Grabbing a classic British cab in front of the Houses of Parliament.

Grabbing a classic British cab in front of the Houses of Parliament.

I’m a little late jumping on this band wagon, and I know at least one fellow blogger has posted her pros and cons about London. Some of ours are the same, but some are different, so I thought I’d throw mine out there anyway for anyone thinking of bidding on London this summer.

There’s also a great little roundup of Copenhagen and other posts and their pros and cons over at The New Diplomat’s Wife.

London: The PROS

Travel – Granted it’s been more expensive than I was hoping for us to travel as a family, but you still can’t beat the proximity to all of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. And if you’re not too picky, there are a bunch of low budget carriers that can get you there for less. You can also take the Eurostar and be in Paris in about the same amount of time as it would take to fly…considering it would take you an hour to get out to Heathrow or Gatwick, and you’d have to arrive the required two hours before your flight.

History & Culture – Even if you don’t get out of the UK, every square foot of these islands has 1,000+ years of history. I’m trying to remain calm when I think of all the things that I haven’t had a chance to do yet. But because the sheer number of possibilities is so overwhelming, I could never do it all anyway.

1st World Convenience – Yes, they speak English, they have (fairly) reliable internet and satellite television,  and my favorite big-city perk…grocery delivery! That’s right, people, I haven’t schlepped my groceries from store to house in almost two years. I hate shopping, and I hate crowds. London grocery stores are tiny as a whole. So this feature has spoiled me silly at less than £5 per delivery.

Transportation – Be it a black cab, the underground tube or a red double-decker bus, London public transportation is safe and reliable…as much as any system can be. We brought our car and really wish that we hadn’t. The government shipped it, but I had to spend about $700 on new tires, emissions tests, fees and other modifications to make it road ready, plus monthly insurance. And we’ve literally only driven it half a dozen times. It would’ve been easier and cheaper just to rent a car now and then. Especially considering the fact that our building only allows you to park in one of their 20 spots for two weeks at a time. We finally just got a city parking pass and left it on the side of the street (and yes, it’s a bit more dinged up now).

Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) – Lots of posts have a bit of a COLA, but London has one of the highest, and it really does make a difference in your paycheck…at least at my level, it does. There are quite a few posts that have a very high cost of living (Tokyo, Moscow, Sydney) but a disproportionately low COLA. So I’m listing this in the pros.

The CONS

Crowds – I used to think I’m a people person, but I’m really not. People exhaust me. Large crowds of people make me want to go into a hole or never come out again. Even in London, one of the greatest retail and fashion cities…I still shop online. Because there are just entirely too many people here…especially in the summer. BUT if you do manage to get off the main streets like Oxford and Regent, you can find some fairly quiet neighborhoods.

New Embassy Split – The US Embassy will be moving in 2017 from its historic address on Grosvenor Square to a new location south of the Thames by Battersea Park. The international schools however will remain where they are. The embassy has already started housing people in residential areas around the new embassy to ease the housing lease transition and make sure there are enough properties available. This has a HUGE impact on the daily commute. So be very aware that there are two distinct locations where you can be housed and at some point your commute is probably going to shift when the new embassy is up and running.

Pollution & Allergies – I hadn’t thought of London as being particularly polluted. It supposedly rains a lot, so the air should be clean, right? And it’s obviously much better than during the Industrial Revolution and better than in the developing world. BUT it actually doesn’t rain as much as I thought it would. And the mild weather means that there are allergens pretty much all year round. And there actually is a significant amount of air pollution in central London. We’ve had chest coughs off and on for most of our tour. You should’ve seen the reports that came out on how much the pollution dropped during the bus strikes!

Expense – It is ridiculously expensive to live in London. That said, it’s not really the cost of things in the city but the exchange rate that kills you. We paid $1200 a month for a lovely full-time daycare in Colorado. In London our son attends a beat-up little nursery school that costs £1010 per month (beyond the government subsidized 15-hours a week)…depending on the exchange rate, that could be $1,500 or $1,900. It’s painful.

Community – I recently read a comment on someone else’s blog stating that community at post is not separated according to rank or job status but according to family status (single vs married vs young children vs older children). And I have certainly found that to be true both here and in Belize, presumably for the basic reason that these are the people you are most exposed to and can plan with. But it’s even worse in London because I know several lovely people that have children our son’s age, but we’ve never gotten together because they go to different schools and are scattered across town. In Belize we had one good set of friends. Here we have one really good set of friends. I guess if you make one good set of friends at each post, you’re doing pretty well. 😉

Advertisements