near us. Waitrose & Partners (in London) is somewhat close to a Lund’s & Byerly’s for groceries. In London, we shop much more frequently since we have to carry it home, and honestly, most items have a lot less preservatives here, so you need to eat them quickly! Grocery shopping and household goods shopping is a much more planned-out endeavor. This is definitely one of Dustin’s dislikes but I think it’s just part of living in Europe (and a big city with no car.)
Of course, I like the DOGS! The dog-friendly pubs, the dogs in cute jackets, the dogs off-lead in all the parks, and the muddy dogs at the Heath having the time of their lives.
I absolutely love the dogs of London (including mine, who seem pretty happy here!)
Spaniels, “sausage dogs”, terriers, Irish wolf-hounds. Dogs, dogs everywhere!
One of my favorite common breeds of dog in London would be the spaniels; there are TON of spaniels here and a lot of them have these adorable haircuts. I absolutely love them.
(This is not my picture, found it HERE, but this is a perfect example!) Now picture this guy covered in mud zipping around Hampstead Heath. That’s London!
There are quite a few vizslas in London, more than I would usually see in Minneapolis. Though one dislike is that Ruth & Matilda stand out as American vizslas because their tails are docked. We didn’t have a choice in the US, but tail docking is not common here for vizslas. U.S. breeders say that docking isn’t for aesthetic reasons but rather because hunting vizslas will often break their tails when working the field. Whether that’s valid or not, I do feel embarrassed when people call us out on this (which they have; Brits aren’t generally afraid to call it like it is.)
But I digress…I definitely love dogs in London.
Don’t forget about dogs on the tube!
Not everyone is a responsible dog owner, so yes, there is often dog poop on the sidewalk. Watch your step.
I like the foxes! Very rarely does a day go by in London (particularly Hampstead) without a fox sighting. There is a pair of foxes who taunt Ruth from our backyard/garden. I wouldn’t say Ruth likes the foxes, but I get a kick out of seeing them everywhere.
The foxes- or, their poop. (There seems to be a pattern here; I like the animals but not the poop!)
The foxes poop all over our yard and it is not to be confused with dog poop. They also knock over the local compost bins and leave rotting food out for my dogs to try to snarf up! Not my favorite part about the foxes. But this is their world too…I still love them.
I love Hampstead Heath! And living near it.
“Hampstead Heath (locally known simply as the Heath) is an ancient heath in London, spanning 320 hectares (790 acres). This grassy public space sits astride a sandy ridge, one of the highest points in London, running from Hampstead to Highgate.The heath is rambling and hilly, embracing ponds, recent and ancient woodlands, a lido, playgrounds, and a training track, and it adjoins the former stately home of Kenwood House and its estate. The south-east part of the heath is Parliament Hill, from which the view over London is protected by law.”
I love the Heath for the dogs, for Parliament track, for the view from Parliament Hill, and basically for all the green space in the middle of a major city. It’s amazing.
…I like the quieter start to my work day; this one might be unique to my role, but most of my immediate team is still in the US (the broader team has a presence in London.) When I arrive at the office, I’m able to ease into my morning, catch up on emails, prepare for afternoon meetings, and feel pretty accomplished by lunch. It’s not that I’m not a morning person, I am up early to run nearly every morning, but in Minneapolis, it used to be rush/rush/rush and then no time to eat breakfast or even prepare for the day before the work craziness began, and that’s generally not the case for me now.
Instead, it’s a much calmer morning through lunch, and then, at 1 or 2 pm, everything goes bonkers.
Yet this is also a dislike, as it’s hard to end my day at 6 or 7 pm, as that’s when my team is really revving up. I want to be responsive and as helpful as possible, but often the work day ends up dragging to 8, 9, 10 pm…
I like learning about another culture. I know England is not that different that the U.S. but it is different. Trust me! And I have really enjoyed observing these differences; I enjoy learning about the politics, the history, the royal family, people’s thoughts on the royal family, British quirks, the different accents for the different part of the U.K; it’s all really interesting to me.
