Why I Hate London a Little Less

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London, England

I keep repeating the blasphemous statement, admitting I don’t really like London.

I don’t hate it though.

I like London. It’s an okay city but I only ever come here because it’s a hub city to the rest of Europe.

But I did something different this time.

I decided to stay with two friends from home, Liz and Adrian. I know Liz from my ad agency days in Toronto.

I arrived to the agency unjaded but green and Liz was a copywriter on my account and took me in, teaching me more than she’ll ever realize, helping me develop into the fierce nickname she coined.


To this day it’s still my favourite, even when shortened to Revenge.

Liz and Adrian traveled through Latin America and much of the rest of the world a year before me, I read their blog faithfully taking notes. Afterwards they moved to London and settled.

I came here for a travel conference and wanted to spend time with them. Initially it was just supposed to be for a few days before the conference.

In a short time they started to change my mind about London.

Staying in Brixton took away the snobby undercurrents of the city and even though we went for a tour of Greenwich starting with a Thames river ride, it somehow all felt like London was growing on me.

lego snow man

During the day Adrian would show me different parts of the city, explain Brixton’s history, and allow me to take photos of him in weird places like next to this Lego snowman.

When I was tired of walking he was happy to oblige with just sitting in a pub although still worried he wasn’t a good host. I assured him I did not need to see some Russian architecture exhibit.

The cider was enough culture for me.

At night we would meet up with Liz who would teach me what I needed to know about the transit system, BBC television and weird British humor.

The day before the conference I was supposed to move into a vacation rental apartment that a company offered to sponsor but things fell apart, there was miscommunication and they had no details for the apartment.

I was stressed that I’d be scrambling because the conference was 9am to midnight with all the activities.

Without hesitation Liz offered to keep me even though they must have been tired of entertaining me and I would be coming in late each night.

She also gave me detailed information each night on how to get everywhere by bus so I wouldn’t get lost.

I realized that even though I had been whinging before about friends I had lost, I had great ones here. Sometimes you are so busy complaining about what you don’t have, you forget about the things you do.

I still don’t love London but I definitely have a reason to go back.

Join the Conversation

  1. I’ll admit to having given up on London, and England, 20+ years ago. I was there on business a fair amount and all I can remember is crappy (but expensive) hotels, lousy food, and good beer that got me through it. I read at the time that the UK was ranked #18 or 19 for “quality of life” and I had no difficulty believing it.

    I don’t even like using that worthless monstrosity that is Heathrow as a hub to the rest of the world. It’s an airport designed by idiots who never fly and had never actually seen a airport before. 30 years ago AMS was a better airport than LHR is today.

    Other than all that I don’t mind it, though. 🙂

  2. Jade - OurOyster.com says:

    It does take a while…./ but London will definitely grow on you!

  3. I’m glad that your perception on London changed a bit! To be honest with you, despite living in the capital for over 5 years now, I too can get really stressed out with the city. It’s expensive, hugely touristy and the tube sucks – especially on the circle line which I’ve used daily to work. If you live there, the tax is ridiculously high and transportation are expensive. Having said that, we’re also lucky to have everything that no one else does – great museums (free), arts, entertainment, lots of parks and well connected to the whole world. So I guess that kinda balanced things out for me. I guess that’s why Monocle ranked London as the the 53rd most liveable city! hahah!

  4. Gillian @OneGiantStep says:

    That’s where Liz and Adrian are!! It’s a small travel blogging world isn’t it? I’m beginning to believe that getting out into the real neighborhoods is the way to see a city. Renting apartments, staying with friends or couchsurfing all offer a chance to really see a place. Cheers!

  5. I lived and worked in London for two years and absolutely loved it. It’s not for everyone but has an amazing music scene, great pub culture and the Brits have the best senses of humour. Also the rest of the UK was equally great. I’m glad you had a better experience this time — sometimes all you need is a different perspective.

  6. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    I’m not really a huge London fan as well. I think I need to return when it’s warm. I went for NYE.

  7. I love London, but I also had some friends hosting me. I always think that can change the perception of a place. When they show you all of the gems, it’s like having your own personal tour guide.

  8. My favorite places always seem to have people connections, too! I think that’s why I’ve been to London so many times this year… it’s not about the city, it’s the pals. Great post!

  9. I have not yet been to London, but I feel like I already have issues with it due to the study abroad program at my university. Every moron that wanted to “study abroad” but not deal with a language barrier went to London, got drunk for a few months and came back in debt and sometimes with a slight English accent/using British slang. I want to like London but after that, I am not inclined to!

