The experience I’ve had hasn’t only broadened my view, but also changed some of my thoughts.
450 days earlier, having realised that I had missed my chance to study in London, I got on the plane and flew 6085 miles to Heathrow for a transfer to Leeds by train. I went with an apprehensive and complexed mood, as well as a really narrow mind. Before coming to Leeds I knew nothing of British culture besides afternoon tea, its fashion, rock music, and London like a tourist. Leeds seemed like a minority far from London and Northern culture never existed in my dictionary, however, all of those prejudices disintegrated once I began to explore this place. I’ve see something new every day (things that I’ve never imagined) and couldn’t help but fall in love with this exquisite place.
Growing up in an Asian metropolis with its frantic lifestyle and towering skyscrapers made life extremely pressing. We are proud of our efficiency, but it deprives the quality of life in contrast to Leeds. For a small city-centre Leeds offers everything – from soup to nuts. In the beginning I felt really annoyed that shops here open from 9 or 10 in the morning and close at 5 or 6 at night, which is different from my hometown where most of the shops open at least until 10 o’clock at night, not to mention all the 24 hour stores and restaurants. However, after a few months, I started to realise that the early opening times make people cherish the day. It challenges them to get out of bed and settle all of their affairs during the day then go home to relax, which is more healthy and prioritizes family or personal life.
During my days in Leeds, I also became infatuated with old buildings. In Taiwan we have many urban regeneration projects and refurbished old houses, but Leeds is totally beyond all that. I never expected to go clubbing in churches, see gigs in Victorian industrial buildings like Canal Mill and O2 Academy, and participate with cultural activities in the ruin Kirkstall Abbey to mention a few occasions. During my internship at Templeworks I’ve been to ‘Kin’ell Fest, a crazy three-day long death metal festival, a get-chased-by-zombies game, met the artists in residence etc. All of this proved the cultural vitality in Leeds heritage to me over and again. I’m not sure how local youngsters think about this, but In my opinion they are really lucky to have the chance to jump around and get messy in historical buildings. Just imagine that the place has been through WWII and was part of the industrial revolution so the meaning of the activity is already more than just a gig.
Let’s not forget to reminisce shopping in the delicate arcades, Victoria Quarter, Corn Exchange, and Kirkgate Market. All the structures, decorations and details of those buildings make the time spent there more special in a city that is unique. It is hard for me to reinterpret these experiences back in Taiwan where much of the old architecture was demolished in pursuit of economical efficiency. I believe that in every period of history people have made every effort to create the most beautiful city in their mind, and by preserving and cherishing their creations people can share their memories of home with future generations. The cherishing of old things is also notable due to the popularity of vintage boutiques, charity shops and retro furniture emporiums. Most of all I respect peoples’ appreciation of usable good things rather than desiring everything new. “If it’s not broke don’t fix it” comes to mind!
Another thing that I have discovered in Leeds is that there are many dreamers who never gave up on doing what they want to do, no matter if it’s profitable or not. I’ve met artists who work on week-days and paint all weekend, people who have successful blogs and websites who love sharing opinions and reviews about life (weather), food, arts and culture. I read free, local media in coffee shops every day about all kinds of exclusive D.I.Y. events happening around this city. Maybe it’s council funding that provides people the chance to do those things, however, it is still commendable that there are that so many people are keen to work hard for what they’re worth, not just coins, which is all I’ve seen in Taiwan.
Leeds (the word) sounds like “chestnut” in mandarin. The place which never associated in my mind one and half years before has already become one of my favourite places outside my hometown and taught me a lot. Life in London might be exciting, but if I spent this year in central London would I have ventured out to explore Northern British culture? Would I have had the romantic memories of industrial mills and old churches? I cannot be sure now, but I am certain it was right I came to Leeds having met the characters who gave me ideas and dulled my prejudices between North and South.
Liting Lin is a student at Leeds University.