Cape Town VS London

You might wonder what happened to my plans to head to London. This is a post about why I decided to live it up in Cape Town instead of roughing it up in London – no offence to all my South African friends in London – we cannot all work at Credit Suisse 🙂

I am not sure what I expected when I went to London last year in October on my fact-finding/ flat-finding mission. I guess somehow it was exactly what I expected, and nothing like what I hoped for.

London Weather Really is Depressing

Weather_CapeTown_VS_London

Capetonians are obsessed with the weather – just check any Instagram feed and you are sure to find at least a handful “in your face – look at this weather” posts. —————————–>>>

So when you mention to a Capetonian that you are thinking of moving to London most of them ask you if this won’t make you SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer. And I guess London weather is a bit depressing (stats by Cape Info):

London Summers are Only One Month Long

Well at least by South African standards. Cape Town spends 6 months of the year (November to April) warmer than London’s warmest month (July).

Average Max Temp

London Skies are Mostly Grey or Black

Even in the midst of the Cape Town winter we still have more hours of sunshine per day than the average Londoner can expect in the middle of summer.

Average Hours of Sunshine

London is Always Wet

I concede, Cape Town is pretty damn wet in June, July and August but it seems London is simply rainy all the time.

Average Monthly Rainfall

Flats are Expensive

First understand this – I cannot house-share. I am 28 years old.  I work from home. I have a boyfriend. He works from home. I hate doing dishes. So does he. I spend most days in pyjamas. So does he. House-sharing would look a lot less like Friends and a lot more like this…

20140118-adam-driver-lena-dunham-girls-scene

So, after exploring some 2-bedroom and then (two minutes after starting my web search) 1-bedroom options I found that, for a mere £1,400 (at the moment – due to a shit exchange rate – about R25,000) per month you can get a 1-bedroom apartment in Putney (where everyone seems to congregate) – with no built-in cupboards (seriously?!?!), excluding council tax and heating.

20140118_Putney-Flat

Don’t be fooled – this flat is small. The suave, suit-wearing real estate agents of London have discovered and fully harness the distortion of a wide-angle shot.

After giving up our flat in Three Anchor Bay, (thinking we were moving to London) and then deciding not to go, we managed to find a new flat in the heart of Sea Point – 100 square metres of bliss with two-bedrooms (one so big you could jazzercise to your heart’s content in all the free space), two parkings and two balconies. And this for R10,500 per month.

20140118_more_jazzercise

To be fair, in real terms you will probably spend as much now on rent as you would in London – i.e. expressed as a percentage of total income. But I still cannot help but feel that choosing to live in London necessary requires you to give up lots of comforts. Not quite the dream life one imagines when you convert UK salaries to rands…

People Walk Fast and Don’t Talk

I remember getting off the plane in India (well getting off any mode of transport in India really) and being harassed by crowds of tour guides/ tuk-tuk drivers/ “friendly strangers”. They all tried to anticipate where you wanted to go and were all so “eager” to help.

London – as tourist destination – is nothing like this. Which in a way is probably a good thing but as a first time traveller to London, making most journeys solo, was daunting. Armed with my CityMapper app I would set off from the Battersea apartment we were renting. Luckily our host had explained how to get to the nearest bus stop, heading either to Clapham Junction in the one direction or Victoria Station in the other. So getting to Clapham/ Victoria was easy enough.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-3kkqXX85c&w=600&h=450]

But that’s when it got tricky. I would head down the escalators, keeping to the right (something I quickly learned not to forget). And then I would lose signal!!! Fair enough – once you get the hang of the different tube lines and start developing a general sense of direction, I am sure navigating the underground is peanuts. But I almost always felt like I had no idea where I was going – caught in a sea of people who did, and who wanted to get there fast.

underground-map

London Underground Map: Surely there must be a simpler way of representing this!!!

On occasion I would be so confused that I would even venture so far as to try and ask people for directions:

  • The first problem is getting people to stop – god forbid they should miss this train and be forced to take the next one in 5 minutes time. I quickly realised my best bet would be to ask people standing on the platform, as they weren’t rushing off somewhere.
  • But then I would be faced with the second problem: headphones.
  • Ultimately I would survey the people around me, and in the hope that (besides the layers upon layers of clothing and sweat drops forming on my forehead) I still looked like a semi-decent, helpless girl, I would find a suit-wearing older man and ask him for help, playing the damsel in distress.
  • Worst part is 90% of the time he also would not know where I should go either, since I had managed to walk onto a platform in completely the wrong direction.

hawaiian shirt

I used to think the 8am queue leading into the parking garage at Old Mutual in Pinelands was the embodiment of the “Rat Race” but rush hour on the London tube is much worse. People move like robots, headphones in their ears to block out the rest of the world. They squeeze onto full trains and dangle from the ceiling support handles, staring blankly into the distance. The discomfort levels rise visibly as the heat of the carriage seeps in through their layers of coats. But they endure it because all too soon they have to squeeze their way off the train again and rush off into the cold London air.

South West London is a Province of SA

Like moths drawn to a flame, South Africans are drawn to South West London, mostly settling in Clapham, Putney, Wandsworth and, of course, Wimbledon. Everywhere you go you hear people speaking Afrikaans, you see shops that stock SA products and you see Nando’s everywhere. And then of course there is The Slug in Wimbledon.

the slug at wimbledon

Everything about this place reminds me of some Claremont student hole: You are greeted by oversized bouncers at the door. The decor comprises mostly Sharks posters and SA flags. The floors are sticky. The bar is lined with creepy, pervy men. They play “classic” songs (i.e. anything from Grease mashups to Roxette, but definitely not anything from the last decade). In other words, really not the type of place I would enjoy in South Africa, let alone in London.

It is kind of sweet just how patriotic South Africans become when they go live abroad. They socialise almost exclusively with other South Africans, or non-South Africans dating their South African friends. They organise “braais” during the 1 month of London summer. They organise elaborate weekend trips to go watch the Bokke play rugby. And they go to The Slug in Wimbledon because it feels like home.

Cape Town is Home for Me

In the end my decision to stay in Cape Town was a simple one. It was more than the issue of money and how expensive it is maintain my current standard of living in London. It was more than the issue of the weather and how depressed London might make me feel. I love South Africa, I love the people here, I feel at home.

*Table Mountain featured image by www.trekkingtripod.com and Good Morning London by www.hdrcreme.com