Are Londoners Heartless?

Are Londoners Heartless?

I have always loved London (well, for the 18 months that I have lived here anywhere) and defended the city and its people whenever its been called out as cold and heartless. Don’t you know that people down here are busy? I would answer back, that we work longer hours and have a million things on our plate (as if other people in other cities don’t have the exact same!).

It’s not that we are cold, we just don’t see the need in chatting to others on the tube when we could be answering emails or listening to the latest Tim Ferris podcast. Besides, I have seen several acts of kindness on public transport before – a man once shielded a pregnant woman from other commuters as she wasn’t able to sit down. A teenage boy helped an old woman lift her heavy suitcase onto the tube, several people helped a blind woman find a seat on the tube safely.

But today, my feelings towards this changed. I injured myself in a gym session – tore a ligament in my lower back, but wanted to head into work to see the doctor before I returned home. I was carrying 3 heavy bags and the short walk across the road from the tube to the office felt as though I was scaling Everest. I walked at a snail’s pace, my back spasming every 3 steps, crying out in pain everytime it did. And not a single person stopped to ask if I was OK. Now I know I wasn’t on the floor writhing in pain, but I also know if I had been up north in my hometown, people would have at least checked I was OK.

My best friend Lizzie came across a girl lying face down at the top of Balham tube station last week, people were literally walking over her as though she was nothing more than an inconvenience, presumably wrongly assuming that she was drunk or high. Lizzie rushed to check if she was OK and the girl had infact had a panic attack and had laid down to try and calm herself. It broke my heart to think of that poor girl in so much pain and fear, and that for 20 minutes no one had bothered to check if she was OK.

Now I don’t know if it’s because I am naturally very empathetic and emotional, I would help anyone in need  – I just feel compelled to, but surely there must be even an ounce of that same emotion in others?

The other day I overheard someone saying that you know you’re a true Londoner when you hear that a train is delayed because someone has thrown themselves on the tracks and instead of feeling compassion or sadness you just get annoyed that you’re going to be late for your 9 o clock meeting.

Does this happen across all capital cities? Or is it just a London thing? Movies portray people as helpful and supportive during major crises, but real life reports often suggest that in reality its much more every man for himself.

Does it ultimately boil down to us reverting back to our natural instincts, survival of the fittest?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

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50 Comments

  1. December 7, 2016 / 3:58 pm

    I don’t think it’s only Londoners…
    I think 💭 people are so cold and too preoccupied with themselves the don’t notice anything around them..
    they don’t have compassion..

    But please continue be the caring empathetic.. sensitive and compassionate girl you are…
    the world needs more precious people like you..

    • December 8, 2016 / 9:28 am

      I think you are right.. they have too much else going on to focus on others. Thank you very much 🙂 I will keep being empathetic and compassionate.. even living in London won’t shake that from me!

  2. FNU MNU LNU
    December 7, 2016 / 6:13 pm

    I think that it is all or mostly in larger cities.

  3. December 7, 2016 / 7:34 pm

    I don’t think its London, I find the same people with everywhere. People make the excuse of “oh its London everyone’s just so busy!” to rationalise bad behaviour, but I find people are no more busy than they are anywhere else (although people back home are just as selfish too!). But please keep being an empathetic and emotional person, we definitely need more of those!

    • December 8, 2016 / 9:17 am

      Exactly, people are still rushing around in other parts of the country, (but maybe because I’m used to friendly northerners I find it more of a culture difference down south) so it’s definitely just an excuse down here. Thank you 🙂 I will keep being empathetic dont you worry!

      • December 8, 2016 / 1:12 pm

        Wow maybe I need to move up north then!

  4. December 7, 2016 / 8:02 pm

    I watched joe Rogan interview the other week and he mentioned it being the same in New York. Because there are so many people in one place the value of humans become less and the intrigue of them or care goes out of the window. It’s a shame but it’s like that with most things, too much of the same thing and nobody cares about it. I too like London but I appreciate the city culture is completely different. I hope you recover from your injury soon! 😊

    • December 8, 2016 / 9:16 am

      That makes a lot of sense, even though it’s quite a depressing fact. Thank you for your well wishes! 🙂

  5. December 8, 2016 / 4:03 pm

    It happens in Nairobi too where I reside. With the crime rates in the capital city where a simple reply to a greeting from a stranger on the streets, could result into a drug induced confusion and a mugging in broad daylight, Nairobians became suspiscious over time.
    There’s a time I wasn’t too sure where to catch a public service vehicle and I asked this lady who was walking past for directions and the look on her face said it all. She thought I was one of those con women pretending to ask for directions.
    I didn’t know whether to be mad or sorrowful. If you lay on a street I doubt anyone in Nairobi would bother. They would all assume you were drunk and jump over you on their way to work and on their never ending errands. It’s a sad reality.

