My Royal Love-Hate City
Dear London, it's been eight years since I've known you. It feels like yesterday, that I met you for the first time. My first thought as I arrived at Liverpool Street Station and stepped outside to see you in your architecture in all of its ancient looking glory was: „Wow, it’s so royal here!“
As the capital of the United Kingdom you do have a royal flair about you that makes you so very special in that way . You are grand and so are your people. While it may have been love at first sight we did have some awkward first dates. Some days your English accent was really a challenge for me. I would struggle to understand some of your residents eventually learning to pick up the nuances of your English, Welsh, and even after much effort Scottish dialects. I mistook the formality and shyness of your residents as one of a lack of warmth and you laid your coldness upon your residents like a big wet blanket. Sometimes I didn’t want to leave the house and would rather curl up inside in my own blanket.
Don't get me started on your weather. A lot of people think that it rains in London all of the time, but that's not really the case. Mostly you provided an elegant drizzle, that I actually didn’t mind. But hey what's up with your clouds? In the morning I used to pull up the blinds and I got depressed right away.
„Please no not again. Those overhanging suffocating grey clouds! Back to bed!“
Maybe you don't know the Bavarian sky. The pretty white and blue clouds floating up in the air. You also don't seem to like the clear blue skies I guess, as you rarely provided those. You just loved grey or you liked to change your mind several times during the day. Never in my life did I care so much about the weather and lack of consistent sunshine then when I lived in London.
Being a Bavarian, let alone Franconian, I sometimes questioned your comfort food which you deliver via the Sunday Roast. You have so many wonderful cozy old pups like my favourites the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping and The Gun in the Isle of Dogs, all of which have so much history. But why do you close the pubs at 11PM? I never understood why and was shocked when I heard „Last Round“ for the first time. You are such an international metropolis but your tube stops running at midnight. That always irked me as in little Munich the U-Bahn runs way beyond midnight.
You have a lot of international people living in your city so most of my friends were expats from countries like Turkey, Brazil, Sweden, Ireland, Poland, the US, it goes on. I don’t know why my husband and I didn’t have that many British friends. Our local neighbours in Wapping didn’t really mingle with the foreigners. Perhaps it was also just us expats being exclusive in our own bubble. I couldn’t understand it maybe it was due to lack of perspective. Then out of nowhere, hello Brexit! By the way, as a European I obviously think that was a mistake. And I have to be honest with you, you changed for me that day. Unfortunately, in my eyes not in a positive way. So maybe it's OK that we part ways for now so you can walk this path alone and figure out your identity.
Oh dear London, during all the discomfort somehow I found love. As cloudy, pub and tube time sensitive, exclusive, and cold as you are, at the same time you're just so wonderful. Your delicious unbeatable Indian restaurants no matter the budget (hello Dishoom in Shoreditch). You have festivals, very old buildings, a royal flair, beautiful parks and even after all those years I still find neighborhoods that I've never seen before. There's always something to discover. Your streets are an endless puzzle filled with surprises. You have the best of everything and you bind the people with so much diversity to your cosmopolitan self. I realised this incrementally until one day coming from the airport I took a black cab late at night and while we drove over the London Bridge I looked over and saw the Tower Bridge lit up. I smiled and a strange thought popped into my head:
I was surprised and then I realised that you secretly and slowly made your way into my heart.
Now that it’s goodbye it actually hurts to leave you behind. You in all of your mega city wonder you challenged me and because of you I am stronger and tougher than I was eight years ago. You showed me who I really am. I saw the world in new colors and felt the big outside world holding your hand. You pulled me out of my comfort zone and showed me what's possible when I am brave. In the process also showing me how life feels when you're taking a chance: exciting and adventurous.
To be honest I'm a little bit overwhelmed, that saying goodbye to you is so damn hard. You showed me that I can still be light-hearted although I lost a bit of my naive world view from my experience in small city living in Germany. With you I stepped into being more of a grown up. And now it feels like a chapter closes. And a new move abroad is ahead.
Like Peter Pan I would rather keep flying with you and never grow up. London you became a great friend through all of the growing pains we’ve experienced together. You're always honest and never fake, always showing your true and complicated self. I love you and hate you. I will never let go of you completely and won't say goodbye but see you soon. We will be friends forever and you’re now an inseparable part of me. Thank you London for showing me what growing pains feel like. I will never forget you. And I know you always will be there and will welcome me back with your unique indifferent manner. Not with open arms but maybe a cold extended hand. No worries I no longer need a safety blanket and learned how to live with you in my own unique way as a citizen of the world.
See you soon!
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