The running community! Its true I haven’t found my home (yet) in a run club (though I have been trying out a few: one through Tracksmith and one with the Serpentine Running Club), but there are hundreds of them in London.
There are many local races. There are free 5k parkruns at all local parks every Saturday.
There are also so many run commuters, just like me!
There are many well-maintained parks with lovely running routes. I like having Parliament track, a community track, right next door, and there are multiple other community tracks in London. A public track was something my running friends and I always thought Minneapolis needed; it’s cool that there are so many here.
(“Dislike”- I miss my running friends of course and my running community back home.)
The travel! In our 6 months here, we have been to the Cotswolds (British countryside), Porto/Portugal, Budapest/Hungary, Lapland/Finland, snowboarding in the Alps in Val d’Isere/France (+ Dustin ran the Amsterdam marathon when I had Covid– dislike on covid, ha!)
I also like that people want to come visit me here!
My younger sister/husband + SIL/BIL were here in October, my sister Erin was here in November; she’ll be back again in March with her whole family and my dad (yay!) and my oldest sister is coming with her family in June. I also have some friends visiting from Minneapolis in May- can’t wait!
I look forward to hosting more guests (even though our flat is small.)
Strikes…It took a month to receive our missing snowboard bag from before Christmas. Due to the baggage claim workers’ strike over the holiday, our bag, with thousands of others, was stuck at Heathrow indefinitely.
I know there is a lot more to all the strikes (I’m trying to learn more to understand) but there are A LOT of strikes here. In our six months here, there have been train strikes, tube strikes, ambulance driver strikes, Royal Mail strikes, Heathrow baggage claim strikes and others.
The pub life! The Brits love their pubs. In the summer, I got a kick out of how everyone gathers on the curb outside of the pubs (not just to smoke, but just to chill with a pint!) In the rainy winter, there’s nothing like a cozy British pub for a Sunday roast.
Every neighborhood/street/corner has a unique and often historical pub.
The food! London is a gigantic city and every type of food you want is available, from 60+ Michelin-starred options to street markets and Sunday roasts at the pub (of course) and more. The eating is good here.
Food I miss:
There are specific places in Minneapolis that miss: Punch pizza, Pizzeria Lola, tacos at Centro, and several of the craft breweries in my home city. I also miss peanut butter, unlimited access to nuun, Gatorade, and American style “English muffins.” Yes, its funny that I miss English muffins while in England, but what I’m missing are American-style English muffins; here I can usually only find crumpets, which are similar, but more doughy/moist (still good, just not the same.)
The shopping! I have a few British brands that I enjoy: Sweaty Betty (technically, I already was a fan of their Stamina sports bra, but have now ventured a lot more into their athleisure since the stores are everywhere), Boden (always a fan!) Reiss, anything at Liberty (the most beautiful department store), Mint Velvet, VIVAIA (a knockoff Rothy’s brand), Bash, Sandro, Maje. I am also enjoying the department stores here, it’s so different than the U.S. where department stores seem to be dying a slow death; here, you have Selfridges, Liberty, John Lewis, Harvey Nichols, Harrod’s, and more- and they seem to be thriving!
There are certain brands that I can’t get here that I miss: Oiselle, Rabbit, Rothy’s, Patagonia, J.Crew.
Also, beds are different sizes, i.e. I wanted to buy a new duvet for our king sized bed and “king-sized” is hard to find here, though you can find super-king, but a super-king is not the same width as a US king. I ended up ordering one from the US and paying the international shipping to get it here.
A few more random things I don’t like:
- the random duties that we have to pay on packages from the US! My dad sent us some peanut butter and Gatorade via Fedex and he was honest about what it was and the value (which was not high), and we had to pay £80 duties after it was delivered! I don’t fully understand this, but my colleagues have said its very common and your best bet is to have visitors “mule” things here, like nuun and American peanut butter. Let me know if you’re coming this way, ha!
