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).