Some people come to London hoping to gain a kind of acceptance from people that they were not able to attain in the place that they left. The concentration and quantity of people in London allows for subcultures to emerge, groups of people with some kind of habit, behaviour or preference, which is a minority interest, and which in many places around the world result in other people victimizing them in some way. In London they may be able to find communities of people with these habits, who support each other, and who will accept them, and will be acceptable to that person. For example, a gay man from a working class community in the north of England might attempt to get lodgings in Soho, to be closer to and accepted by other gay people.
Will not be the subject of attempted murder and abuse
Some people come to London not looking for acceptance as such, but rather peace and quiet, apathy is good enough. Such people are under the impression that people in London will not attempt to subject them to attempted murder and abuse, in contrast to the place that they come from, where being a member of a particular group, or having a certain identity or characteristic means they are likely to be or have been subject to attempted murder and abuse. For example, members of Somalia’s minority clans have, since the 1980s, successfully found sanctuary in London, having been subject to systematic murder, rape and kidnap at the ands of Somalia’s majority clans. Young French arrive in London having experienced hostility and intimidation from members of their own family.
People have been coming to London to escape torture and abuse since the sixteenth century. Protestants from the Low Countries arrived in London, escaping Catholic persecution, in the 16th century, Huguenots arrived from France in the 17th Century. One of the sweetest stories concerning how one group leaves a legacy for the new arrivals to the area is interwoven into the history of Somers Town, an enclave of northern central London, sandwiched between Camden Town and Kings Cross. Somers Town’s existence has endured two hundred and fifty years and was initially linked to the political and religious upheavals taking place in France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In the late seventeenth century whilst Somers Town was pastoral land used for dog fighting and bull baiting, in France, Catholic King Louis XIV outlawed the practice of Protestantism. French Protestants fled from France in fear of prosecution. The ‘Huguenots’ as the Protestants were nicknamed by their Catholic pursuers arrived in London in large numbers, between fifty and eighty thousand, settling in Soho and Spitalfields. In the middle of the eighteenth century, by which time the Huguenots had become part of the fabric of London, the authorities in London decided to build a New Road for north London to ease congestion and to aid urbanisation. The New Road, now known as Euston Road, was to be an outer ring road running south of the pastoral land that would come to be known as Somers Town. The advent of the New Road spurred local aristocrat Lord Somers to initiate a building programme. His land was leased to French Huguenot developer Jacob Leroux. Leroux’s developments included a sixteen-sided residential building called the Polygon, which consisted of thirty-two houses and became home to Charles Dickens and Mary Wollstonecraft. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, Leroux’s housing development was finished, but it did not prove attractive to the rich, as had been intended, and was subsequently sold off at cheap prices. As it happened, the selling-off coincided with a revolution in French political life and the beginning of the Reign of Terror; an attempt to purge any opposition to the newly instated principles of republicanism and democracy. This time it was the Roman Catholic clergy, those who had pursued the Huguenots, who were chased out of the country. Many Catholics ended up on the shores of England and in London, and given the low rents, in Somers Town. So, through a coming together of political revolutions, building developments and a crash in the housing market, a French Protestant ended up building a whole urban village to accommodate those very Catholics who had pursued the sorry asses of his ilk a century before. Part of the legacy of the French Catholics in Somers town is frequent reference to Saint Aloysius a sixteenth century Italian saint, found in place names including a church, several schools and a social club.
In the twentieth century Jewish people fled pogroms in Russia and then Nazi Germany, again arriving in London.
To be loosely connected, even disconnected
Some people come to London to be loosely connected to people. It has long been recognized that London is a city where it is possible to be connected to people without commitment or obligation. In such a diverse, large and fluid city, apathetic social interaction is the norm, you can if you wish spending your whole life hooking up, meeting for a coffee, with, to paraphrase Morrisey, people who don’t care whether you live or die. This may seem a sad goal of anyone, but this depends in part on one’s experiences. Many people who come to London do so to escape a lifetime of abuse and chronic fear. Being subject to abuse and chronic fear can change a person’s psychology so that they become deeply fearful of human beings generally, and deeply unsure about whether they have the potential to appeal to other people, about whether they can provoke love and affection in others. Such people naturally want to shie away from other people, and yet paradoxically, they, like all humans have a deep desire and need to be with people. The solution is to come to London, where one can be with people, one can rub shoulders with people, without having to face up to people, without demanding or being obliged to commit. Such people may not be capable or able to form tight-knit relationships, but they feel the light touch nature of much of London’s social relationships is something they can achieve and will give them some degree of feeling connected to be people and alleviate the feelings of loneliness.
