London vs NYC: how do they stack up?

In the 3 months since I moved to London the number one question that I’ve been asked by everyone from classmates to relatives to strangers is how it compares to New York City, my hometown. Overall, I think the two cities have very similar vibes but some aspects I just can’t help but compare. So, for the curious, I’m pleased to present the definitive comparison list:  


Subway System: Londoners are shocked when I proclaim my undying love for the Tube, but it’s true. The NYC subway may run 24/7 (ostensibly) but you lose a little piece of your soul every time you miss your train and see that the next one isn’t for another 18 minutes. Or when one of the nigh-omnipresent signal malfunctions strands your train between Manhattan and Queens during rush hour. Or when the train goes express with no warning. Miss a train here and the next one will arrive in 2 minutes and you won’t have to stare at the sea of garbage on the tracks while you wait. Also, the Tube has adorable mice —the NYC subway has rats the size of your forearm and they are not afraid of you. WINNER: LONDON  

Shops: I saw an ad on the Tube calling London “the city that never sleeps” and I just can’t take that from a town where a majority of stores close at 5 pm on Saturdays. WINNER: NYC 

Weather: This one’s a no-brainer—drizzle and fog have a certain mystery-novel appeal, but sometimes a girl just wants to see some sunlight, you know? The odds of that here seem pretty slim, especially considering that the sun set at 3:50 pm today. Plus, the air quality can make me feel like I’m constantly standing behind a city bus. WINNER: NYC 

Parks: This is a tough one. Many people assume that the only park in NYC is Central Park, which is simply not true. New York has no shortage of beautiful green spaces to let you get some distance from city life. One the other hand, London is 47% parkland and green space in church courtyards and even graveyards is much more accessible to the public. It doesn’t hurt that Imperial’s South Kensington campus is just minutes away from Hyde Park. WINNER: LONDON 

Pizza: Just to clarify, when I say pizza I don’t mean the “sit down at a restaurant and order a whole pie” variety. The best pizza in my book is the kind you can buy by the slice and eat with one hand while walking down the street. You can get that anywhere in NYC; the closest I’ve found here is Voodoo Ray’s. Plus, NYC has an extra level of pizza greatness in the form of 99-cent pizza, which is basically its own institution. WINNER: NYC 

Museums: You had me at “free admission”. WINNER: LONDON 

Monetary Transactions: Contactless cards have yet to become mainstream in the US, so it is a welcome and satisfying change to be able to make nearly every purchase here with just a tap of my card. On the other hand, I do use cash for some things and the UK has an excessive amount of coinage. Those one and two-pound coins really weigh you down. WINNER: DRAW 

Groceries: I love UK supermarkets to the point where I could write an entire post solely dedicated to them (and maybe will, so keep an eye out). The meal deals are a lifesaver when I’m in a hurry. The only downside is that snacks are far too affordable—what do you mean can get a packet of custard creams for 19p? WINNER: LONDON 


Overall winner? Hard to say—the pizza thing is a pretty big deal breaker for me. Regardless, I’ve loved getting to know London and can’t wait to keep exploring throughout the rest of my course. Arbitrary comparisons aside, it’s an amazing city and I count myself truly lucky to be able to study here.

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