  10. Jarmo @ Arctic Nomad says:

    Glad you found something to like about London. I am actually looking forward to getting back to London, I’ve now been away for a year and getting there for January. London probably isn’t that great for travelling, but it is nice for living, except for the crowded tube, ridiculously expensive housing and high taxes. But you have good pubs, choice of restaurants and great people!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well one of the tricks Liz did share was out to travel the city by bus, which does take longer but as a tourist I have the time and it’s good for sightseeing.

  11. Russell Smith says:

    I’d love to see London some day- just the corny stuff like the changing of the guards at Buckingham palace, the Tower, etc. The giant ferris wheel seems a little lame, but I’d go for that too. My health issues make travel difficult for me, but maybe someday I can get it together and fly from California to London. I’d also like to see Scotland, which I hear is beyond beautiful. Best wishes, Russell

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I hear the same about Scotland as well but I have never been.

  12. Jennifer Gresham says:

    Wow, surprised to see such an anti-London crowd. And not for the reasons I would expect.

    I moved to London in July, and LOVE it. We are living comfortably without a car, we live in a neighborhood full of children, so our daughter has regular playdates with her friends, and we love taking advantage of things like Winter Wonderland or the Da Vinci exhibit when they come up. We’ve had a blast here. I know we’ll eventually return to the States, but hopefully not any time soon.

    Wish I could see you while you’re here. If you want a lovely stroll through Hampstead Heath, let me know. Would love to show you the city from Parliament Hill. You know my email. 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Okay next time I’m in London I am definitely taking you up on this.

      1. Yes, please do!

  13. I’d say you’ve just experienced more of the London you should be experiencing.

    Because there are many Londons. Many. I experienced a new one a few weeks ago, meeting Jodi Ettenberg and other folk in the Brick Lane area, filled with amazingballs food markets and getting a tour from an enthusiastic resident. I’d never seen that London before. And I loved it.

    Get someone to show you round who loves the place – Jennifer sounds a good choice. 🙂

    Wherever you are, what you’re looking at are layers. Don’t like the layer you’re looking at? Dig deeper, past it, and find what fascinates. This is true for absolutely everywhere, *everywhere*.

    Although I hear New Jersey has less layers than most.

    Hey, just repeating what I heard.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well I would only want to go to Jersey Shore, that’s where all the action is right?

    2. Hey! I like Jersey!! I also like London and Buffalo. Oh, and Reno.

      So maybe it’s me.

  14. sharon Miro says:

    I have never liked London-oh, there were parts that I liked, but overall, not much. But after reading this, I realized that maybe I need to give it another chance.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I wouldn’t go out of my way…but if you use it as a hub city like me it’s worth a second look.

  15. Tom Le Mesurier says:

    Hello! I’m English and lived in London for 10 years (moved away 2 years ago). Just wanted to echo what Mikeachim just said – London is *so* big and so deep. Sure the tube is awful and things are expensive, but you can find any scene, anything cultural you want there. Of course you won’t find great weather on a regular basis, but when the sun shines, people *really* appreciate it. And it is so important to get information from locals who love London. There are so many hidden gems and once you have enough of these stored in your memory banks, every weekend presents you with the frustrating job of having to decide which lovely museum, park, pub, club, theatre, market you will visit.
    It took me five years before I really ‘got’ London and then I had the time of my life. It’s just that you have to work at it a little. 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      That is interesting. I find Toronto is such a terrible place for tourists because the real heart of it is in the local scene that tourists never see. London must be the same way.

  16. eileen ludwig says:

    Fascinating story and comments – never been to London and the one trip I was to make got hijacked by a friend wanting to go to Spain – that weekend there were riots in London so it was a good thing I was not there – most cities it all depends on where you are staying as to how you enjoy it

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I think you made the right decision by going to Spain.

  17. “Sometimes you are so busy complaining about what you don’t have, you forget about the things you do.”

    Great line and so true.

  18. Ah Revenge, I’m glad you had a good time.

    Mi sofa es su sofa bed.

    Merry Christmas or as they say over here Happy Crimbo.

    warm fuzzy thoughts from adrian and i

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Crimbo? Okay what does that mean??

      1. brit for christmas – since they shorten and cute-ify everything here.

  19. Jack @eyeflare travel says:

    London is… well, mixed. I’ve lived here for 10 years now and it does get under my skin in both good and bad ways.

    Everything you could ever want (except sun drenched beaches and cheap everything) is right here.

    On the other hand, so is everyone else, and it’s huge and messy and loud and stressful.

    But there are also 5 airports and an international train service!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I do like the public transportation system. I will give you that.

  20. Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    Just goes to show that many times our experience in a place is usually mostly influenced by the people.

