What prompted me to write this post was my recent visit to New York and an awesome weekend I spent with friends in London a couple of weeks ago. I have to admit I’ve always been a huge fan of London and the city has inspired me immensely in the past. When I was working for a big international company as an SAP Consultant I often travelled there for business. My company offered a generous budget on accommodation and I would book a hotel in some of the coolest areas of London – Soho, the Covent Garden or the City. I can vividly remember leaving the hotel early in the morning, grabbing a cappuccino at Pret-a-Manger, standing alongside a busy street and watching people go by. So much was happening around me that I had the feeling life was going by in fast motion.
I only visited New York for a first time about a month ago and I was very excited to see if I would find a city that is much more appealing, future oriented and forward thinking than it’s old fashioned older brother.
London and New York have been locked in a friendly battle for global supremacy that persisted for more than 150 years. For most of the decades of the 20th century, New York appeared to have had the upper hand – it was the place of innovation, happening and trend setting.
How do both cities compare to each other today after the financial crisis of 2008 and what to expect from both colossi in the future?
The U.S. image abroad is suffering almost everywhere. Particularly in the most economically developed countries, people blame America for the financial crisis, the wars in the Middle East and the fallen regimes in North Africa. New York is also impacted by this negative reputation. New York and the U.S. were the symbol of prosperity and innovation in the 90s while nowadays they are playing the role of bully in the school yard, throwing its weight around with little regard for others’ interests.
New York is also losing against London due to US’s tight immigration policy while London is gaining popularity encouraged by Europe’s open doors policy.
New York is still the most productive city and economically more powerful, ranking second only to Tokyo, with London third, in the Economic Power Index. It is still widely regarded as the capital of cinema, fashion and multiculturalism. But there is one question that nested in my head while I was wandering the streets of Manhattan the other day:
Has New York become the victim of US worsened image over the last decade?
If that’s the case, London has been taking a good advantage of it. In 2008 while most of Europe was plunging into economic meltdown, digital startups were emerging in East London to form what is known today as “Silicon Roundabout” or “Tech City”. The UK government reacted very quickly and invested heavily in both the businesses and the area, investors started taking notice, London universities graduates wanted to work there and it was when the scale-ups started to arrive.
London has also claimed top spot as a centre for business, finance and culture in Cities of Opportunity – PWC’s sixth annual index of 30 major cities internationally leaving New York a few places behind. Reinforcing London’s growing reputation as a tech hub, the report finds the city is “technologically on top of its game”.
I have to say I love both cities, I love big cities, I love influential cities. Which one is better is one of these questions that can’t be answered and probably shouldn’t be. Young people really want either of them on their CVs because it says something about their status and their intentions. And if each of them can deliver career-boosting credentials and unbeatable conditions for business, the one that will have the long term edge over the other, is the city that aspires sustainability!