Coming to London is almost like a rite of passage for those American travelers on a shoe string budget headed towards Europe. Aside from that sneaky Air Berlin flight from time to time, I’ve found myself in London Heathrow, Gatwick, Lutin, and Stansted Airports….But unlike in the past where I was often stranded or alone, I’ve made some great friends who not only live in the city, but also let me crash on their floors. So now it’s time for London, to appreciate this city which I never truly appreciated before. Time to wipe away my misconceptions, which I so mistakenly placed those first brief visits to London. London calling.

Misconception 1: London is a modern concrete jungle. Whenever I came to London, I always saw sky scrapers, the London Eye, and miles and miles of shops with glamorous lights and billboards outside. The downtown area struck me as too sterile, with little tradition or quaint familiarity.

Then I discovered the reality: As soon as you walk outside of any neighborhood in London, any ‘burrough,’ you find a unique charm. Each district has that something special, some with their bright lights and flashy stores, but others with that cozy feel that I love so much. Like Clapham, in the south, which has plenty of nightlife, but also has cutesy brick houses that line up the cheery streets, always clean and colorful. I discovered that it all depends on what you’re looking for, but London seems to have many different sides to see.

2: Everything is expensive in London. The first time I went to a pub in London, I probably spent a good 8 pounds on a pint of beer (roughly 12$ US). Yikes! I didn’t even want to go out to dinner, or see any concerts after that.

Wrong. It’s all about going to the right place. In Brixton, for example, I went to a great free live concert at ‘Hootananny’s,’ where there were so many people dancing and partying it up, I could barely move. As for food, I discovered that if you go to Tesco’s, the local supermarket chain, you can get a sandwich and ‘crisps’ with a drink for 2£ (3.00 $ US). Not too shabby!

Everyday I learn something new about this incredible city, which makes me appreciate it more. I think the most exciting thing about it is that every corner you turn you can very likely run into an Italian, French, or Egyptian, or people from even further away, all of them locals, all of them trying to make it work in the big city. It’s exciting to hear people’s stories, and learn from them. And of course, there’s nothing better than having an authentic Italian meal at a restaurant where English is only spoken by half of the customers. It helps to be friends with the waiter, who serves you wine for free of course.