The whole experience of moving to London is pretty bloomin’ exciting and overwhelming for your brain. At least, it was exciting and overwhelming for me.
Not to the point of crying with happiness/fear. But in a way that makes you marvel at the adventure you’ve embarked upon, and the change you’ve made to your life.
London can be, and is for me, an intimidating spectacle, that has a wealth of opportunity (cliché, vom), encourages frustration and mild irritation, and provides so many sights for the eyes.
The surprises rarely stop when you live in London, which is a stark contrast to Lincoln, a beautiful city that is also very sleepy. A less than positive example would be in Lincoln I very rarely used public transport and I was never once coughed on while waiting for said public transport. Before moving to London, I’d never saw somebody trim their nails on a train before either.
However, it isn’t these sights I’m referring too when I talk about the sensory overload of London.
Instead, I’m talking to the abundance of choice and decisions that London presents to you on a daily basis.
Without much thought I can list three examples of times I’ve been boggled by choice, ranging from which southbound platform to wait at in Camden tube station, to which shop to go into in Oxford Street and the resulting choice between items of clothing that come in each shop. I decided to get some awesome Trend Suspenders, while I was shopping.
Let me be clear that only one of the above examples has led me to stand still with pensiveness (obviously the shopping).
So I’ve been living in London for nine months now.
The extent of the sensory overload is less over time. Maybe I’ve become dulled to London living, but I don’t think so. Instead, I think I’ve just found ways to cope with the abundant choice of London, its places to eat, places to shop, methods of transport and breathtaking views.
Here is how I deal (somewhat) with the sensory overload that London offers.
Have a loose plan before I step out of the door.
I don’t want to kill spontaneity (see my last point), but I’ve found one of the best ways to manage the choice of London is to have a loose plan before I take a step out of the door.
Sounds obvious, maybe. But I used to be able to step out of my door, drive or walk in the direction of the centre of town and call a friend/find a friend/chill out in my favourite coffee shop.
The centre of London is huge. And actually there are about 100,000 ways I can get into the centre of London, and, at least, half of them are going to be affected by line delays or road works or overcrowding.
The sheer size of London also makes making plans with friends difficult. We all have favourite places, different tastes and a north/south London divide.
A loose plan (usually city mapped in some way), means I’ve probably done a little bit of research on the area of London I want to go to. It also probably means I’ve made a loose choice ahead of being caught up in the London rush.
Take a second, and step out of the London rush.
Part of the sensory overload comes from being caught up in the 24/7 rush that is London. Walking out of Oxford Street you are bustled off the tube, up the escalator, through the ticket barriers and up the stairs. When is your time to think?
What about when you’re walking down a borough’s main street, and you’re presented with five pubs and another dozen food places. In my borough alone there are six breakfast/brunch cafes.
Taking a second, stepping out of the bustle. Resting your mind from the adverts, lights, performers and sales will really make your mind re-engage with your thoughts, rather than the shows around you.
I genuinely find everything becomes clearer.
BUT – make sure you don’t just stop mid-corridor, doorway, left-hand side of an escalator or at a ticket barrier because you will be hated… And I don’t condone that type of behaviour.
Ask myself if I really want it.
This one applies to food and clothes equally.
I’ve walked out of the Topshop on Oxford Street, and H & M, because there was too much choice. I have eaten at Tortilla for lunch because I couldn’t choose between the other options.
Maybe I’m not daring enough to chuck myself into a new experience, but I prefer to blame indecisiveness and too much choice.
So now, shortly after I’ve taken my second to reflect on what I’m thinking and my surroundings I ask myself. Do I really want what I’m about to buy? Do I really fancy eating/wearing it? Or would I prefer something else? What was my loose plan when I stepped out of the door?
Of course, sometimes I still don’t have an answer. But 80% of the time it helps, and it saves me money too.
Allow myself to be carried away occasionally.
Finally, sometimes just stop thinking, watching, choosing and allow yourself to be carried away.
Last Saturday night, my loose plan took me to Shoreditch. I was with Chris, so we didn’t rush. We took the time to think about whether we were hungry, or wanted coffee, or where we were heading too once we got out of the tube station.
We were nearly carried away into thinking we need to eat, walking through BoxPark.
But ultimately we didn’t (because we didn’t want to). But we did embrace spontaneity by trying the Cereal Killer Café and by witnessing a rave/protest and kind of half joining in and walking around parts of London we’d never been too before.