Life in London: Challenging!!!

On 21st September, 2021 I landed in London to pursue my degree. Well to get to that stage wasn’t that easy but more on that later. So before coming to a place you often come with certain perceptionso did I. Unfortunately, most of them were wrong so for those who judge a society by perceptions please take a note! It has been more than three months, during this relatively short time period I have learnt and observed so much of British society. Now, this piece might sound like I am ranting over things but honestly speaking it is coming from my heart and it happens very rarely for someone like me, so enjoy reading it.

Tower Bridge, London

Drinking… a big barrier:

It wasn’t that before coming I expected drinking not to be an imperative element of British lifestyle but what I did not expect it to become a barrier to forming friendships. See, I have no issues with people drinking as everyone has a right to do whatever they want to (unless it is not hurting others) but yes I do have issues with people not being friends just because someone does not drink. Like give me a break! So what I have faced so far is that no matter how hard you try it is very difficult to get into that “ group” unless you alter your lifestyle.It isn’t that people have expressed it directly on my face but of course you can sense it! My perception before coming to the UK was not although drinking is a major component of lifestyle here but I thought it will not be a barrier but I was wrong. Honestly speaking it is the biggest one!

Cross culture and friendships:

A nice joke isn’t it! So before coming I expected that students would interact with those who are from different countries but I was a bit shocked that is not the case at all. What I have seen so far is that the majority of students are not interested in engaging with people who are from different countries. I understand that students do feel more comfortable with their own fellow country people. I genuinely understand these concerns but come on you have the golden opportunity to study in a multicultural city, London and have friends (proper ones) from diverse backgrounds but yet tend to stay with people who are from the same homeland. See, there is no harm in having friends that share similar backgrounds but for god’s sake interact and engage with people who are from different backgrounds. Before coming here, I thought it was only Pakistanis who tend to stay within themselves but the fact is that this is the case with almost every other community.

Muslims… Two Extremes:

This is my favourite part! As someone who has always believed in liberal values and supported the notion of living and letting live(unless it is not spreading hate and hurting others in the society). The notion of being a Muslim and believing in liberal values is a bit confusing for people. So far what I have observed is that there are two kinds of Muslims in London. One who are completely anti-West. They will criticise the West no matter how wrong they are themselves, calling non-Muslims infidel and just basically cutting off non-Muslims and not engaging with them at all. They sort of act like a cult and are in this imaginary world that they are the perfect ones. Well, they are to be blamed for this behaviour partially. The other share of the blame goes to British society. When you marginalise people based on their religion, ethnicity, colour, race etc they will go towards radicalisation. The marginalisation of people will tend to them being radicalised. Western society needs to understand that if someone does not have values like theirs, there is no way it means to completely turn a blind eye. It is imperative to interact and understand them so that there is no sense of deprivation. Just to clarify I have not faced any sort of discrimination on the basis of religion but this is what I have noticed so far.

Also for Muslims, it is peremptory to interact with non-Muslims and also understand their point of view instead of totally blocking them. They need to come out of their little bubble and start realising that them being totally isolated will not help them or the religion.

The second type of Muslims are ones that have completely copied the western culture not because they want to, just so that they can be part of a “cool” group. Let me be clear that there is nothing wrong with copying western culture but it must be done when you want it, just not so that you can be “accepted” by certain individuals. Be clear on one thing if someone wants you to be changed so they can be friends with you , trust me that friendship will not work. Again let me be clear on one thing, I have no issues with any Muslim drinking but the desire to consume alcohol should be from within, not someone influencing your decision.

So someone like me who is a liberal ( drinking is not a liberal value, it is a lifestyle choice just to make things clear!) and still wants to (not forced) follow certain principles of the religion it gets a lot harder for people to understand you and be friends with.

I did not undertake efforts:

Well, people reading this piece might question that I might not have tried my best. It is a valid question but let me answer that. For someone like me, who has always been an introvert, it was a challenge to make new friends and also in a new country. It takes a lot of courage to be someone to start the conversation. One thing that this experience has given me the is onfidence to talk to literally anyone without any hesitancy. This can be proven by the fact that I literally know everyone in my accommodation block. I don’t share a lot more of my efforts as there are individuals involved in it.

The other argument that I have heard is that you should change your lifestyle to make friends. Well for them and others, I am better off without friends who cannot accept me the way I am.

Have I given up?

Well honestly speaking I am a bit disappointed that all of my expectations were wrong about going to a western university but I have always been an optimistic person. I truly believe that one day or another I will find someone who will just connect with me. Even if not, life has a lot to offer and it is not the end of the world!

One another that keeps me going during this challenging period is one of my dreams. For those of you who don’t know it, let me briefly talk about it. My dream is to fix Pakistan and make it a country where everyone has equal opportunities to succeed in life. A huge component of it is to make it a welfare nation. Sounds simple? Well, actually it is not! Fixing Pakistan is not an easy task at all but before all of it, you need to come to power. For someone like me who has no political connections, it is going to be a hell of a challenge. So the challenge (sort of) that I am currently facing is nowhere near the challenges that I am going to face pursuing my dream. So I truly believe that the challenge that I am facing now is getting me prepared for the big game!

So closing it up, life in London has been a hit and a miss. It is a city that will give a lot of opportunities for you to grow in your career, but peace is nowhere to be found. So like every city it has pros and cons.

For all those who are struggling to make new friends or generally in life, there is a quote that might help you ou, “sometimes your biggest losses end up introducing you to your biggest gains.”

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Researh Associate @180 Degrees Consulting KL. |Student of International Relations| Twiiter @shaukatsuhaib

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Suhaib Shaukat

Suhaib Shaukat

Researh Associate @180 Degrees Consulting KL. |Student of International Relations| Twiiter @shaukatsuhaib