In 2008, there was a massive cock-up at JFK Airport involving my boyfriend, his visa and the United States Constitution. He was denied entry at the border. My boyfriend is English, and was sent back to England.
In 2009, I landed in Glasgow, Scotland from Brooklyn, New York/America.
Two-bedroom basement flat, La Belle Place, Glasgow: £190 (my share)
If you’d have asked me where Glasgow was before I moved there, I wouldn’t have been able to answer with confidence. But it is a real city. In fact, it’s the third largest in the U.K.—550,000 people live there. See, it’s legitimate!
The first flat I shared with my boyfriend was a two-bedroom basement unit facing a very lovely park. But we couldn’t see it from our flat, which received an inch of sunlight during the day. It was very dark, and it was very cold. It was also July.
The last person to live in this flat was a studio engineer who smoked all of the cigarettes, all of the time. It reeked. The walls were stained from the nicotine. It was unfurnished except for a bed and a couch, which was probably a blessing, considering. We were both working from home at the time, and set up desks from stacked concrete blocks and cardboard boxes from Ikea. The second bedroom was essentially cordoned off, and I never, ever went in there.
It was an absolute dump, but I was back with my boyfriend after a long separation, and in a shiny new city so I didn’t really notice.
Glasgow has a high crime rate, but is also very friendly. One night, our car got stolen from the driveway and the dudes tried to hotwire it, couldn’t manage, and abandoned it about 15 meters down the street. We had it towed by a guy named Johnny, a hairdresser/scrap yard owner and member of what I came to know as the Glasgow Mafia. He didn’t charge us for towing or fixing the car, but the muffler was much louder when we picked it up and the stereo never worked again.
We moved out after three months.
One-bedroom flat, Partick, Glasgow: £250 (my share)
This second Glasgow flat was a step up from the first. It had lots of sunlight, clean carpets and I was sold.
The day we moved in happened to fall on an Old Firm match day. The two main soccer clubs of Glasgow (and arguably, Scotland) have a decades-old rivalry that is closely tied to sectarianism and religious identity. But these days, it’s less about Catholics v. Protestants and more about getting drunk and having an excuse to get in a fight. Incidentally, that’s also the day that I saw my first open head wound outside the pub next to our block of flats. Although, I would see more before I left Glasgow!
Besides that incident, Partick was quite nice. They call it Jurassic Partick because all the tiny mom and pop shops haven’t changed since the ’70s and there are loads of old timers around.
Two people working from home in a small one-bedroom is tough. But, we lived right across the street from a bakery chain called Greggs, with which I had a short and fattening love affair.
We moved out after eight months.
Two-bedroom flat, St. Enoch, Glasgow: £350 (my share)
I got a job in Edinburgh, which meant a stupidly long train journey between the two cities every day. We moved close to the station to make the commute as painless as possible.
This flat was another step up. This time, there were wood floors (a rarity in the U.K.) and a HUGE wall of windows that faced the Clyde river.
We lived next to a trombone player from the Faroe Islands who played in the Scottish National Orchestra, and got us tickets to see him play. We were right next to a Tesco, and another Greggs, but by this time, the novelty had worn off. We were also near a Nando’s—which is essentially a gussied up KFC that gets packed out every single night. I still don’t understand Britain’s fascination with it.
Ours wasn’t the greatest street. There was a motel/half-way house at one end of the short street and a strip club at the other. The police knocked at our door one day, and asked if anyone ever buzzed up asking for the brothel in the building next to us. No one had, but after that, a couple of guys did ask my boyfriend where it was and thanks to the fuzz, he was equipped to give accurate directions. He was also propositioned for a three-way with two men outside our flat one night. Nothing that exciting ever happened to me.
But the Glasgow charm was wearing thin. Too little sun, too many weekends wasted to hangovers, too much of a small town feel. We said “sayonara Scotland,” and moved to London after being in that flat for a year and a half.
Two-bedroom flat, Balham, London: £740 (my share)
After a short stint at my boyfriend’s mom and dad’s house in Essex (see), my boyfriend and I found a lovely two-bedroom flat with a backyard in sleepy south London Balham.
Balham is lovely, green, safe and desperately uncool compared to neighborhoods in the north. But we have a backyard—did I mention that?
Londoners pay an absolute premium to live in this city. My boyfriend and I are no exception to this rule. We probably pay more than average because we needed a second bedroom to turn into a studio for his work. Also, £ifesty£e Creep alert.
Living in London is fun, but saving is hard. In the U.K., It’s normal for people to buy homes in their twenties, which is just unheard of in NYC. I don’t think they’re doing it as much in London but definitely up north. I think it’s great that young Britons have such a different perspective on money. It’s definitely changed mine. Not that I can afford to buy a flat here anyway. What do you guys think of Hoboken?
Deana Burke tweets and “works” on the “Internet.”