I’m a life long New Yorker, born in Manhattan and formatively raised around the city. I lack the classic “gimme a cowfee” accent, but my roots and allegiances to New York will always remain strong. This year my wife and I moved across the pond to her home of London. Before our move, I’d been to the great city more times than I can count – but living is different than visiting. Here are just a few reflections on the differences in life on the other side. Apologies in advance to everyone that inevitably ends up offended…

a clock tower and a buildingLondoners Love To Complain About Travel

Perhaps this is a nationwide thing, but I’ll reserve comment to London. Londoners absolutely love to complain about trains, busses, trams, planes, tubes and just about any other possible way to get around. This is of course all despite the undeniable fact that London’s tube system runs circles around New York City and is one of the best in the world. New Yorkers have reason to complain, but they stick to the eye rolls and grunts and under no circumstances talk to strangers.

Everybody Loves An After Work Drink

New York is almost mechanical, surgical even in regards to post work behavior. Everyone floods out of their office, straight onto a train, subway or bus and the journey home begins swiftly. For a few devilish souls, there might be a brown paper wrapped beer for the ride home. But in London, it seems almost everyone goes out for a drink. Pubs flood onto the street and the city is alive and buzzing about 5:30PM. Home by 6? Don’t think so.

Order Is Everywhere

No one likes people who jumps in front of a line, but in London it just might cause you a bruise to the head. In transit stations, concert lines, dinner queues and beyond – order is observed to the highest magnitude. If you try to cut, you just might get cut. In New York you’ll get an eye roll, but in London you just might get an umbrella to the skull. You’ll definitely learn what a “tut” is too.

Wine And Cheese

I’ll admit – this really isn’t a fair fight. Being next door neighbors to France and nearby to Italy, Spain and Portugal creates a ridiculous advantage for wine and cheese lovers. Pound for pound, price for price if you love wine and cheese you can’t do much better than London. Londoners get access to cheeses and wines which would never make it to NYC and even if they did make it, the price difference would be shocking. When it comes to beer though, New York has some pretty excellent microbreweries. That could be a different story.

two glasses of coffee with brown liquidDining Out Is Cheaper

I’m of the strongest opinion that food costs are lower in London than New York. I mean, really Whole Foods, $18 for a slice of Parmigiano Reggiano? The comparative cost of dining out versus cooking in, or grabbing an actual decent microwave meal in the UK are staggering, so restaurants seem to gouge customers less on price in London than New York. In New York, eating anything but a slice of pizza is expensive, and in restaurants, it can be shocking. Like $16 for a glass of wine with dinner.

Less Fair Weather Fans

Many New Yorkers (this one included) say they live and die for their New York Sports, but half way through the season – many have flicked off. Attendance goes down when a team isn’t en vogue or winning titles and only the die hards continue to pile into the stadium. Not in London. Even if a team is going through the most dismal spell in decades, it’s still your team. Londoners have a deeper passion for their sports teams than most New Yorkers. Sorry, but it’s true. Before you ask: Mets, Islanders and Giants. Also for New Yorkers – look up “relegation”.

Boroughs Are Like Continents

A funny commonality between London and New York is that boroughs might as well be different continents. People from North London don’t go to South London. People from Queens don’t go to the Bronx. It’s highly amusing that in both cities, people love, live and dwell in their area. There’s almost a pride in not going to one or the other. Sure, there are exceptions but New Yorkers and Londoners are creatures of habit and they patron their local areas.

Toughness Is Everywhere

You’ve gotta give a nod to both cities. People living in New York and London are tough cookies, and both offer immense pride toward their city. They may complain endlessly about the transport options or new price hikes, but if someone from the outside has a bad word to say about either place, the true grit and toughness of New Yorkers and Londoners comes out in force. I can’t think of two places with stronger character and really, better places to live.

Which city do you prefer – and why?

Thanks to Michele Kropf for the post inspiration.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Weather!!! OMG when was the last time you saw the sun! For 10 minutes last Friday?? That doesn’t count.

    I know it’s not as bad as the world thinks but it is almost always about-to-rain.

  2. I love them both; I remember my first time in NYC, I was not living in London yet at that time, and I was almost shocked at first, too much, a big amusement park to enjoy for a short time, but not made to live in. Then I moved to London, and I got to visit NYC again, and my view has been way different, and better, from the first time, as now I’m already used to live in a big city… still, I’d love to live in London for a loooong time, I’d like to live in NYC, maybe just few months/years…
    ps: people in NY do talk to strangers, a lot, way more than people in London do (though I’m not sure whether you were only referring to the “complains” talk)

  3. I get to London a few times a year, I am back in June (we should grab a pint!). I think you have hit the nail on the head on most points. In the warmer months especially, the after work pub scene is great. You should try walking the Regent Canal after work on day on a warm evening. Very cool. People with wine and beers, sitting by the water.


  4. Ha ha, try being born in Brooklyn and then living in Tokyo where you cannot understand a damn thing and you couldn’t fit in if you even wanted to. Them’s some crazy people. But, as with all things expat, at a certain point you grow cynical and yearn for your world. Write us a nice post in a while about what drives you nuts about the Brits…..

  5. We Brit’s are also obsessed with history, pomp and ceremony and whilst the issue occasionally rears it’s head, a republic is still unthinkable whilst Elizabeth reigns…
    Yet we are fiercely independent as demonstrated by Brexit and remarkably capable for a small island moored off Europe… just think of the range of inventions and ideas that have come from the sceptre isle inc. the world wide web from which you derive your living… ARPA hardware but a Brit democratised it and tried to make it useful “for everyone”
    I sometimes say the Brit’s live what the Americans dream but the truth is that we are still a society divided by class (which isn’t the same thing as wealth).
    Oh and finally, the US of A surely has better national airlines in terms of value and service (something which was the reverse a decade ago).

  6. I could go on a rant about how Londoners are among the fakest people on this planet when they open their mouthes or how New Yorkers in the workplace only care about themselves and the job is exactly that. A job. there’s no workplace loyalty. But i digress

  7. My observation about London and New York is that they are remarkably similar, when you look beneath the surface, and growing more similar. They are both hard-working cities which offer huge rewards to the successful. They both have amazing arts and culture, amazing food and demand the very highest standards for everything. The Londoners I know who have lived in NYC love it, and the New Yorkers I know who have lived in London love it. They each offer an overlay of difference to make it interesting but at heart they share the same value systems.

  8. Los Angeles, best city in the world. Sure I was born and raised here, but I’ve lived in both NYC and London. Your last point is exactly why LA tops both cities. People take life less seriously here and actually enjoy it. Could give a rat ass what outsiders think. The harsh weathers do affect those cities’ citizens πŸ™‚

    1. I lived in LA for a year, and it’s one of the few cities on earth I miss. I agree with you. Minus the driving everywhere bit.

      1. driving everywhere. tell me about it! visit LA a few times a year. thats the only pain. esp no parking when you need it (for restaurants etc).

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