Real London life is not about being super rich, it’s about having class and some sass
Money. We’ve been programmed to believe this word will haunt our generation. Just its mention conjures up imagery associated with a red circle around deficit numbers: debt, the banking crisis, Greece. Being a student in London in our current economic climate where inflation is inevitable – constantly highlighted in news’ articles, suggesting the commute from Barcelona to London would be cheaper than actually living here – it is reasonable to say ‘the future is bleak’.
But it doesn’t have to be. While our society has been injected with the idea that constant consumerism is key it can be difficult, especially as a young adult, to resist the urge to buy these futile products and in turn we neglect purchasing items of actual value, that enhance our health, culture and well-being.
First and foremost is the issue of food. Living in and around central London it is understandable that the quality of food may be of a lower priority than let’s say, getting fed. But in our consumerist nature and tendency towards aesthetically pleasing packaging and popular branding, it is possible that we often overlook opportunities to save in this area, especially given the appealing urge to eat out with friends over the idea of having to cook after a long day. Here is a short list of some simple but perhaps overlooked ways to maintain a healthy diet and wallet.
- Buy the reduced berries and fruits on offer, especially grapes and blueberries. Freeze them down and use for smoothies, cooking, or just a healthy snack.
- Carrots are one of the cheapest vegetables on the market with certain supermarkets currently offering 3 for 2 on packets of 300 grams. Carrots can be used for a variety of different recipes from soups to smoothies to salads. You can even have them as a snack and dip them into humus.
- Fruits like apples and bananas have a longer shelf life than typical tropical fruits and berries so buy these to pad out your vitamin intake and for snacks. When the bananas start to brown put them in the freezer and use for smoothies or banana bread.
- Pulses and grains. Bulk up on foods like pasta, rice, lentils and bread, all in moderation of course. These are often the cheapest ingredients and last the longest in terms of shelf life as well as time taken to eat. These food groups often provide relevant nutrients and carbohydrate to keep you fuller for longer so you snack less.
- Eggs are often reasonably priced and have a decent shelf life. They can be added alongside most foods and in recipes and can be whipped up quickly to cure hunger pangs.
- Potatoes are another cheaper but substantial vegetable and are perfect for adding extra roughage to a meal.
Transport in London can also be a considerable factor with regards to saving money when having to commute to work or university. The London Tube is one of the most expensive underground systems around the world as tickets are nearly double the price compared to cities such as Paris and New York, even when obtaining an Oyster Card. Unfortunately for some Londoners transport via tube is essential, but it is important to consider using other methods such as the bus, cycling or walking whenever possible. During the summer especially, it is important to question whether taking a 15 minute tube journey in a claustrophobic, perspiration-filled clammy train is overall a better means than cycling for perhaps double the time, or walking and taking a bus. After a long day it is understandable that some prefer to get home in a timely manner, but as well as the potential health benefits and money saved, it is worth trying another method and considering whether it is also viable.
Finally broaching the subject of entertainment. In London we are blessed to have on offer to us world-renowned festivals, museums, art galleries and theatres. Yet that omnipresent word seems to serve as a confining factor when actually pursuing an activity.
A lot of Londoners seems to forget and perhaps even suppress the knowledge that the city is home to some of the world’s best museums in an attempt to avoid ambling tourists at all costs. But it has been suggested over the past years and most recently last week in the Evening Standard that our beloved free museums may not stay that way in years to come; the Science Museum for example, has already started to charge visitors. Obviously there are no immediate plans to instigate admission prices, but it is essential for Londoners not to take these cultural venues for granted and instead make use of the wonderful historical artefacts and pieces of artwork provided in London’s museums.
Another form of entertainment that is constantly overlooked by students and young people living in the city is the theatre, thought to still be a luxury outing. In many cases this is true, but luckily there are some ways around this. If you are under 25 or a student there is the option to subscribe to many theatres’ websites for discounted tickets, for example: The National Theatre, The Barbican Centre, The Old Vic, The Royal Opera House. Tickets are offered from around £5 with some genuinely decent seats if booked in advance. Matilda the Musical at The Cambridge Theatre also offers £5 day tickets to students, but prepare for long queues starting from 8 am. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre also offer £5 standing day tickets, so if your legs can bear it and you fancy improving your knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays, this is an excellent way to do so.
London in summer is plenteous in offering festivals and markets during the summer months and by regularly looking on TimeOut London you are bound to discover something new and exciting to do everyday. Brick Lane Market and Notting Hill Carnival are definitely worth noting, as these areas are vibrant, with many quirky shops and food stalls where you are certain to find something of interest. The South Bank area is also constantly booming with activity, from street performers to pop-up food stalls to the skate park. This is also a tourist hub though, so best to avoid it around midday and early afternoon.
Surrounded by the constant reminder that London is progressively closing its doors to Britain’s youth, by becoming an exorbitant and overpriced luxurious European equivalent to Dubai, it is important for us as the modern generation to remember the many events and activities constantly on offer. Perhaps this may be the case in the near future when our historic London as we know it, may be subject to even more New Yorker skyscrapers with glass-plated walls, which the city has already condoned.
But it is defiance that is key when being told that by not being one of the world’s elite it is near impossible to survive or live comfortably in London. It is London’s youth that gives the city its rugged charm and it is this feature that will continue to advance the city to its promising future while helping it resist adapting to societal expectations.