Why do you live there?
My wife got a scholarship as a postgrad at the university a
few years ago, so we moved over here. Been here about 3.5
years now, and have bought a house. Basically, we really like
it over here. Reasonably sized town, it's got about all the
amenities you need in a compact central area. Lots of
high-tech industry (Silicon Fen is alive and, er, well), hence
reasonably good employment prospects. Lovely buildings, fairly
safe streets at night. And if you fancy going into the big
smoke, the express runs from Cambridge to London every 30
minutes and puts you in King's Cross in 47 minutes. It's
faster to get to The City from Cambridge than from some parts
of London. ;)
Should probably mention that I'm a fairly well-travelled
expatriate New Zealander.
What cultural opportunities do you have?
A reasonable amount. Cambridge isn't exactly throbbing with
art installations, but it's there if you know where to look.
The Arts Picture House has already been mentioned in another
post. There's a few gallaries, some good theatres, and some
truly excellent museums. The Fitzwilliam museum is great, and
has the proud slogan "150 years of free admissions". There are
some good gig pubs to see live bands (The Boat Race or the
Portland Arms) if that's what you're into. In terms of larger
venues, you've basically got two - the Corn Exchange, which
takes medium-to-large gigs (saw Orbital there), and the
Junction, which takes smaller bands/djs and other live acts
(saw Rollins Band there).
What recreational opportunities do you have?
As above, some good live gigs. Some really nice pubs (and,
of course, some totally dire ones). There's a lot of
interesting walks/bike rides around the town and surrounding
countryside. Some good gyms, lots of bookshops, and a decent
What do you like about it?
Lots of things. It's a good size, so you can walk/bike
without a problem. We've lived here for 3.5 years, owned a car
for six months of that, and then realised that we never used
it. The only time we needed a car was for supermarket
shopping, and now Tescos delivers we're absolutely sweet. I
love the fact that I can bike to work safely in the mornings.
Ten minute commutes rock. A car is actually a bit of a
liabiilty if you live within the ring road (which we do, just).
It's a really beautiful city.
It's massively historical. I'm from NZ, where most of the
stuff is fairly recent. So it's quite a massive head-trip to
be cycling down an old Roman road, past the remnants of an
iron-age fort (in the amusingly named Gog Magog hills).
Lots of good pubs. OK, so The Regal's a bit of a dive after
5pm, and the increasing chain pubs are annoying. But if you
get a bit out of the city centre, it's great. There's some
beautiful pubs in The Kite (saw Pete Postlethwaite in the
Clarendon Arms the other month), the Zebra on Maid's Causeway
does excellent pizza, the Fort St George is gorgeous during
summer, ditto the Green Dragon... the list goes on.
Great bookshops. From the huge (Borders, Waterstones,
Heffers) to the tiny second-hand and specialist shops (G David,
The Haunted Bookshop, etc).
The river. C'mon, it's pretty cool.
The job market, though not possibly right at the mo.
What do you hate about it?
The prices. Cambridge is about as expensive as London in
general terms, and don't even ask about the house prices.
We're OK in house terms at the moment, but if we want to buy
another place then we're really going to have to suck it up. In
general Cambridge is really rather pricey.
The tourists. Cambridge is a beautiful historical city that
tends to appear on many package tours. In summer, the central
town is crammed with idiots who think that since they're on
holiday, the laws of politeness and basic physics are on
hiatus. Stepping out in front of you, wandering backwards onto
the road to get a better photo of something, or just standing
immovable in doorways while you're trying to get past. Hey, you're on holiday - people can just walk/drive right through you with out anyone being hurt! And don't get me started on the ignorance. My wife once heard an American tourist authoritatively proclaim that "this is where they filmed that race in Chariots of Fire" while staring into the Great Court at Corpus Christi college. Said race actually
taking place in the Great Court at Trinity, which is about
eight times the size (and having actually been filmed at
University College Dublin). Tch!
A subcategory of tourists... the language students. Again,
mainly in summer. There are a number of language schools
around Cambridge, usually with names like "Cambridge School of
English" or similar. They exist solely so that credulous
parents of sullen teenagers the world over can ship their vile
offspring away for three months and then boast to their friends
that their children are "studying in Cambridge". Some of the
colleges have got wise to this, and rent accomodation out to
these language schools, thus enabling the parents to add
"...and they're staying in a college that was founded in
1352!". I'm looking at you here, middle America. Anyway. Put
yourself in the kids' shoes: you've been shipped off to a
foreign country, where you may not speak the language (these
schools are very popular with students from Japan, Taiwan,
Spain, Portugal, Brazil, etc), and lumped down with a bunch of
kids your age who are in the same boat. It's like summer camp,
but with a lower drinking age! So for about three months of
the year, the town is crammed with adolescents from various
countries attempting to buy booze, bum cigarettes, and then sit
outside on Parker's Pieces (large flat open bit) and drink
themselves foolish. Trust me, it's irritating.
Would you recommend it, and why?
Yes, I would. I really like it here. It's fairly friendly,
it's very pretty, it's close to the useful stuff, and there's
work. The lifestyle is reasonably laid back, and the beer's
If I were to move there, what would I really need to
The ability to cycle would be a big plus. Other than that -
try not to act like a tourist, do get a basic knowledge of the
town/gown distinction (i.e. don't go around asking to see the
university - it's scattered across the entire town), and do
remember to stand your round at the pub. Mine's a Kronenberg,
How is it different from other places you have been?
Growing up, I've lived in London, Tokyo, and Wellington.
It's more chilled out than both London and Tokyo, but still
fairly frenetic. Not as relaxed and cultured as Wellington,
certainly with worse weather, but still a very pleasant place
to live. I'd recommend it.
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