London is a lonesome city. Walking down to Holborn station after a day's study and a drink, a friend of mine told me that he he used to have many friends in his hometown. There, he had things to do and places to go when he had nothing special to do. When he broke up with his girlfriend, there were people who would take care of him. But here in London, he had either his girlfriend or nothing at all. He said, he is learning how to live on his own.
"Yes, you are right. I all the time feel that I'm drifting."
"That's not bad. You can learn how to surf on the surface."
Getting stuck at a comfortable place means getting conservative. You have things to defend, you are armoured with your identity. But here in London, quite a lot of things are the opposite; even the most serious things you can name as identity are at best transient. One might said, this is quite different from the stereotypical image of Britain where stability and tradition are said to be important. Or on the contrary, precisely because of the fact, it's one reason why the newcomers like me often feel that it's almost impossible to be grounded here.
Things go away as if nothing ever had happened. I remember one experiment. A project group at a university provided a phone booth where one can make a phone call to a random receiver whose identity is not known to the caller and vice versa. Interestingly, the callers started to talk about his or her innermost feelings and most secret things in their life. They cried. They expressed their anger, frustration and hopes. London reminds me of the irony. You randomly meet people; you talk about your most personal feelings and life events. The other person would listen to you very carefully. And on the next time you stumble upon the person, you would probably not even say hi to each other. That's the secret which should be kept in secrecy to share secrets.
Probably it's because I'm single as my friend told me; it's either a lover or no one. But I'm still not sure as what people call 'love' here seems to be quite different from my own understanding of the word. One day I came across with another friend. We were talking about such and such things and one such topic was love. At certain point, I told her that all my ex's were my best friend at the time.
"You were lucky. It's usually not like that."
Was I lucky? For my friend, finding a soulmate in a relationship called love is unlikely to happen. What is expected to be shared between 'soulmates' is likely to be a matter between women. Here, surprisingly, quite a lot of people seem to be thinking it's either sex or nothing when it comes down to a relationship between different sexes. I still can't get the reason why. Is it the size of the city? Another friend told me that in NYC, there seems to be two extremes; you should marry a girl you, to exaggerate a little, held hand - or, there are lots of girls who need guys just to get drunk with. It's exactly what's shown in Sex and the City. That's what I was told.
I've lived in a big city. Seoul is a city where 20 million (or more) people live in, if the adjucent cities are counted together - such as bedtowns, gentrified suburban cities, older cities from where people commute to Seoul. Things were quite different as I remember it. Perhaps it's because I was a native there; I could as well say that I had many friends and places to go when I wanted to feel to be with others.
At first it seemed to me that everything was just so sexualised. Probably it's because it's either a lover or no one, and probably it's because here 'love' means sex. As the online dating site asks to its members, "Which describes your reason to join here better? 1) I'm horny 2) I'm lonely". Probably that's why people still feel lonely even when they are in a relationship. Learning to live on one's own and an academic jargon which has become an old hat in the circle, 'individualism' might be one answer in regards to the reason why, but I'm not still sure.
PS. Just talked to a friend from another country; she said, it might be due to the 'nature' of the 'natives' themselves. I think it's a good point: I asked some British people here a few time about their opinion about my feelings, and their response was even they were treated the same by other British people. Whereas people from other area feel it as a problem, 'natives' here don't seem to take it as a problem. Maybe an over-generalisation, but things are remain to be seen more in detail.