Views from a Southerner in Manchester...
As Mario Balotelli sealed his move back to the North West of England, it made me reflect on a quote published by the press just after the eccentric striker finalised a switch from Manchester City to AC Milan.
"I have to say thanks to all the City fans because they've been very nice to me and they always supported me in the good and in the bad moments. And I have to thank my team-mates and the manager. Everything else, I'm happy that I left England. Good things - only when I get to Carrington to train. So my team-mates and manager. And the bad things? Everything else. The press, first. The weather. The food. The way you drive. That's it."
Having recently moved from the bright lights of London up to Manchester, I can certainly agree with his judgement concerning the weather. I decided to take the opportunity to head home for the August bank holiday, packing nothing but jeans and jumpers, only to find London much warmer than the climate I've become used to up here.
Weather aside, I have discovered there are many benefits to heading “Up North”, and would encourage many fellow southerners to do the same. I have seen first-hand the opportunities that Manchester offers and, in terms of the digital marketing industry, have been extremely impressed by the quality of advertising agencies, and the marketing jobs on offer.
I originally grew up in Essex, but soon left home as I followed the norm and was lured to London. I was quickly caught up in the London bubble, which seems to have captured an enormous number of people. According to January’s Centre for Cities reports, a third of all people aged between 22 and 30 who leave their hometowns move to the South of England, most of them never to return.
Pay cheque promises
People pack up and head to London with the promise of higher pay cheques and a better standard of living. This has resulted in a densely populated environment full of high-pressured, fast-paced, money-hungry people, and businesses that can leave you feeling a little suffocated. Yet, I think the biggest difference between my new Manchester home and the capital is the sheer size of London and the culture of commuting that plagues Londoners' weekday routines. During my bank holiday visit to London I was reminded of the chores of travelling across the capital. I, for one, am extremely glad to be out of the capital's ever-growing rat race, leaving behind my hour-and-a-half door-to-door commute, crammed in between suited men with legs open as wide as humanly possible and women piling on their morning makeup.
Yet, one of the key things I had to overcome when I first made the decision to move from London to Manchester was the drop in wages. Pay in the capital has surged by 45.6% since 2000. At the turn of the century, Londoners earned £5,356 more than the national average, taking home an average of £24,204 a year. Last year, this figure rose to £35,238, which is 23% higher than the national average of £27,017 (Office for National Statistics). But is this financial allure really a neatly hidden façade?
There is no doubt that the cost of living in the capital is substantially higher than anywhere else in the country, especially compared to Manchester. My girlfriend and I currently rent a two-bed flat, where the second room is sometimes used as a guest room, but mostly as my girlfriend's second wardrobe. This is a luxury we could never dream of affording in London.
This could explain why everyone seems a lot less angry in Manchester than in London. I have lived in Manchester for just over a year now and have warmed to the city's northern charm. The city's residents seem much happier, approachable and relaxed. I know from my time living in London that whenever you approach a stranger to ask a question, you would almost always be greeted by a customary sense of panic. Londoners generally like to keep to the left at all times, and avoid human interaction as much as possible.
However, in Manchester the locals are normally more than happy to help, and I sometimes feel impolite as I look to end the conversation slightly sooner than the typical northern Good Samaritan would. The city is populated with an interesting blend of local residents who have grown up in and around the area, students, people arriving from overseas and a small sprinkle of fellow southerners. This mixture of individuals blends well together, creating a city full of multiculturalism and heritage.
It would seem the people of the North have found a better work-life balance, and this balance is sustainable due to a healthy working environment. The city as a whole feels a lot less crowded, so there is a lot more room to breathe. We all notice the difference in the quality of battery farm eggs compared to an egg laid by a happy, free roaming chicken - is it so strange to suggest much of our own happiness and well-being is borne from the same source??
Manchester has the potential to become a real super city of the UK, doing for the North West what London has done for the South. It's been developing slowly but surely for the last decade, and is crying out for a new influx of talented. I used to work in London with people from all over the country. I worked with more than 200 colleagues and fewer than 10% of these were originally from London. It is clear that northerners have played a massive part in London's development, and now it falls on southerners to return the favour.
Manchester is already home to two of the UK's best universities; The University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, which provide a great platform for many young and talented people from around the country and further afield - a good percentage of whom stay in the city after graduating.
I have personally found the North West full of opportunities and feel the region has a very promising future. I have only been with I-COM for four months, but have been greatly impressed with its approach to digital marketing and strategy for future development. Marketing agencies like I-COM are playing a key role in attracting the right influx of talent to Manchester and creating its own modern, but much friendlier environment to challenge the sparkling lights of London.