Furthermore, som people who come to London to be loosely connected include those who come from places where people are tightly-knit, and where the obligaitons and expectations were too much, they just want to try a lighter touch, more independent approach to life. In this sense people come to London to break free of the identification, classification, expectation, obligation and treatment they received at the hands of those they lived with in the place they moved from. Adult children from Catholic Europe escape to London to put some distance between them and their overbearing families, mothers in particular, who want them to be with the family at all times, and want them to act in the interests of the family. This is about escaping a form of slavery, in this case, emotional slavery, of becoming a person, of being juxtaposed, subjugated, positioned, classified in a way that does not want to be.
Some come to London to anaesthetize themselves to the pain of past loves and relationships, they want to stop feeling the pain, and therefore want to stop feeling, they want a life without emotion. They come to London to escape past loves and relationships, putting distance between themselves and all those places, once the location of starry eyed romantic liaison, which whisper to them of their love that turned sour, which now feel painful to the touch. London offers a huge range of distractions, a blinding and bewildering array of sights, sounds and smells, as well as a bouquet of cultural and intellectual offerings, refreshed daily, which help to occupy the mind and senses, and keep the emotions at bay. Knowing this some people come to London to have their mind and senses occupied, as an anaesthetic against the emotional state they experience in the place that the come from.
Some people come take advantages of the loose connections in London to recreate themselves, they see London as providing them with the space in which they can reflect, consider and create new kinds of relationships, new juxtapositions and interactions, out of which a new identity and being emerges. London can provide people with the space for recreation because London is full of people who wish only to be loosely connected, and who appreciate promiscuity, and the next new thing or the next new person. Thus London’s loose connections, and the ease with which loose connections can be made, provides people with the opportunity to try out new people, to try out new relationships, to experiement, which is part of the process of recreation. The problem is, is that the new identities formed rely on consistent interaction with others, who crave the next new thing, who tire of you, so that with time those who have established new identities, who have recreated themselves, grasping at thin air, with their contemporaries having moved on, leaving them to try once again to establish a new identity.
For some people recreation requires a period of reflection, sometimes depression, an often derided state for the fact that it makes people vulnerable, but actually the source of true emotional creativity and recreativity. London can once again offer people that, the looseness and distance and weakness of social relationships, allows people to slip into the shadows unnoticed, to be forgotten about, rather than attacked and harangued for failing to live up to the obligations of the social grouping, and arguably many people come to London, because it offers an opportunity to drop out and reflect, whilst being in touch with people, with the energy of the anonymous masses around.
Better chances of material gain
People come to London because it is felt the city will offer them better chances of material gain than in the place they come from.
More jobs available
It would seem that many people who decide to come to London do so sold on the myth sold to Dick Whittington, that the streets are paved with gold, that there are opportunities for employment, in contrast to the place they came from. Some people come to London believing there will be more opportunity because it is the centre or a key node in the global business community, a financial clearing house, the place where most Russian companies, which choose to float on a stock exchange, float on the London Stock Exchange, a hub through which hyper-rich, hyper-wealthy people, congregate, thanks to international air travel, international communications and through which consequently most of the world’s resources flow, a gateway to people who want work done. Many Parisians who struggle to find a job in the French capital come to London based on this perception, Paris then seems a provincial backwater compared to linked in London, the city with the most friends on Facebook.
In 2011 and 2012 hundreds of young French adults decided to change their luck in London based on the belief that the 2012 Olympics would see the city awash with offers of work, many were disappointed and fell into penury. Likewise, London is full of young Spanish adults, who with a sense of adventure have come to London to make their fortune, with jobs hard to find in their home country. Others come to London not in need of a job, but in the belief that they will find a better job here than the one they had in the place that they came from.
Accepted for one’s professionalism, skill and ability to make money
Some people come to London believing that the enterprises and companies in London value people principally for their professionalism, skill, ability to make money and hard work, and will therefore accept them into employment, in contrast to the place they come from where they feel that those with the power to offer work and wages, conceive their role to be to further the interests of their social or ethnic class, by denying work to those from other social classes. So people who feel excluded from the labour market in the place they live on account of being part of a submissive social class, in a society where conserving the dominance of social class is the key driver in employmenet decisions, come to London because they believe that provided they have the skills, ability and work ethic, they can get a job and be successful in earning a living. For example, Parisians from Department 93, Saint Denis, people from ethnic minorities and Muslims from France, who face discrimination in the French employment sector, come to London, in the hope that employers will give them a chance. Many French people from France’s Overseas Departments and former colonies are studying English at the New Vic 6th form in Newham, a decision that was taken, partly in response to perceived prejudices in the French system. Hamid Seny, a Frenchman who now works and lives in London said, “Because of your name you will be discriminated against, because of your skin colour, and even the address on your CV can stop you from getting a job…As for your skills and competencies – none of that counts in France if you don’t fit in the box – so I left.”
