Places I’ve Lived: Changing Relationships Mean Changing Rooms

West Hill, Putney, London, £260/month
Some months after setting out to conquer the world through the medium of summer camp counseling and traveling, I wound up in London ready to settle and replenish my much-abused bank account. I moved into an apartment in southwest London, drawn by the lovely area, cheap rent, and nice roommates.

The roommates were an unmarried Australian couple who had been together since high school and now both taught at a high school in London. They used to put toothpaste on each other’s brushes before going to bed at a painfully early hour. The fridge was covered from top to bottom in wedding invitations and baby photos—an imposing, silent reminder of her ticking time bomb ovaries. Every time I opened it, I imagined it screaming “LET’S GET MARRIED AND HAVE BABIES ALREADY!!!” One time, I came home at 3 a.m., slightly the worse for wear, only to find my male roommate just getting up to watch cricket (conveniently, as I had left my keys in the cab somehow).

They were nice people, but our lives were in very different places. I could tell they didn’t really want a roommate, and it was a relief to all of us when we were told the place was being sold and we’d have to leave.

 

Lytton Grove, Putney, London, £281/month
As a reaction to living with such staid roomies, I went the other way and moved in with a raucous bunch of young South Africans and Australians. I think there were 7 of us at one stage, in a four-bedroom apartment. There was meant to be a cleaning roster, which apparently translated to leaving any accidental messes caused during the week for the unfortunate person whose turn it was to clean. I dealt with it fine for a few months, then rapidly tired of it around the same time as my then-boyfriend and I got serious.

 

Beryl Street, Hammersmith, London, £800/month (split with boyfriend)
A couple who lived with my boyfriend broke up, meaning their enormous, private room was free. He asked me if I wanted to move in with him and take it, and after some gentle probing to ensure he was envisioning a beautiful life with me, and not the big room at a discount, I agreed. Life was good until the couple got back together, and made it clear through general bad behavior that they wanted “their” room back.

 

Vera Road, Parsons Green, London, £750/month (split with boyfriend)
We exacted our revenge by moving in to a nicer apartment with an Australian couple who seemed unlikely to break up anytime soon. It was in this apartment that I finally learned how to cook, worked out what I wanted in the way of a career, got it, started a post-grad course, stopped picking fights with my boyfriend over ridiculously small things, and bought a nice handbag. In other words, Vera Road’s where I finally accepted I had to grow up. We stayed here for just over a year, until my boyfriend became fixated with the idea of finding our very own place.

 

Fulham Palace Road, Fulham, London, £950/month (split with boyfriend)
This apartment was a third-floor walk up, seemingly built out of cardboard and high hopes, with an illegal roof terrace that we weren’t allowed on (which meant we partied out there every single sunny day London gave us). We could hear everything the argumentative couple below us did. EVERYTHING. I guess that means they could hear everything we did too, and it was probably worse for them, because I would wear high heels while walking over our wooden floors. Not long after we moved in, my boyfriend whisked me off to Paris and asked me to marry him. Turned out he didn’t want to be living with roommates while engaged. I said yes.

 

East 34th Street, New York City (!), $2795/month (split with husband (!))
Check out that rent discrepancy. I now laugh in the face of everyone who says London is expensive. But New York City is kind of a big deal to a couple of kids from New Zealand, and you don’t say no to New York City.

My shiny new husband and I moved to set up the first U.S. branch of the creative agency that he worked for in London, and chose an apartment in Murray Hill, because it had a great kitchen, an awesome view of the East River and Empire State Building, and a doorman (I was a bit scared of big bad New York when we first moved). They made us pay a year’s rent upfront because we had no U.S. credit history. Thankfully, interest rates on savings accounts were so low it didn’t really make any difference—we just paid ourselves rent every month instead. After a year, we had had more than enough of the frat boys and party girls that inhabited our building, but we had so much going on we couldn’t be bothered moving, so re-signed the lease—a decision we would spend the next 11 months regretting intensely.

 

West End Avenue, New York City, $3100/month
Our current apartment on the Upper West Side is in a walk-up building, with no doorman. The kitchen is a glorified cupboard, and the layout is such that you can see our bed from the living room, but it has character and a positively gigantic private outdoor space. We love it more than anywhere else we’ve lived, and friends who’ve known us a long time tell us it feels more “us” than anywhere else we’ve ever lived. I hope we never move within New York City again.

 

Hayley Judd is a New Zealander living in Manhattan. She blogs about life and food at www.condimentsonacitylife.blogspot.com, and celebrates everything with champagne (well, prosecco).

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21 Comments / Post A Comment

madrassoup (#929)

I actually like the idea of putting NYC rent in its GBP equivalent, but I think you meant to put a $ in front of your current rent figure. Unless the UWS is waaaay more expensive than I thought and I’m doomed to rot in Murray Hill forever.

