Monday, 29 September 2008

Wherever I lay my hat - London versus Johannesburg


An article on News24 was brought to my attention, comparing living in London with living in South Africa. The author of the article, Georgina Guedes, tells of her latest two week experience in London, and of some of the comments made by South Africans over there with regards the trade off between the weather there and the crime in South Africa.

Her article has in fact evoked such a response that the comment facility on her page was closed within a few hours of it appearing... Pity that, now I will have to comment here - and hope she sees it.

Having lived in London for more than 4 years, Bristol for just shy of 2 years, Cape Town for more than 25 years, and Johannesburg for around 3 years, I think I am well placed to comment with regard the comparison of living in London, or the UK and South Africa.

Firstly, let it be known that while Georgina complaints of "the fine drizzle perpetually soaking" everything, it is a true fact that Johannesburg's average annual rain fall is HIGHER than the average annual rainfall in London! If you don't believe me, either refer to the following:
Johannesburg statistics versus
London Statistics, or look this up yourself – you will find that Johannesburg receives nearly 40% more rain per year than London.

So now that we have that misperception cleared up, what is true to say is that it is generally grey in London and fairly often grey. But let's be honest - who in the world is not aware of that these days? To go to London and complain about the weather is to move to Johannesburg and complain that you miss the beach!

People do not move to London for the weather. Therefore the change in lifestyle that the weather brings about is part of what you accept when you move to London. If you are a sun bunny - you will hate London, so don't even get on the plane.

People move to London for the experience, the opportunity, the new doors that living in a cosmopolitan city can open up for you. A change of lifestyle is probably part of the plan if you are contemplating moving to London.

Georgina says that London Life is hard – and it is expensive.
I am not sure what she means by “life is hard” – I currently work a 40 hour week, whereas my UK contract only required a 37.5 hour work week. South Africans are in fact valued for their work ethic and the hard work they put in. It is part of being a South African. And expensive? Well, perhaps it was specific to me, I may be speaking out of turn, but I never found it expensive. Once you are earning Pounds, spending Pounds becomes more comfortable. And you can shop at Marks and Spencers – or at Lidl. Life is as expensive as you choose to make it – like shopping at Woolworths or Checkers. And Georgina may want to take a peek at my Cost of Living blog, where there appeared to be an interesting outcome.

For my own part, I loved London. I enjoyed it more than any other city I have ever lived in, I loved the public transport, I loved the fact that things generally worked, though the wrong kind of leaves on the track could bring the public transport system to a grinding halt. I loved the fact that there were so many parks to go out to, to walk in, to see families walking in - and yes, they WERE donned in their rain Macs Georgina, but that is part of the joy of being outdoors for me. Walking through Richmond Park - amongst the deer, or across Wimbledon Common to the Windmill, or along the lake in Wimbledon Park.

Like everything in life, London is what you make it. But if you want to see the sun, don't go!

Despite all that, I am now living in Johannesburg. I returned to be close to members of my family whom I needed to be close to. I have myself a lovely life, a great job, a beautiful girlfriend. I have a lot of things I didn't have in London. I get to feed geese 3 times a week, I get to lie by the pool pretty much any day of the week, I can walk with rolled up shirt sleeves at 6:30 in the morning.

And yet - for all that, YES, I miss London.

Every person will love or hate London. It is a Marmite city - there are no half measures.

But every person should at least decide their opinion for themselves.

Fair enough, Georgina hates it... But that's not to say you must.

5 comments:

po said...

I agree with everything you say, and after 5 years of living in the UK i would miss it if I left. But I have to admit the weather is beginning to defeat me!

kirsty weaver said...

Well written Mike! I too loved London - for the 1st 5 years. The city was vibrant, the shopping was unbelivable, the social life, Europe on your doorstep ... yes I relished all these things... until I had my son! And then all I wanted to do was get out of the city! So we moved out to Buckinghamshire, my husband still commuted into London and we had the lovely country/urban lifestyle thing going four anothr 5 years. 2 more babies were added to the nest, and then the weather starts to wear you down, because you have cabin fever stuck indoors with 3 small people under the age of 4!
So we made the decision to give SA a try! And for now, with 3 little terrorists who can be outdoors from 6 am until 7 pm - it is the right choice for us!
But I haven't closed the door on London! I'm longing to go back when the kids arn't so small, even if its just for a visit

Anonymous said...

LOL, Wow this is so true... If you love the SUN.. London(or UK in general) is not the place to be.

BUT there is something about London that is magical and you have to go to London at least once in your life.

As i aways say "If you cant make it in London you cant make it anywhere in the world!!"

Emm said...

I googled "johannesburg crime stats" and I came upon your blog. Strange but i am happy I did find your blog. Great post!

Mike said...

Hi Emm! I am pleased you stumbled upon my blog - and I hope you will return again soom. Thanks for leaving a message!

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