Where employers in London are actually more interested in one’s ability to do the job well and to make money rather than their social identity, this would make an interesting study. And if it happens to be true, quite why London’s employers are focused more on the ability to do the job well, is an interesting question. In France certain social classes have a tight grip on institutions and companies in France, and use that position to further the interests of their own class, even if that may be at the expense of the profitability or effectiveness of the company or institution. In London the suggestion is that there is more power in the hands of capital and employers, who can demand more and abandon anyone who doesn’t fit in with their plans, meaning that they are more prepared to take risks, which leads to greater innovation and experimentation, which in turn leads to greater efficiencies, discoveries and better services.
Better place for investment
Its not just the poor who come to London dreaming of financial betterment. Rich people with a lot of money come to live in London. Some move their money to London becaue they view it a more stable environment for their savings. Others move their money to London because they believe that the financiers and bankers, together with the tax regime and laws, make it a place where they can make more money from the wealth that they have, than in the place they come from. It is said the United Kingdom does not require immigrants who are only resident in United Kingdom and Great Britain to pay taxes on residences in London, which sets the UK apart from other European countries, and which makes London the cheaper option, at least in terms of tax compared to other European cities in which they might choose to live. Furthermore it is said that London’s visa regulations and security procedures are much thinner than those of New York, which means London is a preferred city to the Big Apple, for those who are wealthy enough to have the choice.
London’s housing is proving an attractive investment option by people all over the world. London’s house prices have been rising steadily since the beginning of the twenty-first century, with some areas experiencing a short period of stagnation during the first few years following the financial crisis. The continuing rise in house prices in London has however fuelled investment from speculators and people looking for a secure investment, which has, in turn meant London’s house prices have continued to rise throughout the financial crisis. In fact some believe that the financial crisis, by making many people around the world insecure about the economic environment, in which they live, has caused people to move an/or invest in London housing, and so has led to an increase in London house prices. It has been said that Greeks, French and Italians have all either moved to or invested in London housing over the last three to four years following worried about the stability of their own economies, the Eurozone economy and the possibility that their savings will be appropriated by the state. In 2012 Leon Watson of the Daily Mail reported that, “In areas like South Kensington French investors were the second biggest group after British buyers in the first quarter, accounting for 8 per cent of property purchases. So far this year they say enquiries from French clients have soared 19 per cent. At nearby Douglas & Gordon demand is so buoyant they are setting up a special French-speaking office. The new branch is hiring four French staff and will be up and running this summer.
Reminds them of home
In some cases it appears to be the case that immigrants to London chose particular places in London to live, partly because it reminds them of home. In 2012 Ed Mead, director of Douglas & Gordon in South Kensington, told Daily Mail reporter Leon Watson the the French loved South Kensington because, “They like the wide avenues and big apartments this part of town offers but also the quaint mews houses”. What we cannot be sure of is whether the existence of places that remind Londoners of home has a bearing on whether they move to London at all.
Some come to London because they believe the standard of private education on offer for children is better than that which they can purchase for their children in their own country. Russian oligarchs and millionaires, of which there are thousands since Russia decided to exploit its natural gas and oil wealth, have sought residences in London, to allow their children to access the public and private schools. Others send their children to London because they believe the standard of state education in Britain is better than what their children will have access to in their home country. Since the 1980s, Somali families, worried of what will come of their children in a land where children are frequently murdered, raped and kidnapped, where there is no education system, send their children unaccompanied to Heathrow airport, with the aid of an agent, hoping that the British state and distant family members present in England, will take care of their children and provide them with an education.
Many people come to London to learn English. One of the reasons they come to London to learn English is that they consider English to be the language of the global business community and feel that by learning the language they are increasing their employability. For example it has been said that there are many non-white studentes from France’s Overseas Departments or former colonies like Reunion, Guadeloupe and Algeria. They have crossed the channel partly because they hope learning English will improve their chances of getting a job. Many come to London to learn English in the knowledge that once they have learned English they will also happen to be in what is considered as the centre or an important node in the English speaking global economy, which means not only will they be skilled enough in English to gain a job, but they will be suitably placed to acess such a job.
Quality of services and life
For the world’s most wealthy London is said to offer a range of services, leisure and entertainment, which cannot be surpassed elsewhere. Russian businessmen, who own property in London, and whose families are resident here, and whose children go to British public and private schools, are said to work in Russia during the week, and return to London by jet on the weekends, to enjoy the London life.