    • December 8, 2016 / 5:29 pm

      Oh my goodness! that is very sad and puts my situation into context. Thank you for sharing this with me 🙂

  6. December 9, 2016 / 11:47 am

    I’m a Londoner and I grew to dislike London more and more as I got older. It remains a wonderful place, despite its flaws. At the risk of some people not liking to hear the truth, most of the rude, cold and uncaring people you come across in London are not actual Londoners (in terms of born and bred Londoners). Most of my bad experiences have been with people who are not from London. That’s not to say all ‘born and bred’ Londoners are angels and all people not from London living in London are horrible people – far from it 😉 – but it’s certainly something I’ve noticed as a general trend.

    • December 9, 2016 / 12:01 pm

      That’s an interesting point you make and not something I had considered before. Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  7. December 9, 2016 / 12:23 pm

    i think people are pretty much preoccupied with what life has brought along their side…i have once been the pregnant woman with no one offering a seat ..how did I feel? you don’t want to know…then again the opposite has happened..
    In my opinion again, some people are with no emotions probably due to their exposures in life maybe not ..could be who they are…however some people are beautiful hearts ….
    I just commute into London and don’t pay attention to the emotionless ones but maintain being who I am …a beautiful heart

    • December 9, 2016 / 1:39 pm

      That is a very positive way to look at it and thankyou for sharing your experiences 🙂 You probably have the best attitude by not paying attention to the emotionless ones!

  8. December 9, 2016 / 5:30 pm

    Neighbors in the world today are mostly disconnected from each other in real life. In NYC a few homeless people push commuters onto the subway rail road tracks. I once found a wallet in a street and it had the driver’s license of the presumed owner and I returned the wallet to him. He accused me of stealing the three one hundred dollar bills out of the wallet. Don’t get involved? It’s not just London. This is the tragedy of compassion. It’s complicated. Intellectuals who know why this is so, don’t want to tell us. They can make money keeping such social information to themselves.
    I could not find “Tinder”. what is that all about? My web site is http://www.portorangebolo.com — hank

    • December 9, 2016 / 5:40 pm

      Thank you for sharing this! It’s very honest and frank. Your experience with the lost wallet goes to show that sometimes even showing compassion can backfire. It’s almost a lose-lose situation!

  9. December 10, 2016 / 2:47 pm

    Nowadays I think people are more self absorbed into their own little world. In the age that social media is booming you have people here in the United States that would rather record a fight than step in and defend someone only to get “likes”. It’s pretty sad

    • December 13, 2016 / 5:24 pm

      Sadly it seems to be the case! I can never understand people that do that and don’t instinctively want to help others.

  10. December 13, 2016 / 4:23 pm

    I’m not sure I understand crowd apathy. Perhaps it’s this notion that someone else will help and if everyone thinks that then no one ends up helping?

    • December 13, 2016 / 4:31 pm

      I think that’s what it is.. there’s several psychology studies that show if you pick out an individual in a crows to help in a situation the responsibility lies solely on them than if you were just to ask for help in general – then the responsibility is spread across everyone.

      • December 14, 2016 / 2:27 am

        I agree. People walk by thinking someone else will intervene but if someone stops to help, it tends to encourage more people to stop and lend a hand. I think people have become so busy that they’ve started to create a world that revolves around their routines, their tasks and it would ‘inconvenient’ to deviate from their path, even if it means doing some good.

        • December 15, 2016 / 5:21 pm

          Exactly, people see helping others as a delay to their day rather than a human instinct to help others – it’s pretty sad! I’m hoping if someone serious every happened to me someone would show some compassion and help, but I’m probably being too optimistic!

          • December 15, 2016 / 6:07 pm

            Ah you never know. I like to think you can rack up some good karma like, if you’re the kind of person that goes out of their way to check on someone or help, the same kind of people will come to you when you are in need.

  11. December 27, 2016 / 4:05 pm

    I have had the same experience in Portland. I have time and time again called non-emergency to help with someone passed out or bleeding or whatever the case may be, while people step over them, or ignore the need for help.

    • December 28, 2016 / 8:52 pm

      It’s sad to know this happens around the world.. I guess it’s the issue of diffused responsibility that makes it easy to ignore people in danger.

