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15th February 2024

How to live a European lifestyle in Manchester

Life in Manchester may feel very different to continental Europe, but with our compilation of advice, you won’t feel so far from other European cultures as a student in the city
How to live a European lifestyle in Manchester
Credit: Banff Sunshine Village @ Unsplash

Picture this: you have a year to spend your life however you wish, and you want to go somewhere that’s vibrant, lively, and brimming with opportunities to make memories. Where do you go? Maybe it’s Paris, Rome, or Barcelona, all cities right in the heart of Europe. Forbes claims expats find Malaga in Spain to be the most coveted European city to live in, while CN Traveller ranks Helsinki, Finland at the number one spot. No matter where I looked, from Forbes to CN Traveller and even Visit World’s rankings, the UK did not seem to rank so high in the leader boards. So what is it that makes central Europe so appealing?

Following my trip to Chamonix this December, I was immediately reminded of the answer. The UK is brimming with opportunities to grow your career, make connections, and take strides towards your dreams. Think Edinburgh, think Manchester, think London! It’s buzzing with exciting prospects at every corner and, in the major cities, the lifestyle can be brimming with energy. Having said that, while in the UK we may lean more towards living to work, in much of the rest of Europe the priority appears to be working to live.

Although the average net income of a Spaniard tends to be much lower than a UK resident, Spain’s cost of living (according to HealthPlan Magazine) is much lower, with the cost of rent being a staggering 41.7% cheaper than that of the UK. So, while wages may be lower, the Spanish way of life seems easier to sustain, along with many of the other central European countries, in comparison to the UK’s current cost of living crisis. This, as Europe Language Jobs points out, contributes to a 90% satisfaction rate of quality of life in Northern and Western Europe, where healthcare is more accessible, education is of a higher standard, and social life is generally inviting.

I remember when I lived in Spain, and much of my daily routine consisted of enjoying time outdoors, meeting friends on the weekends, and having access to a wide range of cultural activities and events. In Chamonix, I had a similar experience. I woke up in the morning, had my coffee on the balcony, and went for a morning of skiing. I imagine if I lived there I would then come home to make lunch and spend the afternoon getting some work done – my holiday allowed me to spend this time either exploring the town or trying different local cafes.

The food quality is nothing short of delectable, where not one meal disappointed and everything was freshly made. The overall atmosphere of the locals was that people did what they enjoyed doing; whenever I walked into the bakery in the morning, I was greeted by the same kind woman trying to make out what poor grammar I could muster in French. The overall atmosphere of any of the hotspots felt very sociable, to the point that you could strike up a conversation with anyone and make a new friend.

Much of Europe is rich in history and a variety of cultures; it’s exciting and romantic. Yes, I’m probably romanticising the lifestyle in Chamonix from the perspective of a tourist on holiday, but you could genuinely sense that the general approach was to work your job hours, in a field you truly enjoy, and then spend the rest of your day living life in a way that makes you feel the most alive. For me, that came from cross-country skiing, just me exploring the snowy plains endlessly, surrounded by snow-coated mountains, pine-tree forests, and clear running rivers. I’ve genuinely never felt happier.

But that’s enough of my dream of a holiday in France, what about how we can bring this life to Manchester – especially while being a university student on a budget? As someone lucky enough to have their fair share of visits to different countries in Europe, I have created something of a guide to living a European life right here in the North of the UK.

One of my first pieces of advice to feel immersed in the European lifestyle is to become a member of one of the international societies at the university. From speaking to many fellow students I’ve noticed the misconception that to become a member of an international society, you need to either be from that country or fluently speak the language. This could not be further from the truth. Many people who go to the events are beginner speakers and come from a diverse range of different countries, yet everyone is still welcomed all the same! So I encourage you, especially if you have been debating it for a while, to sign up for one or more of these societies and engage in the dinner parties, cultural activities and, a personal favourite, reggaeton nights out (the only time you will ever catch me on a night out, if you do).

Try engaging in more extra-curricular activities that help you feel connected to a particular culture. In Spain ‘padel’ is extremely popular and courts are beginning to open all over the UK. You could join a cooking or baking society to live your French culinary dreams or try taking up skiing at the Chill Factore, Manchester’s answer to the Swiss Alps. There are some options listed on the Students’ Union website, but it’s important to note this is not your sole option.

Many events are going on throughout the city of Manchester every single day. Go to watch the Broadway show Hamilton in the Palace Theatre (until February 2024) or grab yourself some tickets to watch Nerubashenko’s Nutcracker ballet (January 20) from just £13 per person. While the Whitworth Art Gallery or Manchester Art Gallery may not be the Louvre in Paris, they both boast an extensive range of beautiful pieces rich in culture and often host engaging events to learn more about the work they display. Where you may be craving the excitement of adventure in Europe, why not try some thrilling entertainment like Chaos Karts (real-life Mario Karting) or Paradise Skate World (an immersive, intergalactic roller-skating experience)? Or maybe you want something a little more slow-paced, like ceramic painting at Pottery Corner. Whatever activity it is that makes you feel most connected with a particular culture, there are a range of options spread out across Manchester.

Besides all of this, if you want to try doing something a little more cosy, how about hosting a world cuisine night with a couple of your friends? I did this not too long ago, and it was one of my favourite nights at university so far. Each of us brought something different: I prepared Russian salad, someone else made cheesy Greek pastries, paella was prepared, vegetable-infused pancakes, a range of French dishes – it was a beautiful night. By hosting something like this, you really don’t need to spend a lot of money but can still take the opportunity to learn about your friends’ backgrounds and feel immersed in that diverse cultural experience you may associate with much of central Europe.

It’s also common for many Europeans to go for a morning coffee and baked goods before starting their day. Some of my personal favourite cafes include Bold Street Coffee, Pret and Federal – but if you’re looking for something a bit more affordable, head over to Corridor Coffee in the Students’ Union where they provide a range of pastries, breakfast items and warm drinks for very accessible prices.

The architecture in Europe is also another extremely attractive point. So, being a student, how about immersing yourself in an inspiring, romantic environment and getting those assignments done? The reading room in Manchester Central Library hosts a stunning interior and the perfect quiet environment to get work done, while John Rylands Library boasts an interior design that resembles something out of a Harry Potter film.

You could even try visiting some local food markets, an activity that is part of many Europeans’ weekly routines. Take a 30-minute tram ride from Piccadilly Gardens on the Purple Line to Altrincham to visit the Altrincham Markets: a space full of a range of food and clothing stands, renowned for being all locally sourced and hosting some of their own events.

Other things I am doing include decorating my university room in a way that reminds me of my favourite places in Europe, sticking posters on the walls and incorporating designs that are characteristic of certain locations. I play background music that reminds me of my travels abroad and read books by authors from all over the world.

So, whether it’s taking up skiing or going for a freshly baked croissant before you head off to your morning lecture, there are a variety of ways to live the ‘European lifestyle’ whilst based as a university student in Manchester, and much of it at a very affordable cost. The only question now is choosing where to start.

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