Mike Dang (#2)

@madrassoup Corrected! (Unless it shouldn’t have been. Hayley, let me know!)

@Mike Dang and @madrassoup Sorry! Yes, that pound sign was meant to be a dollar sign. It is $3100 (which is quite enough, thank you. That is 1925 pounds.

“I now laugh in the face of everyone who says London is expensive.”

Kidding me? London is ridiculously expensive. In fact, I often read these “places I’ve lived” articles and think, “Hmm Brooklyn seems cheaper than Hackney.” (Hackney is our version of Brooklyn, only uglier and more expensive.)

Moving from a shared hovel in south London to a Manhattan apartment isn’t really a basis for comparison. You got some good deals in London, though – I’ll give you that.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@londonistheplaceforme That’s the thing, though — doesn’t any big city have its share of relatively cheap and relatively expensive places? I realize how stupid and obvious this sounds as I’m typing. But my point is, thanks to rent stabilization, I lived in a good-sized one bedroom in Queens for $1100.

Markham (#1,862)

@londonistheplaceforme agreed.

It would make more sense to compare the areas of London she lived in to Queens or maybe an especially bad part of Brooklyn that hasn’t been infested by punks err hipsters err friendly folks from out of town.

Back in ’07 I was looking at flats in London because I had a job lined up (that that downturn murdered) and looking at “equivalent areas” as far as being on par with a similar area in Manhattan and rent was about 1,200 quid/week. My Mother looks at it and goes “oh, you can swing that”

Me: “Mom it’s per week”

Mom: “DAANG” — saying “Dang” for my Mom is like dropping the F-Bomb for normal humans.

I can guarantee that the Manhattan places would cost more in London.

Plus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_cities_for_expatriate_employees

London is well ahead of NYC on the list of the world’s most expensive cities.

@Markham Oh God, I’m so lucky to live here! Not.

There are fewer and fewer cheap places in London, because the richer people colonise them so quickly, make them nice and drive up prices. Tottenham is still cheap – that’s where the riots happened last year. Damn, I should set up a hipster cafe there before the rich people take over… Because they will.

I love my city, I was raised here, but living in Oxford is starting to look really attractive. Especially when I could swap my ex-council flat (ie “the projects”) for a three-bed house with a garden.

@londonistheplaceforme My girlfriend is from Paris, also a purportedly expensive city, and she complains EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. about how expensive things are in D.C. I lived in England for a couple years just before I moved here and, while I didn’t spent much time in London, I can say that I experienced severe sticker shock almost everywhere I went (except for Starbucks, which charges ludicrous prices to foreigners and gets away with it somehow.)

@stuffisthings The rest of England is fairly cheap – in terms of rent, anyway. I paid £46 a week in rent in Leeds. Horrible house, but still.

Megano! (#124)

$3100 in rent is making me have a minor heart attack.

Holy fucking shit that is a lot of money to pay for something every single month.

Megano! (#124)

@Reginal T. Squirge I could buy…SEVERAL COMPUTERS with that much money.

I could also rent 4 apartments exactly like my current apartment for that much money.

@Reginal T. Squirge You could also buy about 93 liters of whiskey, per month.

Megano! (#124)

@Reginal T. Squirge I could rent almoooost 3.

Hmm…the rent discrepency wouldn’t be as big if you compared Pounds to Pounds or Dollars to Dollars, right? I don’t know how much the rate has changed, but £950 is $1543 according to Google, which would get you a lovely place in Brooklyn.

@Michelle LeBlanc@twitter To be fair, they were definitely moving up the quality scale, so it’s not just a matter of London vs. NY. £281 a month is GREAT for anywhere in London, even a shared house (I paid something like £170 in Birmingham for a shithole in a great location, which I thought was an amazing deal). But you can obviously get a place for less than $3,100, even in Manhattan, if you are willing to make some compromises.

Michaela (#1,635)

Oh my gosh. I know you. We went to the same church in Invercargill. Of all places. I pay $83 rent per week in Dunedin and your $3100 is making my brain spin.

@Michaela crazy! But it can’t be me, I’ve never lived in Invercargill, nor do I go to church. Must be someone else very like me!

Putney, yay! I’ve been living in Putney for the past two years (currently looking for another place in the area). I was paying £646.61 per month (no bills included) for a double room in a large, beautiful 3 bed apartment with high ceilings, two bathrooms, and an awesome roof terrace where we had BBQs in the summer.

In Putney you pay for location – it’s right on the river, close to central London, but far enough out that it’s quiet and clean.

Wondering about moving to NYC, though…

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