Even though the cosmopolitan crown goes to London, it not always mean that life in the city is a great coffee-coloured carnival. For good or bad.
London is a true cosmopolitan capital city. 32% of Greater London Metropolitan area residents were born outside England without taking into account the city’s second- and third-generation immigrants. More than 300 languages are spoken everyday. 50 non-indigenous communities with populations of 10,000 or more. Virtually every culture or religion in the world can claim a handful of Londoners. Find out more on London migrant numbers following the UK statistics tag of this blog.
However, it is a cold melting pot: Londoners are not known for their warmth. Few foreigners can claim a handful close british friends. Brits are best known for their reserve and politeness often being caught in this “Mind your own business” tagline. Some call it tolerance. Some see it as some sort of indifference.
Yet the city is still attractive to a lot of foreigners. Why? Because it is a place of business; people come to London for the money. But money is not why they stay, nor will you ever want to stay for the weather, really. So why? Well, there are few reasons I can find so far.
1. LANGUAGE: nowadays fluency in English is a plus, if not compulsory to many of European born. The most popular second language is the one spoken by all in the UK but do not be fool by this: Londoners also have a specific slang and local vernacular made of politeness and unspoken truth. It takes time to understand what a colleague really want to express. Here a guide of what British people say vs. what they really mean that might come handy.
2. FOOD (but not the way you think). The British lack of strong culinary tradition that translates into a unique affinity for foreign food of every kind and the capacity to adopt it as if their own – the unmistakably English tea or chicken tikka masala. Londoners’ enthusiasm for foreign food creates thousands of jobs for immigrants and makes the establishment of new communities much easier. Every Sunday, on Bricklane, you can lunch on food from more than 50 different countries. Every big city in the world has its Chinatown and its kebabs but none has so many possibilities nor the opportunity to buy the ingredients to make it all again at home.
3. MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS: London starts growing on you: while you expect to go back home after a while, home is no longer what it felt like; you start missing the vibrancy of the city, the cockney accent and the flat white. Especially, you don’t come to London like you go to New York. You go to New York embracing the American dream. You come to London to be yourself.
4. VIBRANT ECONOMY: You can start a business in one day, enjoy the lowest tax rates of the whole EU and a flexible labour market that enables someone to be hired quite fast and without too much paperwork formalities. The UK economy has been the fastest to recover of the recent financial crisis, attracting many south Europeans to come over, for more than just temporary jobs and internships.
London, maybe experienced by many migrants as a cold city, but full of opportunities for pretty much anyone who is up to it. A multicultural city in the numbers, perhaps just in appearance for the many critics that argue this British multiculturalism does not make people mix but at least, unlike its European counterparts the UK has not yet seen the rise of extreme right wings in national elections yet – even though UKIP and anti-immigration rants are never far away. Fingers crossed, Britain, and London ahead will resist (again).