    I absolutely love London, and I think I would enjoy exploring the less touristy parts with locals even more.

  21. Yay- I’m happy you don’t hate it anymore…I’d love to show you around too… maybe find things that you would grow to love about it! haha

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It may be one of those cities you need a local to show you, or at least someone that loves it.

  22. I always say I ‘like’ London but then I visit it and realise how much I hate things like the Tube and the crowds etc. However, this year I went to London to visit old friends and make new ones and I found myself saying ‘I love London’. 2012 is going to involve a lot of trips back and forth to London to see more friends – hopefully I’ll learn to love it even more =)

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Perhaps it is all about the people in a city then.

  23. I’m a New Yorker, so London isn’t too far removed from my everyday life. I don’t love it for the food (although that’s changing) or the fact that it’s NOT a budget destination. I love it for the wonderful fashion, arts, cultural diversity (as a Black person it’s nice to see locals that look like you and know that you could possibly get your hair done in a pinch..just sayin’), and the history. I think every city has it’s good and bad points, and sometimes it means multiple trips to see that. 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I think the reason I’m not as impressed by it is that I left Toronto, so its a bigger version of my city but a lot of the city aspects don’t necessarily impress me.

  24. Bohemian Trails says:

    I personally love London but I know people tend to have mixed feelings about it. I agree with Jade that if you are there for a longer period of time it will grow on you!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      This was also the first time I got beyond the tourist activities and stayed in a neighborhood which I think helps a lot.

  25. Roy Marvelous says:

    I loved working & living in London (I lived in Brixton actually). But I can imagine that for a tourist, it’d be too expendy.

  26. Sandy@Shots says:

    I worked in London for a few years and got caught up in the day to day routine but I still managed time to find the hidden bars, the local haunts, the history. I love East London, the Tower – yes, it’s touristy but the stories are great. The bridge – nothing else like it in the world. Borough Market – yummy salt beef rolls. Next year I will be writing a Self Indulged ‘London’ special…I will send you the link. Hope fully once you’ve read it you’ll start to love London…even if it’s just a tiny bit. Merry Christmas Ayngelina.

  27. Graham GlobalGrasshopper says:

    It’s a tricky city to love – having to travel into the centre to work every day makes it a place I *have* to go to, rather than *want* to go to.
    Still find little hidden gems though, from restaurants to galleries. I just find that the more I avoid Trafalgar Sq/Covent Garden and the other heaving tourist spots, the more I enjoy the city! Have a great Christmas 🙂

  28. Ha ha … glad to hear that London grew on you a bit. Friends certainly help. 🙂

    It’s not on my list of go to destinations either … I have a zillion other places I’d rather go.

    Hope you have a Merry Christmas! 🙂

  29. Christina (Jandal Road) says:

    I’m glad to hear you like London a little bit more. When I first moved here it took a while to get used to it. A lot of things are broken in London, or don’t work the way they would in any other modern affluent city, and that drives me nuts. But then again, there is so much on offer, and it is such a charming place to be. When you’re in London next, give me a shout! There are plenty of things to see and do that don’t involve crowds, tourist spots and people ripping you off. There’s my favourite pub in Notting Hill, Holland Park, Richmond by the river, my favourite restaurant on Wardour Street, and of course the West End shows you can’t see anywhere else. Where else do you meet Eddie Izzard in the street? Love London.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You are a good salesman Christina, I’m sure I’ll be back soon and we’ll set a date!

  30. Aww.. that’s what friends are for! Me.. i love London! to holiday. not to stay of course- hate the weather.. haha

  31. Friends can definitely help you enjoy a place more. 🙂 I’m glad you kind of sort of like London … even if it’s not your favourite place in the world.

  32. I wouldn’t say I grew up in London, but since I have family there, I have been many times. So maybe I like it so much for the same reasons you mention here. I’ve had a lot of good times in London.

    I’m also a huge fan of the Tate Modern. And then walking by the water after. Which I suppose is most enjoyable when it’s not rainy and cold. 🙂

  33. Hi,
    Well I left London (my home town) for Norway so I guess I can relate to giving up on it but not as a visitor; you just need to get to know it properly and try some different things.

  34. Adam Sommer says:

    I can completely relate to this post! I have also been to London so many times it has lost all its charm. But, its a great city, and now that I try and do more local things (rather than tourist stuff) it has certainly become more enjoyable.

    Love the site…just came across this today!

  35. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs says:

    I have lived in London, and I loved the city and I still do, even though I do see myself ever living there agin. London takes time and effort, and the most important, being selective, as it can be overwhelming. I have my favourite spots and district and hang around there, and believe me some parts of the city I have never been and never would go ha ha

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