My ‘Real’ London

The view of Canary Wharf from Greenwich Park.  (Photo my own)
The view of Canary Wharf from Greenwich Park. (Photo my own)

Last Saturday, I was running super early for work and decided to stop and have a coffee before going in.  Hey, I’ve been working loads of extra hours lately!  So I grabbed my extra strong cappuchino from a chain coffee shop and sat outside with my book, ready to indulge in 45 minutes of reading time.

And then I noticed this guy, standing on the sidewalk, smoking… and staring at me.  ‘Oh jeeze,’ I thought.  ‘Here we go.  Don’t make eye contact, don’t make eye contact, don’t make eye contact.’  As that mantra went through my head he approached and asked if he could sit.  Nice person that I am–‘Oh of course, feel free.’  I mentally face-palmed myself and tried to make it well known that I was absorbed in my book.

And then he started going on about how he was visiting from Canada and where was I from?


‘Oh, that’s not too far from Canada!’

Clearly this guy had never looked at a map.  On the same continent, yes.  Nearby?  Ehhhh, not so much.

So then he asks me what there is to do at that time in the morning (pre-7.30AM).  He wanted to know where he should go.  The only thing I could think of, partially because it involved him getting on the Tube and getting away from me was Leicester Square.  Guy had no clue what that was.  I explained Leicester Square to him, told him Soho was great, the whole area was quite famous, particularly to tourists.

Nope.  He wasn’t ‘into that.’  He wanted to know where the ‘Real London’ was, what the ‘Real London’ was like. I honestly didn’t have an answer.  I wasn’t about to tell him what my ‘Real London’ was like.

My ‘Real London’ is

  • counting the days to payday
  • spontaneous dinners in the park because the flat is too hot because there’s no such thing as A/C here
  • nights out with friends that inevitably turn messy and beyond late
  • going to pub gigs and singing along to an Ed Sheeran lookalike belting out his cover of “Baby One More Time”
  • early morning wake ups to be at work by 7am
  • sirens at 2am
  • a tiny studio flat that you share with your partner that you’ve managed to fit your ENTIRE life into (and you won’t upgrade because you can’t afford anything in the area you live in which is the most PERFECT location EVER)
  • competition… for everything.  Jobs, seats on the bus/Tube, the last leg of lamb on 50% off…
  • tourists everywhere and people assuming you’re a tourist because you’ve got an American accent
  • getting made fun of for being American by your co-workers
  • never knowing what the hell the weather is going to do and forecasts never being right
  • hour long phone calls home every Sunday afternoon
  • occasional bouts of homesickness, sometimes chronic
  • curries so hot they make you feel sick
  • takeaways because you can’t be bothered
  • fresh flowers every Saturday (I’ve trained my husband well)
  • wandering the West End or Oxford Street with friends on shopping trips and ending up in All Bar One instead
  • the Montague Pyke in Leicester Square which seems to be the meeting point for nearly every night out
  • everything being super expensive
  • feeling sort of like a badass for living here

That’s only a fraction of my ‘Real London.’ How could I tell this guy that?

And then he asked me where he could get a drink.  At 7.30 in the morning.  Go hard or go home, I suppose.


If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at]



6 thoughts on “My ‘Real’ London

    1. I’m 50/50… I think it really depends on the day. There are some days that I miss home so much that it hurts and then there are other days where I can’t believe I actually am lucky enough to get to live here. Swings and roundabouts!

  1. Oh man, I’m visiting London for the first time late this August and I’m surprised he didn’t have stuff he wanted to do. I mean, “real” London sounds bleak, let’s go to Harrods!

    1. Haha… I think part of his problem was the fact that he’d been ‘going all night’ as he put it. I suspect that involved copious amounts of alcohol (and potentially other substances).

      ‘Real’ London can be a bit bleak but there are loads of amazing things too! That being said, I really never ‘got’ Harrods!

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