London: City of expatriates
London is known worldwide for its remarkable diversity and remains ever popular with expatriates and global companies. We find out what attracts expats to this cultural metropolis and why they stay.
London is a buzzing metropolis crammed with cultures from every nation on Earth; you can expect to experience several flavours of international culture in a single day– or even an hour.
To live as a Londoner is to be spoilt for choice and convenience. No wonder perhaps that over the years the city has attracted numerous global companies to set up their headquarters here. According the London Development Agency, 80 percent of all business in London is international.
“London’s greatest strength as a financial capital is actually quite personal;” Amy Syracuse of Executive Travel Magazine writes. “It is an extraordinary place to live, work and play. This liveability may not initially inspire many of the world’s best and brightest professionals to call the city home, but it almost certainly convinces them to stay.”
This liveability she speaks of must include the extraordinary range of leisure activities available to Londoners, from major attractions to galleries, theatres and the numerous restaurants offering cuisine from more than 70 countries.
But for all the life passing through it, London is also quite simply a very beautiful city with stunning architecture, palaces and plentiful green parks with lofty trees. Indeed in Hyde Park it is possible to escape the dazzling speed of the city and enjoy some peace and quiet with a good book.
London’s unique cultural mix has made it a top destination for tourists, students and expatriate professionals with many choosing to settle for good. Of London’s population of 7.2 million, 30 percent were born abroad and some 300 different languages are now spoken. London’s visitor economy is worth GBP 15 billion. (London Development Agency, 2009)
As American expatriate Lloyd Lee told Executive Travel Magazine, “When you come to London, people very much retain their cultural and national identities. It defines the food, the culture, the fashion, the people, and the talk…in a way that makes it fascinating to experience.”
Journalist Leo Benedictus gives his opinion in the British liberal paper The Guardian : “People do not come here [London] to become English, in the way that they go to New York to become Americans. People come to London to be themselves.”
But how does the city cope with so many different cultures rubbing up against one another on a daily basis? Leo Benedictus in his article entitled, “Every race, colour, nation and religion on Earth”, suggests that Londoners, not commonly known for their warmth, have naturally adopted an attitude of indifference and this has somehow allowed people in this highly multi-cultural city to live side by side.
The multi-cultural appeal of London is not lost on government; in a report on estimating London’s migrant population in 2006, the then Mayor of London Ken Livingston wrote, “New Londoners from abroad are a mainstay of our economy and public services, offering the city skills, energy and ideas. They renew its diversity and vibrancy, key factors in its appeal as a place.”
London is a city of expatriates and it openly invites new arrivals to add to the city’s unique cultural cocktail. From London’s global financial centres to Brixton’s markets internationals have contributed to turning the city into an extraordinary wonder of the modern world where cultures live side by side in harmony.
(Photography from flickr: dimitryb, sonewfangled, jumblejet)
Peter Orange / Editor Expatica UK
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