According to Travel and Leisure magazine, the best city in the world right now you could visit is San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, followed by Charleston in the USA, followed by Chiang Mai in Thailand. These three places, however, don’t even get on the top 20 places to actually live, in this year’s Quality of Living Index, a yearly list compiled by HR firm, Mercer. Apparently, if you want to live the good life, you should move to Vienna, Austria, Zurich, Switzerland, or Auckland, New Zealand. The top twenty list doesn’t include any cities from the UK or the USA, two countries that have arguably been the two heavyweights in the last century regarding power and wealth. These two countries, however, contain cities that attract millions of overseas visitors every year. Today we are going to compare them, in this episode of the Infographics Show, New York City vs London.
The cities are two of the most visited places in the entire world. In 2016, though, the most visited city in the world by international travelers was Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. 21.47 million people visited Bangkok that year. In second place was London, with 19.88 million visitors, and in third place was Paris with 18.03 million visitors. The most visited U.S. city was New York City, and that was in fifth place with 12.75 million visitors. Dubai was in fourth. In the last five years, Bangkok held the first position three times, and London twice. In our comparison, we might thereby deduce that London is more visitable than New York City. Let’s find out why.
First, we will take a look at the two cities’ abridged history. We’ll start with London as it’s the elder. The city of London is old, but nowhere near as old as some cities in the Middle East, China, or other parts of Europe. You’ll know from our show on the British and Roman Empires that Britain was invaded by the Romans in 43 AD. They established the city of Londinium, that at the time was about the size of a small village in England right now. When the Romans left Londinium, it was pretty much a ghost town, and for hundreds of years it remained so. Even the invading Vikings didn’t do much with it, and it wasn’t until the Normans invaded from France and subjugated the country that London became a powerful city. William the Conqueror made London the Norman stronghold, building the famous Tower of London. The Normans would be the last people to this date to successfully invade England. In medieval times London grew in power and wealth, but that also included the spread of poverty, corruption and greed among the upper echelons of society, and bouts of population-denuding plagues. It wasn’t until 1850 that London became the largest city in the world in terms of population. Some sources say it was as early as 1825, though most scholars agree that London was the most populated city until the 1920s. Another city then took over right up until the 60s, and that was the city of New York.
Long before New York City had high-rise buildings, it was the stomping ground of Algonquin natives who hunted and fished where people now trade stocks and eat pastrami sandwiches. It wasn’t until 1624 that European settlers would start a community in the city, when families of the Dutch West India Company made a home on Nutten Island. That’s now known as Governors Island and is between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Being Dutch, they called this place New Amsterdam. Some historians say that the Dutch bought the area from the natives for a few trinkets. The peace between the natives and the Euro expansionists didn’t last, and the trouble ended with the a lot more native causalities than Dutch casualties. New Amsterdam soon covered much of what we regard as New York City today, but the imperialistic Brits guided by London prospectors would soon burst the Dutch bubble. On August 26, 1664, four British frigates sailed to New Amsterdam and in a bloodless coup took control and renamed it New York, after the Duke of York, not the city of York in the north of England. At that time, the city had about 1,500 Europeans and 375 Africans, most of whom were slaves. It remained that way for over a hundred years, and even when American independence was on the cards, New York City was a stronghold for British loyalists. In 1783 the British were forced out, and in 1789 it became the first national capital of the U.S. Only in 1790 did the capital become Washington DC. Like London, the growing city had its fair share of growing pains, including great fires, and huge loss of life due to yellow fever and cholera. Nonetheless, by 1850 the population was more than 550,000 and New York City had become a center of the world.
So now we come to the present day. The population of London right now is thought to be about 8.7 million. This has spiked lately due to the arrival of ethnic minorities that make up about 44 percent of the city’s population. London covers an area of 607 sq. miles (1,570 sq km), making it the biggest city in Europe.
New York City has a population of 8.538 million, and is it a mixed city in terms of ethnicity. About 44 percent of residents are white Caucasian, 27 percent Hispanic, 25 percent black or African American, with a much smaller mix of other ethnicities. The city covers 304 sq miles (789 sq km) and is the biggest city in the USA, though considerably smaller than London. But with almost equal populations, this means New Yorkers have far less space.
So what about the standard of living in these cities? They are both pivotal cities regarding the financial sector, though one website claims that London’s financial sector is slightly bigger with 340,000 employees to New York’s 322,000. As of March 2017, the Global Financial Centres Index puts London at the center of the world, with New York hot on its heels in the number two spot. New York has more billionaires, with 103 in 2017 according to Forbes, while London only has 72. London is said to have better job growth, though, over the last decade.
For the average Joe of us, how is life in these cities? Again, it depends on which source you read. The latest cost of living Index by Expatisan puts New York as the 5th most expensive city to live in the world and London in 12th, with food and housing in New York being more expensive, but clothes and transportation being cheaper. The Guardian reports that after Brexit, London got a lot cheaper, stating that the city has recently arrived at a “new-found bargain-basement status”. In fact, according to the website Numbeo – that compares cost of prices around the world – the cities are fairly equal in terms of eating, going out, shopping, but just a bit more in New York. Renting in London is cheaper than New York if you’re not renting high-end apartments, but actually buying a place is much more expensive in London on average.
Travel is more expensive in London, whether you buy your own gas or use public transportation. Gas and electric is also more expensive in London, but Internet is almost half the price of New York on average. Education is more expensive in New York, and it’s thought that inner city London schools are a bit better than inner city New York schools. The average wage in New York is 4,542 dollars a month, while in London it is only 2,952 dollars a month. That might sound bad for Londoners, but they get free health care, lots of paid vacation, and in general better workers’ rights.
Money aside, what about the general day to day creature comforts? Well, as London is much bigger, it also has more space. With that you get more parks, and more green spaces. At the same time New York is easier to get around and some people speaking on forums say a bit more fun as it’s compact, and unlike London, is more of a 24-hour city. If you are out at night, London may have more crimes in terms of robberies and assaults, but New York has more murders. According to Numbeo, respondents to a survey said they felt similar about safety in London and New York. It seems the difference is bigger crimes are more common in New York, but your chances of finding trouble on the street is more likely in London.
We should, however, take this to those that have lived in both cities. According to one American man who did both for many years, he said on a forum thread that both cities were too expensive, even when single. He loved the open sprawling green spaces in London, and at times didn’t like the noisy, claustrophobic streets of New York. He did, however, like the fact that in New York, you could sit down anywhere and find enjoyment, while London was too spread out for him at times. The writer agreed with the sites we cited already on costs of things, also the heavy workload in the U.S. for most people, but did say in terms of meeting new people, socializing, or partying, New York is easier. One more thing he pointed out that we didn’t mention yet was the weather, which is a deal-breaker for some people. New York has colder winters and can have steaming hot summers, whereas London is cool, damp and grey for much of the year, with some warm weeks in summer and only a moderately cold winter compared to New York.
We’ll end it there with the weather. Have you lived in or visited either of these two cities? If so, we’d love it if you shared your opinion in the comments!