Having grown up in both London and Cambridge, I decided to look at both cities and compare their differences. Here’s how growing up in London is completely different than Cambridge!
In London a Young Person’s Oyster Card is a goldmine, in Cambridge – it’s a bike.
If you actually live in the city, it was essential to have to a bike. Everyone cycles everywhere. Anyone growing up in Cambridge has had the pleasure of cycling to and from a night out on a bike.
In London your friends might live a tube stop or two away, in Cambridge it could be a village, or a couple of counties.
Yeah it sucks having to catch the tube to get to your mates. But it’s even worse when your friend lives in a small village in Suffolk with super limited train lines and no buses. Cambridge catchment areas being so large, your friends would never actually live in Cambridge, but maybe St. Ives, or Bury St. Edmunds, or Ely.
Going shopping in London is a day out to Westfields or the old Stratford Mall. In Cambridge, it’s the city centre.
Either you’ll meet on the Grafton side or the Grand Arcade side, but by the end of the day you will have crossed Christ’s Pieces to the other side. In London, if you go to one of the malls, you’ll be there all day. This is another sign you were used to growing up in London.
Turning 17 in London isn’t very special in London, turning 17 in Cambridge means you will get a license.
Sixth Form College was a time when all of your friends who didn’t live immediately in Cambridge city were learning to drive. Gone were the days of having to ask your mum for a lift. Your parties were now graced with crap Peugeot 106s and Citroen Saxos from 2002. In London, congestion charges and the ease of the tube means young people are a lot less likely to pick up the keys.
School Uniform in London is a very strict blazer and knee length skirt affair, in Cambridge if you wear the correct colour of polo it was good enough.
From my own experiences of going to secondary schools in both Cambridge and London. The school uniform really stuck out. In London, the uniform was very strict and involved a blazer, tie, knee length skirt and proper polished shoes. In Cambridge, all that was required was a polo shirt and sweatshirt. They asked you not to wear jeans; everyone wore jeans. This is another sign you were used to growing up in London.
Safety in London schools is metal detectors and knife checks. This is unheard of in Cambridge
Going to school in London often involved avoiding fights, passing through metal detectors and random weapon checks during the school day. In Cambridge, this would be unheard of, in my time in a Cambridge secondary school there was only one incident where the police were called to school. In London, the school I went to had a community officer at all times.
Playing out in London means hanging around a shopping centre, in Cambridge it’s hanging by the river
The River Cam is an integral part of every person from Cambridge’s life. The city is built around the river and spending a day swimming or punting down the river is so normal, it’s almost surprising when people raise eyebrows about it. Rowing, canoeing and punting are so normal in Cambridge that not seeing people doing them would be strange. The Thames is a bit different, although there is rowing and boat tours they don’t happen five minutes from each other.
In Cambridge, the countryside is all around you. In London, it’s a little further out
When you live in Cambridge, you quickly learn how easy it is to find yourself no longer in the city. You just walk a little too far and you’ll be in a field with cattle. Cambridge is full of common land, so grazing cattle are expected. In London, at least where I grew up, there used to be grazing cattle but no longer. Those fields have been re-purposed. If you’re in London, it will take you a little longer to hit the countryside. This is another sign you were used to growing up in London.
Cambridge is a hub city, London is a city city.
If you live in Cambridge, or a 20-mile radius you will tell people you’re from Cambridge. This is because Cambridge is a hub city, you likely went to school in Cambridge or go shopping in Cambridge. In London, you know if you live in London and going into the city centre is a day out. You’re not leaving your city, but generally you won’t need to go to Oxford Street for your nearest Topshop.
Cambridge closes at 11pm.
If you live in Cambridge, you will have surely noticed how the city closes at 11 pm. All convenience shops shut, most of the pubs stop serving, and the clubs aren’t always open. This isn’t an issue in London, if you’re willing to look for it you will find a 24 hr shop to fill that crave for beans on toast. Or a pub that will keep serving until 3 am. The night doesn’t end at 11 pm, it’s barely begun, but in Cambridge the night will end in a park with a pack of tinnies. This is another sign you were used to growing up in London.