These are the things and ideas/values from London I would import into my “ideal country”, in addition to my friends, of course.
The sense that I am “at the centre of it”
I moved to London for its “centrality”. It is often the place where you’ll find the best art in Europe, be it music, painting or theatre, but also some of the most exciting bars and restaurants, and the coolest shops (even if in that regard Milan wasn’t too bad).
I work in very central London (Holborn/Covent Garden) and I – stupidly perhaps – get an adrenaline kick in the morning from the hustle and bustle of traffic, and from thinking “I am in London”.
The international character
I run no risk of losing my Italian language skills in London. My hairdresser is from Genova, the guy who sells me sushi at my local Abokado is from Puglia, one of my very good friends moved from Milan to London six months before me … and the Italian expat community is large and welcoming. And it’s not only the Italians I can meet easily: my London friends hail from France, Ireland, Australia, Greece, etc. Some days it feels like being an Erasmus student again – a most delightful feeling.
English (as it is spoken in the UK)
It’s always been my favourite language (since I’ve started learning any, that is). Being able to speak English every day, with native speakers, is a source of joy for me.
The irony, the banter, the teasing, the wit: call it as you want, it pervades all aspects of life in the UK. And it makes it so much better.
There is a sense of freedom when you live in London. When it comes to fashion or behaviour, everything is permitted, no one ever raises a brow, provided you don’t create actual nuisance. Imperturbable and unperturbed, British people mind their own business.
I am probably known for having a slight tendency to overdress. Unlike in Italy, where people scrutinise (dissect?) your outfit, or in Belgium, where the consensus seems to be that you should not stand out, in London I feel free to dress exactly as I want. Bring on glitter! Bring on colour! Bring on elaborate dresses and high heels in the office, even though the de facto uniform is chequered shirts + jeans + trainers (for the men).
The general good working, the efficiency
Buses that run 24/7, fast customer service that actually is a service, : London works. Which is good, given its size and the number of inhabitants (nearly as many as the whole of Belgium).
The UK is not particularly renowned for its own gastronomic culture (yes, this is a euphemism). Things have greatly improved over the past 15 years though, and TV cooking shows and cooking classes are all the rage. There are a number of British specialities I go mad about, like cream tea (the prospect of eating scones with clotted cream and thick jam invariably makes me ecstatic), but the nicest thing about food in London is that the choice is endless. Whatever continent your taste buds fancy eating from tonight, you will find something to satisfy you.