  12. December 28, 2016 / 8:56 pm

    Interesting post… I think there is an aspect of this in many big cities. Apparently studies (can’t remember which ones though) have shown that often it just comes down to the actions of one person. Once one person acts, suddenly everyone piles in to help, the problem is that few people are willing to be that first person. That said, I have also experienced/seen some great acts of kindness in London.

  13. December 29, 2016 / 2:09 am

    I have lived in London(born in Battersea) all my life & I don’t think you can think we’re all like the people you have experienced. Indeed just last week I had the owner of a newsagent run across a road to give me back £10 when topped up my Oyster Card & forgot to take the change. That is just one thing (of many)I’ve experienced from the kindness of Londoners/& Brits. I often come to the aid of anyone who is in distress too. I think you’ll get people who don’t care wherever you are. I’ve also witnessed heartless people from the US & other countries too being heartless. (And that’s not just Trump! 😁) It’s not a Brit/London thing, it’s a people thing. People can be uncaring regardless of where they’re from. Please don’t stereotype us all. 💂✌

    • December 29, 2016 / 10:50 am

      I’m not stereotyping everybody, just reflecting on a common personality trait/reaction to certain situations that are most probably prominent in most big cities. But it’s great to know there are people like you and the shopkeeper around to restore the faith 🙂 thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  14. December 29, 2016 / 6:21 am

    Certainly not just London, it’s the same in most major cities. After moving to Hong Kong, Londoners seem very compassionate in comparison. When I was pregnant, it was rare for people in Hong Kong to give up their seats on the train, but when I visited London, tons of people offered their seats to me. I think the problem half the time is that people are just walking too fast or being too absorbed in reaching their destination or staring into their phone/newspaper/kindle to notice. Don’t lose hope!

    • December 29, 2016 / 10:50 am

      How dreadful that people didn’t offer you their seats! Perhaps us Londoners aren’t all that bad 🙂

      • January 3, 2017 / 8:11 am

        I just published a list of things that I like about London, feel free to check it out.

        • January 4, 2017 / 2:42 pm

          Sweet I’ll check it out 🙂

  15. December 29, 2016 / 3:23 pm

    I was born and raised in London. For university I went up north to Staffordshire, I was alarmed by how nice, kind-hearted, considerate and family oriented people were compared to London.

    On my first few hours there, a stranger greeted me, and me in my London Auto Pilot mode, reacted with a confused look and didn’t say anything back 😅. After awhile, i grew to appreciate the vibes and lifestyle up north and realised that everytime I came back to London, I was accused by my friends as become soft lol 😂

    Londoner in my opinion are definitely more busy and worried about things that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, and because of this, we have a congested city, filled with a lot of who just use their heart less.

    • December 29, 2016 / 11:59 pm

      Haha I’m glad you noticed the difference between northerners and southerners – I experienced the opposite when I moved down here and strangers weren’t as friendly. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  16. January 1, 2017 / 4:46 pm

    I don’t know if it is just a London thing but I do wonder how isolated up dwellers in London keep ourselves. The one that sticks in my mind is how annoyed commuters appear when I say good morning to the bus driver (I end up shocked if the driver responds). I would love it if we acknowledged each other more and checked if one another were OK as opposed to assuming the worst and moving on.

    • January 1, 2017 / 5:07 pm

      It’s crazy that a simple act of kindness can be reacted to in such a negative way. We definitely need to work on acknowledging each other more!

  17. January 4, 2017 / 12:35 pm

    I thinks it’s everywhere Giulia. There are such cruel people out there and how can they live with themselves?I read a great article the other day about what it really means to be empathetic. I’ll try to find it and send it your way.

    • January 6, 2017 / 9:06 am

      Thank you Jeana that would be great, I would love to read it!

    • January 6, 2017 / 9:07 am

      Thank you so much! 🙂

  18. January 8, 2017 / 12:12 am

    As a Londoner who’s also lived elsewhere I don’t think it’s only us. I agree we’re more reserved, than perhaps Americans, but definitely not more heartless. Paris, in my experience has always been much more hostile and uncaring as a city (don’t get me wrong I still love it and have wonderful Parisian friends 💞). Being too self absorbed is a problem in cities everywhere and we need to try and change it x

    • January 8, 2017 / 6:38 pm

      I got the same vibe when I went to Paris but I wasn’t sure if that was because I was a tourist in a city I didn’t know! We definitely do need to try and change how self absorbed people are in major cities! Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂 x

    • March 16, 2017 / 9:34 am

      I will do thank you 🙂 I don’t live too far from you either! Happy blogging to you too x

          • March 16, 2017 / 3:47 pm

            No way! Thats super close 🙂 I looked at Balham actually t live when I moved to SW London. Lovely place x

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