10 things you learn moving from London to Manchester
M60_at_Cutler_Hill,_Failsworth Edited by Tobias Alexander

So, five years ago I made the move from London to Manchester after 15 years in the Smoke. Prior to that I grew up in the West Midlands (and sadly still have a touch of the accent).

This might not be the culture shock of moving to Manchester from, say, the middle of the Nevada desert, but still.

These are the 10 biggest changes I’ve noticed.

Beer is cheaper

In my regular haunt ‘dahn sarf’ I was happy paying under four quid a pint. Imagine my delight when the first pub I went to (and also my local, upon moving) charged under £2 for a pint of the local ale. I could get a whole round in for under a tenner!

In town things are a little dearer, but with the plethora of great real-ale pubs and micro-breweries in the surrounding areas (and even in the centre) a good night out with mates still doesn’t have to cost the earth. Even if you do over-do it a little, you won’t feel like your wallet’s been sliced open. Your head maybe, but not your wallet.

A beer lover’s guide to Manchester

People are friendlier

It’s often remarked that Northerners are more friendly. In London you don’t make eye-contact, especially on the tube. Heaven forfend you strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know in the pub. On the other hand, cut to an occasion a couple of years ago when I moved to a new part of Greater Manchester and was scoping out a new local. Propping up the end of the bar, on my phone, supping a pint (still only £2.50 – win!), there’s a tap on my shoulder…

“You’re new around here aren’t you?”
“Er.. yeah – just moved in over the road.”
“Well you won’t make friends sat on your phone all night!”

Before I know it I’m (almost) forcibly dragged from my bar-stool and introduced to all the regulars. THAT’S Northern hospitality for you.

People walk more slowly

…matching the pace of life up here. It’s one of the reasons I chose to move, in fact. Upon moving I was still running around like the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland – even just going to the shops. Swerving past people leisurely ambling along the pavement, casual like, thinking “don’t you actually need to BE anywhere?!” as I scurry along. Happily, the calming, more laid back nature of Manchester is infectious and I’m merrily ambling along with everyone these days. Unless I’m late.

The night sky is clearer

NorthWestMoon(C)TobiasAlexander-_MG_1069

And it’s beautiful, isn’t it? While living in London, the constant light and air pollution lent a soft orange haze to just about everything once the sun went down. It wasn’t ’til I moved up North that I realised just HOW much I missed looking up at the stars and seeking out Orion’s belt and the big dipper. I’ve even seen the International Space Station on a couple of occasions!

Sunsets are visible

NorthWestSunset(C)TobiasAlexander-20110803-IMG_5316

Keeping with the celestial theme, like most people, I love me a good sunset. And again, in the high-rise hubbub of London, I never really got to see them. There was a towerblock in the way, or a factory, or just something high enough to obscure the view. The lack of perpetual tall buildings in Manchester, combined with the undulating terrain, mean you’re never far from a great view of the sun dipping behind the clouds and turning the sky that gorgeous peach-salmon colour before giving way to the stars.

There is proper weather

Newcomers complain about the rain, but not me. You actually do it properly! In London there’d be weeks without rain. Then it’s just a constant drizzle for days. Snow? Not likely. When it’s warm there, it’s awful… stifling and humid with very little breeze leading to conditions on the Tube that you wouldn’t even transport cattle in (not legally, at least).

Manchester, on the other hand:

  • Drizzle? Check.
  • Thundering downpours that soak you in 5 seconds? Check.
  • Snow? Check – you can count it in inches, not the number of flakes. It’s great!
  • Frozen lakes and ponds? Check. Complete with comedic bird landing routines.
  • Sunshine? Check. Well, maybe not so much as down south, but when it comes, it’s glorious, and with enough of a breeze to stop your shirt sticking to you on the bus.

Everyone drives or gets the bus

Speaking of buses, in London, the tube/rail network is undoubtedly king; in Manchester, buses rule the roost. Buses and cars. I never bothered learning to drive and it was the same for most of my friends in London. It’s too expensive, and with a tube stop rarely more than 10 minutes walk away, just not entirely necessary. Up here, most of my friends drive or have a motorcycle.

Don’t get me wrong, now I know my way around it, the public transport in Manchester is great, if a little unreliable on the train side of things, but I envy that my friends can just shoot off up into the hills on a whim. Maybe, since I’m pushing 40 now, I should finally take the plunge and get my license…?

Twitter is less popular than Facebook

Back in the capital, it seemed email was everything – closely followed by Twitter. In my circle Facebook was generally reserved for close friends and family if it was used at all, but Twitter was the mass-communication system. Up here, if you’re not on Facebook, you’re completely out of the loop. “Inbox me…” has taken on a completely new meaning since the move. It no longer refers to my go-to email app on my phone or PC, but to Facebook messenger.

There’s colourful language

Also on the subject of communication, every region has their own little pecularities of language, and I’ve found I’ve picked up on a few of them. In addition to barm (more on that later) I’ve found that I’m really not mithered about some things, or that things aren’t a mither, as long as they don’t make me nowty by getting in the way of me cutting through the ginnel to get me some scran for me tea. Or dinner. Which is which again?

15 phrases you’ll only hear in Manchester

Arguments about bread

BarmVsMuffin

When I grew up in the Black Country, it was all about cobs. Crusty cobs. And baps. A mate of mine down the road used to refer to “barms”, but I just thought he was weird. Now it seems that a cob is what you have on when you’re in a bad mood, and baps are something that women have two of. Where I am now, it’s all about the barm and the muffin, the latter of which for me in London was usually a sweet cup-cake type thing. There’s no right or wrong here, and like anyone moving to a new area, you just need to learn the lingo.

But I do still have to be careful about asking the lady in the sandwich shop over the road for a pair of her crusty baps when I’m hungry.

Main image: M60 motorway, at Cutler Hill in Failsworth, Greater Manchester by Steve Garry / CC / adapted by Tobias Alexander.

Sunset and night sky photos by Tobias Alexander.