Gladys Nkengasong moved to the UK from Atlanta, Georgia, in 2021.

Gladys Nkengasong, 27, moved to the UK in 2021 for school and stayed on to work as a consultant. Nkengasong said she doesn’t enjoy British drinking culture and finds people to be less friendly.But she loves how London is livable, walkable, and convenient. Plus, it feels safer than the US. 

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation and emails with Gladys Nkengasong, a 27-year-old consultant who moved to the UK from Atlanta in 2021. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I grew up in a few different places — mainly the Ivory Coast and Atlanta. My parents are diplomats, so we moved around a lot.

I was doing my bachelor’s in Atlanta, and then I moved to England to do my master’s. I started out in Southampton. Then, in 2022, I moved to London.

I always tell people to move to a different country in their 20s — but don’t move to London.

Moving to London can be tough if you’re used to American salaries and social life

I’ve looked into moving to New York. When I saw the rents, I was like, “Oh, this is not feasible.”

I live with a roommate, pretty close to central London. I pay about £1,500 (around $1,880) in rent. We have a few amenities, like a gym and a yoga room.

It is affordable, but I think what makes it unaffordable is the salaries. For my first role after my master’s, I was making £25,000 (around $26,900). My friend who moved to New York when I moved to London started at $80,000. We had the same degree.

In Atlanta, I was making more working part-time than I was full time in London.

Nkengasong said she has had to initiate a lot of social interactions because people in London are less open to making new friends.

People in London tend to stick with friends they formed in school. My therapist was like, “In London, you will be the person who has to initiate a lot.” That’s what I found myself doing, but it gets so tiring.

It can get really lonely. You can go out and spend the whole day and not speak to anyone. Whereas, in Atlanta, at the gas station, someone’s talking to you. You’re at Target, someone’s talking to you.

Something that affected my entire London experience so far is that I run into a lot of people who have a lot of negative sentiments about Americans.

If I meet someone and they’re like, “Oh, where are you from?” I’m like, “Canada.”

Some people love Americans, and then some really don’t. But I didn’t realize how many people didn’t until I moved.

I felt alienated by British drinking culture

In my first job in London, people in the office would always have pub drinks after work. I used to decline a lot.

But then my manager called me into a meeting and was like, ‘We just don’t feel you’re very enthusiastic. It just doesn’t feel like you like being around us.” I had a strong feeling it was because of this pub drink thing.

I don’t drink casually. If I drink, we’re celebrating something.

Socially, a lot of people’s first instinct is to say, “Hey, let’s grab a drink. Let’s go out to this bar, let’s go to this event,” and everyone is drinking. It’s just not my cup of tea. I started noticing that it really alienates you in London.

I started going to the pub, and a month later, my manager was like, “We feel like you’re part of the family now.”

At work at my agency in Atlanta, things weren’t really centered around drinking. If we wanted to do something after work, it would be, like, biking. Or we had a communal area in our office and everyone would go have finger foods, chat, or play a game.

There is so much about London I love — even the gray weather

In the US, when I go into a room or a venue, I’m always hyperaware of all the exits and where to go if something goes wrong.

I have been at a house party that got shot up, and there was only one exit, which was the front door. Everyone was going the same way; I got trampled and sprained my ankle. After that, I never went to concerts. I thought it was just because I wasn’t really a fan of crowds.

When I got to London, I became a concert person because I didn’t have that paranoia — that fear — of gun violence.

Nkengasong pivoted to consulting from working in advertising because the salaries in London were low.

I also really like the weather — I love when it gets cold and I need a jacket.

One of my favorite things about London is anytime people from home come over, I’m like, “Let’s take a trip.” I love that it’s close to Europe and I can get a £30 (around $37) flight to the south of France.

A huge plus for me is how livable London is. It’s extremely walkable. And despite its size, it’s surprisingly convenient. You’re always within reach of a convenience store, ethnic grocery shop, or specialty stores like camera shops.

Every neighborhood has its own character, so you’re bound to find one that speaks to you.

I want to try other cities, but I think I’m just going to end back up in London. I really love London.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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