- There are a lot more smokers here than Minneapolis. If you’re sitting outside at a pub or restaurant, people will probably be smoking.
- Litter/trash- sadly, it exists, probably like any big city.
- Rats; we haven’t seen as many since we moved to Hampstead away from the river Thames.Maybe that’s only because of the foxes keeping them away!
- Sending wire transfers- venmo or paypal are not very common here. I have had to wire people money (including appointment fees for private doctors) multiple times, which was new to me and a little uncomfortable at first.
And a few more things that I DO like!
- All the reading I get done on my commute on the tube; I don’t have wifi on the train, so I read on my kindle instead of scrolling my phone. This is a very good thing!
- Run commuting; it’s very common here. My office has showers/lockers/towels. Its fine to leave stuff in the office too.
- “See it. Say it. Sorted.”- My sister Laurie gets it!
- British TV- I loved Ricky Gervais’s Derek and am enjoying Motherland on Netflix. Made in Chelsea is my replacement Housewives trash TV.
- My dentist! To be fair, I go to a private dentist, not the NHS, but my initial teeth cleaning there was the best I’ve ever had. My teeth feel amazing.
- The neighborhood-y aspect of life; our dentist, our GP, our vet- all within a 5 minute walk. When I had to pick up a prescription, the GP listed off 10 different pharmacies that were less than a 5 minute walk from our flat. Which is great, since we don’t have a car!
I know that I promised a post about the challenges of London; to an extent, the is it, as I touch on quite a few of them here. Despite the hard parts, I think my “likes” very much outweigh my dislikes. I’ll check in again in another 6 months at the 1 year mark!
I’m linking up with Marcia for her monthly Runfessions, check it out!
I think I agree with all your likes and dislikes. Time does fly. 6 mos already!
I did live in Nice, France for a year. I liked the ability to easily travel to another country.. Also NOT driving (at least in Paris). In Nice, it was buses and walking.
I have visited London and I was not a fan of the food or the rain… I had no idea about there being so many foxes.
Keep posting those awesome pictures and more importantly you are able to train for all your big races.
Interesting! Do you mean traditional British food like fish and chips? Pub food? London is such an enormous city with unlimited options from low to high for food, I love it.
I have heard Nice is beautiful! I have never been but hope to get there soon! What a cool place to live Darlene!
So interesting! I know when we’ve been to Europe the smoking has been bothersome — and it’s been YEARS since we’ve been! That’s too bad the brits haven’t gotten the memo. I don’t like driving either, and I definitely can’t imagine driving in Europe! Also interesting about the food, because London for so long was known as having horrible food (not that I’ve ever been). I dream of moving to someplace where everything is so close by — but I also don’t want to live in a big city. Probably not going to happen. I’d love to move somewhere more… Read more »
Haha yes London has a rep for bad food but it’s a big city- I think there are a ton of great restaurants and a ton of bad ones too, just like LA or NYC!
Yep…smoking and definitely vaping are very popular.
This was fascinating! It made me long to live in London, and also glad to be where I am (I would miss peanut butter too much, ha ha.) I lived in Europe (mostly Germany) for a while many years ago, and it’s interesting that some things haven’t changed. A lot more smoking, and the dog poop problem- not so much in Germany (they’re very orderly) but in Paris it was terrible. Anyway, I can see that your likes outweigh your dislikes. It seems like you live in an incredible area and most things you mentioned- like the run commute- sound… Read more »
Thanks Jenny! I’ve heard that about Paris and the dog poop. I’ve only there when I was in high school but we are going in March. When my dad visits.
The dog poo is worse in London than I expected…pretty rare in Minneapolis for people not to scoop up after their dogs.
How cool you lived in Germany. What for? Studying abroad?
