In Defence Of Living Up North

London isn't some mythical wonderland we're too poor and uncultured to live in - most of us just would just rather stay where we are


by Zoe Delaney |
Published on

‘Have you ever thought about living in London, Zo?’ I’m asked at least twice a week. ‘Have you ever thought about shutting the hell up?’ isn’t usually the response I go for – but it’s how I feel. I’m ready to snap at the next person who suggests that moving to London is the answer to all my problems, as if my little Northern mind has never contemplated the idea.

Believe me, If I wanted to live down there, I’d be there – sweating on the tube, moaning about the cost of living and all the other things that Londoners seem to do. I’m fed up of justifying why I don’t want to live in the supposed greatest city in the UK.

The pro-London, anti-everywhere-else-in-the-UK sentiment came up again last week when a Wetherspoons chairman lamented that it’s grim up North. ‘You only have to drive around to see with your own eyes the extent of pub closures in the North,’ he said – citing the booming gastropub scene, complete with plates of capriccio and Manhattans and Margaritas in the South as a contrast. Yawn. This is coming from a chairman of Wetherspoons – it’s grim in a Wetherspoons, mate.

Luckily, the North has an abundance of high-end eateries and bars so I rarely have to sample their ‘famous’ burger & beer deal.

Dissing the North is nothing new and it’s pretty sad that this debate is still occurring in 2014.

It’s assumed that everyone who wants to could up sticks and move to London – and it’s practically ignored that that’s not a choice everyone has.

In the midst of the BBC’s move to Salford, Sebastian Shakespeare wrote a piece entitled, ‘Just admit it’s grim up north, and let the BBC stay at home.’

‘I have nothing against Northerners,’ he so nobly declared. ‘Apart from their inferiority complex about the capital which they nurse like a centuries-old grudge.’ What inferiority complex? It seems the only people who bang on about the North-South are Southern based figures, not so-called ‘bitter’ Northerners.

But I can’t help but think that we’re missing the point. First up, it’s assumed that everyone who wants to could up sticks and move to London – and it’s practically ignored that that’s not a choice everyone has. I’m a newly trained journalist and while I’d love to see a future for myself in writing full time, not that many people are willing to pay for words right now. Sure, ‘perks & freebies’ or ‘exposure to readers’ are offered in return for a 16-hour shift but they’re not happily accepted as forms of payment by my landlord.

I currently rent a spacious two-bedroom flat in a desired location in Liverpool city centre for a very reasonable £550pcm. A quick look at the latest stats show I could be paying that much in just one week for a one-bed in Central London (W1)! It just doesn’t look that feasible for me – or a whole load of ambitious graduates currently leaving university with an average debt of £20,000 (over £40k with the new fees) and entering a job market which now sees over 160 applicants battle it out for each graduate position. Bleak.

Liverpool’s a prime example of a northern city thriving in business and swimming in culture.

But you know what – even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. I’m 25 and have lived in Liverpool ever since moving here from Preston for university. Yes, maybe once or twice on a hangover day I’ve toyed with the idea. But on days like that I’ve also toyed with the idea of getting a pixie crop (I’ve got a lot of face, it wouldn’t work) or faking my own death (I needed a good excuse to get out of a date).

My career in journalism can exist here thanks to that new-fangled tool of democratisation: the internet. In fact, I’m currently writing this article from a coffee shop (oh the cliché) in Liverpool city centre. Because guess what? Yes, we do get broadband up North. Along with two-bedroom flats that don’t require you to sell a kidney, supermarkets that also stock avocado and kale and – believe it or not – culture, too.

Liverpool’s a prime example of a northern city thriving in business and swimming in culture. The 2014 Biennial, Brazilica Festival, Sound City, African Oye, The Giant Spectacle – there’s a million and one things going on this year in Liverpool alone. We’ve even been trusted to host The International Festival of Business this summer which has been an amazing success – although, my other job as a Business Development Manager has required me to attend many events where I’m subjected to the dreaded ‘Fancy moving to London?’ question.

Before you think I’m one of those typical Northerners who detests London or refers to it as ‘that London’ (note to any script writers – no one up North actually does that), I’m not. I’ve nothing against London – it’s OK. I’ve visited a good few times this year for various reasons, and I’ve even managed to get stuck with a Boyfriend from London.

But every time I’ve come back with the same opinion – it’s all right. To me, it’s like a lot of average towns stuck together with a nice centre piece. No restaurant or bar has ever surpassed any one I’ve been to in Liverpool. And any that has, has been downgraded due to the fact it took about three hours to get there and we had to leave early to make the tube back – or fork out for an overpriced taxi.

Don’t get me wrong, London has some amazing tourist attractions but that’s precisely what they are, tourist attractions. Living and working down there, especially with little disposable income, wouldn’t see you frequently taking advantage of the fantastic West End shows or spending your dinner hour on The London Eye.

London isn’t some mythical land that we’re all too poor or uncultured enough to live in – most of us just choose not to

At this point I’d like to point out that anyone who’s thinking, ‘Oh, you just don’t get it,’ stop patronising me. It takes just over two hours for me to get to London direct from Liverpool, where sometimes it takes me longer to get to my hometown of Preston that’s a mere 37 miles away.

It’s far from ‘Grim up North’ (urgh, what a horrid phrase) and there are actually cold, hard facts to back this up! A recent survey to find the ‘happiest place to live in Britain’ saw the Top 10 swamped with northern locations while east London won the dubious title of unhappiest place to live. It revealed that residents of Hull, Harrogate and Preston (whay!) were generally more satisfied and happier in life than those living in upmarket parts of the South.

London isn’t some mythical land that we’re all too poor or uncultured enough to live in – most of us just choose not to. London is no longer the big geographical goal in life for young people now, it’s just one of many cities in the UK that can offer one a good career and lifestyle.

But on that note, Northerners living in London, you need to rein it in. Do everyone a favour and stop banging on about how you ‘miss real chippies’ – I miss butter pies from Preston and prefer Lancashire Hot Pot to Liverpool’s Scouse but I don’t bore everyone with my dietary desires.

Stop moaning about the price of drinks. I’ve gotten drunk in London and cities up north and the prices are pretty similar, unless you’re in the wrong area, which is the same everywhere. Stop making out people mock your accent. Stop being a token. Stop making out you’ve emigrated when, in fact, you’ve moved a couple of hours away.

Because seriously. If you’re going to move to a city that’s expensive and where you don’t know anyone, fuck it – you may as well move to New York.

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Follow Zoe on Twitter @zoeyak

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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