Can’t wait to leave uni? After one year of living and working in London, you’ll be dead inside
The year immediately after you leave uni and start working in London isn’t glamorous or exciting. It’s a drain on everything that makes you you, a drip on your wrist slowly siphoning out your will to live
As you burst free of the shackles of higher education, an exultant chorus fills the air. “God I can’t wait to leave”, they sing. “To just…get out there in the real world. I’m sick of uni.”
Trust me when I say this: you’ve never been more wrong.
This time next year, you’ll rummage your way to the back of your fridge in ‘East Clapham’, throw those words in the microwave and devour them whole.
Don’t believe me? Read it and weep.
Forget paying under £4 for a pint. Forget finding a table with your mates and chatting shit in a room where you can hear each other speak. Pubs in London are aggressively overpriced and aggressively unfriendly.
Even if you go there with your mates after your long slog at work, you’ll invariably face a fight to get to the bar, daylight robbery when you get there and lose a good three fingers of your pint by the time you get back to the small square of tarmac your posse have managed to semi-carve out for yourself on the road outside.
When people say “London pubs are like nowhere else in the world”, they’re right. They’re polarised into either ‘gastro’ or ‘Wetherspoons’, to the point where they’re shadows of pubs elsewhere.
Remember that never-say-die attitude your body used to have that lets you go out six nights a week? Well kiss it goodbye now – the minute you hit 22 and get a job, your alcohol tolerance goes through the floor.
Couple this with the fact that places you heard were really cool really aren’t. Shoreditch is a scene from The Inbetweeners movie, Dalston is heading the same way and Infernos in Clapham is where your sense of self-preservation goes to die.
With even less reasonable drinks prices than the pubs, you soon realise that you’re probably not going to have a good night out until your stag do. Which is sooner than you think.
Believe it or not, some people actually come to uni because they’re really into what they study.
They like discussing postmodernism in seminars and reading the course material from cover-to-cover. These are the kids who looked on with bright-eyed conviction when their teachers told them that learning can be fun. ‘Yes. Yes it can be fun.’
Maybe they’re right in some ways. Maybe they’ll be even more right after a year of scanning spreadsheet after spreadsheet, making phone call after phone call.
If there’s a part of your mind that really likes life’s higher pleasures, be honest and tell it that London has no time or place for it.
Your life right now is blissfully free of structure. Drink when you want, sleep when you want, screw when you want, go to lectures when you want.
Finding the lack of routine tedious is probably one of the main reasons you can’t wait to leave, right?
On this count at least, London delivers. Get up, go to work, eat lunch, keep working, go home, eat, sleep, get up, go to work, eat lunch, keep working, go home, eat, sleep…until the weekend, when you’re free to do whatever you want, and you’re too tired to do it.
The thing you think you’re probably most looking forward to about having a job is having money. Your first fat fuckin’ pay cheque dropping into your bank account makes a sound loud enough to drown out that little voice in your head that whines about your moral integrity.
And yet London is incredible in that it’s the only place where you seem to get paid a lot and yet never have any money.
Everything is double the price and half the value – it costs £8 to get into a club in supposedly leftfield and ‘vibesy’ places like Dalston.
You know that feeling you get when you go to an ice cream van and they charge you £1.30 for a 99? Get used to it – you’re gonna be taken for a ride at every financial juncture.
Sell your car. Sell it right now. Driving in London is one big game of grandmother’s footsteps which nobody wins.
You can spend the money you get on a bus pass and move just as slowly – or on taxi fares and find out for yourself exactly how true every taxi driver stereotype you’ve ever heard is.
Or you could get the tube on one of the 5 days a year they aren’t closed for engineering works or strikes.
Better still, the Overground – which is about as regular as a constipated pensioner and full of people from Manchester chatting up Eastern European women.
No, your best bet as far as getting round London goes is definitely cycling. At least then there’s a significant chance you’ll be killed by one of the other modes and then won’t have to worry about this shit any more.