We both had cars when we lived in the Midlands. Yes stick shift + driving on the “wrong” side of the street was unnerving but it’s a good stretch out of the comfy zone too. When we lived in a flat in the Birmingham City Center I didn’t need a car as much and could just walk down the canal path to the grocery store. I agree the Brits adore their dogs. When I lived there I took up English Horse riding and we’d go on weekly riding hacks in the park and it was always filled with hounds. So… Read more »
Dustin has his international license which is good for a year- but he really only needs a valid US license to rent a car which has worked so far when we needed it. Eventually we will have to look into a UK one but not yet.
Love this 6 month assessment! Yikes on the PB penalty. That’s harsh!
I really love how you are taking advantage of this opportunity, both in London and around Europe.
Right?? I love PB but it was hard to pay that much in duties…
I’m with Dustin–I’d miss driving and being able to buy a lot of groceries! Although I am sure if I lived in the city here, that would be an issue as well. You know I love my spaniels, so I’m sure I’d be in doggy heaven in London!
Enjoy the Alps! I’m looking forward to hearing all about it.
Exactly, it’s part of a big city vs just London but something he enjoyed more than me to begin with!
I thought of you Wendy with the spaniels! They are so cute.
What a great experience your are having, Jessie!! I honestly had no idea the food would be so different (not in a bad way), so it’s interesting to hear about everything you’ve sampled thus far. I would NOT enjoy driving there either (I hate driving in the US), so I”d be on the train or walking everywhere.
I don’t know if it’s different vs just all the options and lots of Michelin starred places (we did not have many of those in Mpls though we had lots of good restaurants.)
Foxes and dogs???? Say LESS! You are speaking my love language! I imagine that there are things that are less pleasant but I’m sure it’s a great adventure!
Exactly! There are things that are harder but mostly because it’s different, which is okay!
I love this! I can tell you all about how warranted the strikes are and the way the ordinary working people have been ground under the heel of the Tory govt if you’d like. When you have nurses, fire officers and teachers needing to use food banks … I know teachers and nurses who have been on strike and our postman has and I am fully on their side – I also know it’s a move of very last resort and is mainly about safety. Most of the media is skewed against them. Anyway, also love all the rest of… Read more »
Thanks for reading and commenting Liz! And thanks for the intel on the strikes. How heartbreaking…
I haven’t necessarily noticed portion sizes, but grocery sizes are smaller- everything cooking wise is smaller, but restaurants still seem to be more than enough! Maybe it varies…
Amazing to think it’s been 6 months already! Good to hear that your likes outweigh your dislikes and that you’re taking advantage of all that living there has to offer.
Paris employs city workers to scoop dog poop, but one time I was in Paris and THOSE workers were on strike, so there was a lot more poop!! D’oh!
Oh gees, what timing!
Wow I can’t believe it’s been 6 months already! I would miss driving and being able to stock up on water bottles and heavier items. Do you have lots of delivery services like we do? The rain this year has been a lot for us as well but no snow means I can run outside. Looks like you are all settling in pretty well! You know I love to travel too and you are perfectly situated for that
We do! Everything you need can be delivered, so I definitely take advantage, but it does mean you need to be around for the delivery, which is a little tricky when both Dustin and I work. But it works when I know I’ll be home!
I have never been to Europe, so this is all very interesting to me! Very interesting how close everything is (walking distances). I didn’t like driving a whole lot until I got my new car 🙂 Now I’m spoiled! Driving in the suburbs vs the city does make the difference though. Keep up the great pictures and info on your life there. I really love hearing about it!
Hah, glad you love your car Lisa! I do think there’s a difference when you’re in the suburbs vs within the city with regards to having everything close by. It was really nice to just walk .20 mile to the dentist the other day!
Love this post! I think I said it when you were moving to London but I lived in England for four years while at uni; and it was a brilliant experience. I lived in Canterbury (Kent) and then in Guildford (Surrey) so the feel was a little bit different from the much busier London! But it was a beautiful experience for me, and my likes definitely outweighed the dislikes! So glad you, Dustin and the dogs have settled in!