1 September 2013

A graduate's guide to living and working in London.


As I face the reality of my seventh official working week in London (um, where did the time go?), I've realised how much I've learned in under two months. 

These lessons range from everyday, working and fashion, so even if you're not a 21 year old female graduate working in beauty PR like I am, I'm sure you'll take something away from my (sometimes mortifying) experiences.

1. Firstly, I have learned to embrace the fact that anything goes in London. Even in suburban areas, no one bats an eyelid at anything, I swear. I learned this after doing an unplanned all nighter at a friend's in Hertfordshire and had to commute back to mine the next day. I'd had quite possibly the most epic fail of a fall down a fancy club's stairs thanks to my heels, and after that, I didn't fancy wearing them . Now, if I'd been in York, or in my small village in Buckinghamshire, walking barefoot down the street would raise a few eyebrows. But walking between the Northern and Piccadilly line, no one even looked at me, because looking at someone in London implies you're a mass murderer/sex pest. Brilliant! The "anything goes" thing applies to clothes and make up, too. Want to wear a fancy dress, converse and a bright yellow anorak? Do it! Dare to wear smoky eyes AND bright berry lips (totally on trend for A/W, btw)? Go crazy! It's really quite cool.

2. The tube is a necessary evil, especially in the heat. If you're travelling on the tube in the heat wave, DO NOT WEAR PASTEL COLOURS. I've lost count of the amount of men in expensive looking pastel blue/pink/lilac shirts who have fallen prey to biological reactions and had their outfits ruined by unattractive sweat patches. Stick to dark colours, and cotton, especially if what you're wearing is fitted. There is nothing worse than standing in front of people, feeling a bit sticky and becoming increasingly paranoid that YOU have too joined the sweat patch club. URGH.

3. General tube wear: girls, if Zooey Deschanel travelled by tube, she would lose all her dignity. Fit-and-flare dresses and skater skirts ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND. I learned this the hard way on my first day of work. It was hot, so I was bare-legged, and I was wearing a denim skater skirt. Enough said. For work, either wear tights with flippy skirts and dresses, or embrace androgyny and invest in some cigarette trousers. Or if you can't bear the transition from skirt to trousers, stock up on pencil skirts or midi dresses.

4. Not everyone is London is horrible. Yes, some people are absolute monsters, especially on the tube, but it's funny the way people can come together when crammed into a claustrophia-inducing space. For instance, many people do give up their seats for you (or maybe I look pregnant some days, who knows?). People rush around until they realise they are well and truly screwed for getting to work on time, and then they relax. I had a lovely conversation with commuters after having to wait 5 trains at St Pancras to get on the Northern Line, and when a train with a tiny amount of space DID arrive, they encouraged me to get on because I'd been waiting longer. N'awwww.

5. Unless you only travel on the Jubilee Line, you will hear the announcement "Trains between X and Y are delayed due to a person under a train" at least once a week. Sad, but true.

6. Going out in London is nothing like going out anywhere else in the country. It's a nightmare. Even when you plan where to get a nightbus, you have to know the directions to get to the nightbus... Which isn't going to happen when you're drunk. Get street-wise. Make sure you know the area, even if it's just a few roads - anything that can help you with navigation. And whatever you do, remember that even when you've been thrown out of McDonald's and need shelter in the pouring rain, it is never okay to jump on the next bus you see. It won't get you home any quicker (but it will keep you warm).

7. London is expensive. Get over it. Rather than dwelling on how much you used to spend (I did this for the first week and ended up boring my colleagues to death with "I just spent £4.80 on a panini. ON A PANINI!) get some perspective and learn where the better deals are. Also, remember you're in London and you're paying for the luxury of being in one of the coolest cities in the WORLD.

8. Leading on from my last point... If anything is free... JUMP AT THE OPPORTUNITY, because god knows there aren't many fun free things to do in London (the National Portrait Gallery loses its charm after a few visits). For instance, a director of our company left at the end of last week, and the news that there was going to be a ton of free alcohol at a bar about 10 minutes walk from the office spread like WILDFIRE. Everyone went... We basically took over the outside area. There's nothing better than getting sozzled after a long week on good quality prosecco and not having to pay a penny. WARNING: if you drink a lot and plan to go home on the tube, go to the loo at the last minute. I had to call my dad to pick me up from the station because I was worried I wouldn't make the walk home...

9. Be a good tourist. Taking photos is FUN. Getting lost is an ADVENTURE. Being frivolous is LIBERATING. Just please don't be that person that stops suddenly in the street and causes a pile up to check that, yep, you haven't had your wallet stolen (because being in London is like starring in Oliver Twist).

10. Enjoy it! Yes, it can be grimy, and tiring, and overwhelming, but give yourself time to breathe and everything will be fine. Especially if you follow all of the above.

You're welcome.

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