There are two main types of Londoniphiles who are going to fuck you off over the next year: the ones who live here and the ones who don’t. The first group are the kind of clefts who can’t stop banging on about loving life in ‘Landan’ or ‘Laaaaandaaaan’ or ‘LDN’, who are baying for a shared identity that couldn’t be less there.
The second group are your mates who are jealous that they don’t live in London yet, who visit you on the weekends and are going to Accenture assessment centres as often as possible so they can get stuck in. You want to tell them to stay out while they can…but you just can’t.
Actually LIVING in London as a so-called ‘young professional’ involves all of the cons of student housing and none of the pros.
Your landlord will still be an arsehole – one who charges you three times what you pay at the moment. You’ll still live in a slightly shit area – only you won’t have a student community around you to take the edge off that.
It’s so bright and noisy that you’ll never, ever, get any sleep.
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You’ll still be responsible for paying your gas, electric and water bills – now with the added thunderball bonus of council tax.
Even if you’re lucky enough to live with some of the same people from uni, you’ll never see them because of the hours you all work.
Enjoy sitting in the dark in Stockwell eating cold beans from the tin with a penknife. Unay.
If you thought you were bewilderingly unlucky in love at uni, you’ve seen nothing yet.
That condom in your wallet will pass its sell-by date before it sees daylight in London, and the only pill you’ll need to be on is Xanax.
Fast forward a year and relationships in London are tricky – either you’re in one and your friends all think you’re massively bumout (especially if the other half is still hanging on at uni like a sheep’s winnet) or you’re not and you won’t be for a while because your monochrome existence has whittled you down into something too ordinary to be considered sexually interesting.
Even Tinder’s proper weird here – sure, there are more people in your radius, but you’ll never actually meet half of them and the rest look like their ideal first date would be an all-expenses paid trip to the Seven Sisters branch of Wickes.
Chances are, in a year’s time, you’ll have the same friends as you do now. Well, I say that – they’ll be the same humans, but very, very different people.
Your sporty mates now seem more into fixed interest dealing than they ever were snakebite, your druggy DJ types have finally found their true creative avenue by selling out to a fuck-off massive advertising firm and that guy off your course is doing a law conversion because it’s ‘a safe, smart and practical option’.
Bits of everyone you know and love are going to start dropping off until all that’s left is the Pimm’s sipping middle-management bores who live in the Surrey belt and watch the PGA tour on the reg.
No-one this young should consider themselves “really into PR”, it’s unnatural.
You’re three months out of uni and already your life’s starting to stink. Long gone are the days of sun-tanning on your roof with a joint and a Bluffer’s Guide to Nietzsche – now it’s full-blown, nose-to-the-grindstone, 9-to-5 corporate cocksucking.
Surely it’s time for a change in company, a change in career even? Maybe you do switch lanes into something else.
But six months in, the chilling realisation hits you: it’s not that YOUR job is shit. It’s that ALL jobs are shit. Retirement’s on the horizon, half a century down the line. Better get back to work.
There is, admittedly, a lot of great stuff to do in London: visiting Shakespeare’s Globe, lounging in the royal parks, urinating on the door handles of #guardiancoffee and the like. You will do none of it in your first year of London.
Everywhere you look, all you’ll see is polished plate glass, suits with Bluetooth headsets and bicycle couriers.
You thought you were beginning a ramshackle Dickensian chapter of your life, like Pete ‘n’ Carl used to croon about? You live in a filler shot from The Apprentice. Accept it.
You’ve got it all sussed now. You’ve worked out why nothing’s as good as you thought it would be – but you don’t know why.
And then it hits you – you’re the problem.
You’re the reason why the papers moan about the gentrification of Brixton- you’re gentrifying it. The reason London pubs are boring is because they’re full of boring people like you. You finally find somewhere a little bit niche and undiscovered, like Peckham – and the next morning VICE publish an article saying it’s been ruined by cunts like you.
Go travelling. Do a Masters if you have to. Just get out while you still can.