Thursday, 11 November 2010

City life can be a lonely bitch

Yesterday night I watched a show on tv called Royle Family: behind the Sofa - on GOLD Channel - where they discussed a recent survey about family life in the UK. The presenter disclosed that family units in London are the most lonely and isolated of all 92 counties in the United Kingdom. Surprised?

According to the survey, more than 20% of London teenagers said ‘not to respect their parents at all’ and an equal proportion does not get along with siblings. Compare that to the north (Yorkshire, Cumbria, Durham, Northumberland) where a fifth beyond the age of 24 still live with their parents. And in the midlands (Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, Shropshire) this is even a third (34%).

In the south, however, more than 40% has left home by the time they turn 20 and that percentage is even higher in London. This surprised me, since the average London lifestyle is – by far – the most expensive in the UK, if not in the whole of Europe. Having said that, the presenter gave as one of the possible explanations that education levels in the north are much lower, and that more people in the south have a degree. People with higher education qualifications tend to move out sooner (for example, when they go to uni or for a job change) and, generally, earn more money - so they have the funds to move out.

In Newcastle or Preston, parents are ‘lucky’ compared to the south, more than 20% of northerners claim to visit - or be visited by - their parents every day, a figure that is less than 10% in the south. Overall, families in the north spend more time together and argue less frequently, the presenter continued. They also share more interests than people in the south.

Christmas: family time? With Christmas coming up in less than seven weeks, the research showed that northern family units will be spending the most time together, over 65% will spend the holidays in the company of their (extended) family, compared to less than 40% in the south. And it’s not just during Christmas, 60% of the northerners enjoy a family meal at least three times a week - in the midlands even 65% - compared to relatives in London, where only 1 in 3 has a ‘regular weekly family meal’.

The programme said the survey had merely focused on British-born residents with most of the extended family living in the UK. If the large immigrant, foreign and expat communities in the British capital – to whom I belong – were included in the examination, figures would have been even lower, since most of their families are based overseas, which makes it is impossible to ‘stop by for a chat’ or have a family meal three times a week.

While the presenter was busy making his slot remarks, I tried to justify this given fact by concluding that family time should be about quality, not quantity. A lame excuse perhaps, but it still works for me.

Royle Family: behind the sofa - every Wednesday at 9 pm - GOLD Channel