London is undoubtedly unique. A British metropolis characterised by landmarks such as Big Ben and Tower Bridge; its iconic red double-decker buses and its agile black cabs. But then, it is so much more. It is, actually, all the world. There are people of all ethnicities, of all religions, of every thinkable and unthinkable fashion. In addition, London has a huge LGBTQIA+ community, which I find highly refreshing and which makes me think – and hope! – that discrimination is diminishing. Many people still have prejudices about LGBTQIA+ people, as they do for those with a different shade of skin, religion or culture. Nevertheless, I don’t know of any other place with such a high diversity of people. Despite all the prejudices that still exist in the world, I think that London is one of the most open-minded cities in the world.
Within three months of living in London, my number of openly gay friends doubled. Alright, I happened to move into a rainbow-friendly flat share for the last six weeks of my stay. When I met my flatmates, we immediately clicked and after two days, it felt as if I had been living there forever. Whenever we met in the kitchen, we got stuck talking about everything under the sun. But to me, our mixture of nationalities was by far more outstanding than our sexual orientation. One of my flatmates was Italian and the other one British with a Pakistani background. I brought in my Swiss nationality as well as my Italian, Dutch and Indonesian origins. The Spanish boyfriend of one of my flatmates, who stopped by regularly, added even more flavour to our international clique. This is what I mean by diversity in London: When you come together with Londoners, chances are high that it becomes a very multi-cultural gathering. It never stopped fascinating me. It makes London very colourful, and I truly loved it.
Studying for a semester at the University of Westminster gave me the opportunity to feel a bit like a Londoner, even if only temporarily. I became a member of the Yoga Society and the Film Society. For three months, I enjoyed exceptionally good yoga classes and very interesting film screenings every week – for just a handful of pounds. There are hundreds of student societies, and being a member allows you to go out, make friends, learn new things and have fun. Even if you are on a really tight budget. I found that the weather is not as bad as people say and that the food is much, much better than they say. This is thanks to the fact that you find specialities from all over the world in every corner of the city.
I loved the small local theatres where I saw many plays of extremely high quality. I could hop across the street and see if they still had a free seat, and if not, come back another night. And oh, the local pub! That place where you can stop by any time of day or night, have a drink, a tea, a coffee. You could have a productive afternoon there or a lazy one. You could enjoy a meal, a chat, a poetry slam or a pub quiz. Yes, I had a local pub and I really miss it. So I think I am entitled to say that I genuinely felt at home in London. Will I return? Sure enough. Diversity connects.
More about my time in London can be read at: www.londonfromthebackdoor.wordpress.com
Interesting posts for future students from abroad: The Journey Begins, No 73 to Stoke Newington, See the city, London taking shape, Varieties of English, Mercato Metropolitano, Settling in for good, About Martians, At the station.