Cities are my Boyfriends

Cities are like relationships. I meet a place, get some first impressions – like I would a boy. I get to know a place, get some surprises or confirm my thoughts – like I would a boy. And just like I’ve gone and go through highs and lows with my personal relationships with boyfriends past and present, my relationships with cities also fluctuate, strengthen or die out.

London is my hometown, it’s the city I was born and bred in. London was hyped as the Big Man On Campus (to use a phrase frequently used at my university). It took me a while to get to grips with this. It was like London was the boy I had been friends with for years – the boy I had seen pick his nose and eat it, the boy who would fart and not care I smelt it.

Then suddenly as I matured, I saw more beauty to London, more of an edge, and I thought, “Oooh, now this I like”. I got to know a more amiable side of London, saw what it had to offer deep down. And I was proud to say I had known London for a very long time, and we were very much in love.


We were in a good, steady relationship for a while. I probably made things difficult by heading off to university in Norwich. I suppose I wanted to branch out, meet some other cities (and actually some real human boys, too). London was ok with this – we knew we weren’t exclusive. London was a lady’s man after all – he needed to nurture some other swooning and blossoming relationships.

Norwich – we never really had any downs, and probably not any soaring, ridiculously giddy highs. I love Norwich, don’t get me wrong. It’s beautiful, quirky yet dainty, and I’ll continue to go back. I think Norwich would be the boy who you really see more as a friend, but have a nice comforting, flirty thing with.

Then it hit hard. I studied in Melbourne, and I fell in love like I had never known love before. It was by accident too, as I had originally planned to live in the more glamorous, well-known Sydney. But it turned out that Melbourne and I were just meant to be. It was a match made in heaven not because I planned it, not because of circumstance, but because of a genuine chemistry.

Everyone has this with somewhere different, no two person-and-city are automatically going to match because one person gushes about it – just like a relationship. I found my fit with Melbourne… just as people find their one true loves with London, or New York, or Sydney, etc.


Photo by Monika Markovinovic

I was torn away from Melbourne – we were forced to break up against our will. But I knew I’d never forget about it and think about it every day, waiting patiently (so far…) until the day we could be reunited. I’m still waiting for that day… and just like the worst break up with a boy, it’s numbing and gut-wrenching; you know what you had was so good yet you don’t have it anymore. And genuinely, boys and girls, even typing those last words still hurt. I refuse to accept that Melbourne isn’t mine anymore, because it feels mine. With a significant relationship with a partner, you learn and you change, they become a part of you. This is what I feel with Melbourne – it’s a part of me, so really… it’s still mine, right?

Here we come back to London. Things had turned sour. I didn’t want to be with London. But with my home city, it’s unconditional: even when we’re in a fight, I still know I love it.

I respect London massively. I think it’s one of the most amazing and varying cities. It’s got so much history, there’s an abundance of fascinating stories and it’s always lively – you never have to do the same thing twice. I honestly believe that even the most hardcore Londoner still has not seen all that London has to offer. Like I’ve said, London’s the playboy, London will always keep you on your toes.


But London’s colour has dulled for me recently; like it’s been drained out. We’re going through a rough patch. I feel bad saying that because I know so many people who have moved to London and love it. But that’s ok, because we all feel differently about cities, change our minds, fluctuate in our relationships with them, just like we do with people.

I want to feel thrilled and excited with London, and sometimes I really do. I get extreme highs where I’m filled with a pride and astonishment with this city – but generally, I’ve lost my enthusiasm. It’s not London; it’s me. If we were on Facebook, our status would be ‘It’s Complicated’. I’ve started to think I thrive on change and just maybe me and London need a break before we’re madly in love again. Maybe I just keep thinking about somewhere else.

Do you have a complicated relationship with a city? Or have one you’re Crazy In Love with?


More of an insight into the City is Boy argument:

New York is the boy I know I shouldn’t like, but I’ve always felt an attraction to. Having been to New York, it’s the boy I got a taste for and wanted more but never got the chance.

Prague is my ‘high school sweetheart’ so to speak. We were together a lot, but now I wonder how he’s getting on.

Boston is the boy I really quite like and know very well, but we’ve had some rough times. We’ve worked on things pretty well, though.

Paris is the boy who everyone loves, but I’m slightly afraid to admit that I’m actually not as fussed as everyone else. Like Ryan Gosling, or Brad Pitt (cue many girls around the globe turning against me). I’m sorry, I can definitely see it, but I personally don’t get hot under the collar. Saying that, I probably like Paris more than Gosling or Pitt. Sorry, girls and boys.

Sydney is the boy I know is too big for his boots, but gosh, I love him. He has reason to be cocky.

Surfers Paradise… we will never be together. It was a stupid thing that happened one time. I didn’t know any better. It’s over.

Toronto is the boy I really like, but I’m not sure and twiddling my thumbs about how exciting he’ll be long-term. Is he just the safe option? I really like him though.

– Rome AND Venice are the boys I had a one night stand or two with. They’re my exotic men I’m happy to have spent some time with, but I’m in no rush to see them again (at the moment).


  • Sophie Saint says:

    Haha this is amazing!! I had to leave Melbourne just over a year ago. Still think of it every single day and will definitely go back. No matter what…. Would’ve love to have ended up with London afterwards, but found myself in Bristol. Bristol’s alright, but frankly, I think we’re stuck in a rut…

    • kpowley says:

      We must make our way back to Melbourne, Sophie! I’ve never been to Bristol, would really like to see it one day. I know what you mean, and the rut is hard to get out of! (By the way, London welcomes you with open arms – typical charmer that it is!)

  • Penny says:

    Nice metaphors! I’ve been to London and I did like it… a lot. Maybe I feel like it could have been something more if only I’d nurtured it.

  • HannahontheMap says:

    I love this post! It’s so true how you can compare boys to cities. And sometimes, you need to try different ones out before you realize you were with the one you were meant to be with all along. I love traveling and am currently living abroad, but I know one day I’ll settle down in Atlanta :)

    • kpowley says:

      Exactly! Got to see what’s out there so you know what you want! I think I’d love to live in New York (or San Francisco maybe… if I like it when I go!) for a bit before finding my way to Melbourne eventually :)

  • Now this is an interesting post – I’ve never thought of cities as boyfriends before! Right now, I’m enjoying an all-encompassing romance with Taipei. Sydney was fun, but perhaps a bit superficial in the long-term – he’d probably cheat on me. Newcastle is safe and familiar, but fun and friendly. Montreal is that gorgeous guy that you always feel a little insecure around, and Cali is the Latin lover that made me swoon. Budapest is the beautiful but arrogant guy that wonders why I never called HIM back, and Seoul never has enough time for me – I like his more laid back friends.

    • kpowley says:

      Loved reading your relationships with cities. That is SO Sydney (am I sounding insane yet?)! Cheeky Budapest. For me, Montreal was the guy that wasn’t sure whether I was good enough for him – so I’m the same with feeling a little insecure.

  • This is fantastic! I loved your comparisons, they really made me laugh :) New York is to me what it sounds like Melbourne is to you… i fell hard on the first day, and never got over it!

  • Virginia says:

    I love the analogy!

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