Tyler Brûlé is the über-hip founder of Wallpaper magazine, founder and editor of the excellent Monocle magazine, and owner of a design agency. He also writes a weekly column for the Financial Times in which he frequently takes London to task for its poor quality of life. This week featured another installment – “London: Not As Livable As I’d Like” – in which he extols the virtues of Seoul in comparison to London.
But guess what? Brûlé lives in London and bases all of his businesses there. Despite his complaints, there must be something about the place that keeps him from packing it up for Seoul or Tokyo.
Anyone who has ever been to London can attest to its miserable transport conditions, generally unattractive streets (in contrast to, say, Paris or Amsterdam), and high costs, among other annoyances. Yet for some people, the value of being in London is so high none of that matters.
People talk about quality of life and amenities as drawing people. That’s a strategy many cities are pursuing. Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon said of his city:
My goal in the changing of the face of Seoul is all related to enhancing its attractiveness. If the city is attractive, people, information and capital flow in. This in turn creates economic re-vitality and it also creates a lot of jobs.
But once you’ve reached a certain level, that stuff almost doesn’t matter anymore. London’s power of place is so high, it trumps all other considerations, including quality of life, for those who can take advantage of it. That shows the magic isn’t per se in the amenities, it’s in the people and the value of them being together in a place like London.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t focus on amenities or quality of life, especially if you aren’t yet in the London league. You’ve got to prime the pump somehow. Just remember why you are doing it. And I’d suggest not losing sight of the bottom line on costs either.
By the way, a couple years ago I was privileged to spend quite a bit of time working in London. There’s definitely something about the city. It’s got an energy and edge that is just incredible. You know just walking down the streets that this is a place where important things are happening. Whatever my long list of complaints about Heathrow and such, London is still by far my favorite city outside the United States – and I’m not just saying that because they speak English.