Lorna Keane, 28, is a writer from Kilkenny who recently made the move to London. She studied Journalism and Media Studies and holds an MA in Writing, Theory and Visual Culture. Having spent several years living abroad and working in education, she developed a passion for travel and politics, and is currently building a career in online news and media.
By Lorna Keane
‘Life in the fast lane’… As one of the world’s most successful economic and cultural hubs, for life in the megacity that is London, this seems an apt description.
A thrilling prospect for some, and the stuff of nightmares for others, the English capital proudly embraces its daunting image, simultaneously alluring and repelling.
Many despise the idea of making the move to the capital, and for good reason – It’s big, loud and expensive, packed with under-paid twenty-somethings desperately seeking direction. So why do so many thousands persist to cross the Irish Sea every year for a taste of the London life?
For me, I was struck by the city’s youthful resilience. The long working hours don’t seem to faze the throngs of young people cramming together every night outside corner pubs, and the low wages haven’t prevented the Irish expats from building tight-knit communities and setting up camp in various hotspots around the city.
It’s fast, fun and vivacious. Away from the comforting familiarity of Dublin, I love the somewhat frightening anonymity of London that presents every possibility of a new and exciting adventure.
Yes, the fast-paced lifestyle takes some getting used to; at peak times (aka all day) the heavily-populated streets are overrun with smartly-dressed business people pushing past the obstacles as they make the awkward journey to and from work.
And it’s not only them, because in London, everyone is in a hurry, and everyone seems to share a peculiar enthusiasm for the sport of queuing.
Nonetheless, you soon find yourself marching along in tandem at a heightened pace and reluctantly joining the lengthy queues on every street corner as the buzz, life and pleasant chaos of the city pulls you in.
For us Irish, there’s still that widely acclaimed ‘charm’ that gives us a certain edge. Proudly boasting their vague Gaeilgeoir roots, Londoners seem to flock to us, intrigued by our foreign phrasings and spellbound by the enticing accent!
Of course this exotic appeal comes in handy as you find your feet, and the socialising process becomes a whole lot simpler. And while desperate to make your new-found ‘posse’ as diverse as possible, the community spirit among the London Irish crowd will inevitably draw you in as you form a silent bond with every Gaelic accent that fills the busy London Tube.
Unlike times past when the only means of connecting with your fellow Irish expats were through the local London Céilís (which are in fact being revived), useful sites like The London Irish Centre, The Irish Post and the London Irish Network now make it easy to get a feel for home, while the numerous meet ups give you instant access to your fellow natives.
Still, it’s difficult to find an Irish person living in London that doesn’t already have a small clique of friends and even family from the Emerald Isle, so the inevitable intermingling means large hubs of Irish gather together in similar haunts.
Whether opting for London’s hipster-central Shoreditch, the Irish-filled Clapham (home of the Copper Face Jacks of London that is The Swan), or the lower-budget areas, you’re bound to discover cohorts from your native land.
But as comforting as it always is to have such a strong support network behind you, to truly embrace the London culture, you need to step outside your comfort zone.
One of London’s most endearing qualities is how it celebrates diversity in every form making it a truly mixed bag where your difference is, conversely, what makes you fit in.