first impressions of brighton

My First Impressions of Brighton

Published On August 26, 2016 | By Holly Tousignant | Homepage, Things to do features

Fresh off the boat from Canada, a new resident shares her first thoughts of her new home.


I arrived in Brighton a month and a half ago armed with nothing but a couple of suitcases, an address for a flat I’d found online and vague, pleasant memories of a city I’d spent time in a few summers ago.

I moved to the UK with a friend – we’re both a few months into two-year work visas – and without any premeditated plans for how best to utilise our visas, we decided to land in Brighton based on vague, shared impressions of the city. In our minds, Brighton was a slightly cheaper, slightly more manageable, mini London – but with a beach. Of course, the city is much, much more than that, and our first month here has been full of surprises and discoveries.

first impressions of brighton

A terrifying breed – photo by Holly Victoria Norval

Thanks to its warm embrace of diversity, Brighton receives a constant influx of newcomers who are seeing it for the first time, making their own judgements and developing first impressions. These were mine.

Brighton seagulls are a unique, terrifying breed unto themselves.

For most of my life I’ve lived near large bodies of water so I’m used to the annoyance of seagulls – or so I thought. I’ve had chips stolen out of my hand and been pooped on before, but none of that prepared me for the winged beasts that crowd Brighton’s streets and waterfront. Who knew birds could be capable of such disturbing noises?

With their impressive size and velociraptor-esque shrieks, Brighton gulls can make living in this city feel like you’re in a live version of The Birds, only instead of symbolic violence, their victims are subject to brutal ice cream snatching and other food-related intimidation.

There are possibly more vintage/charity clothing shops here than there are people.

Between the charity shops throughout the city and the quirky vintage stores that dot the North Laine, I’m convinced that no one in Brighton wears anything that hasn’t previously been worn by an (equally quirky and hip) prior owner.

How can there be that much used clothing in rotation in such a small city? Are visitors forced to surrender their Hawaiian shirts and overalls as some form of tourism levy before entering Brighton?

first impressions of brighton

Summer mayhem

Rainy days are a drag, but hot weather leads to MAYHEM.

There is a very narrow weather sweet spot that elicits nothing but praise from Brighton locals, but anything else – cold, blustery days or days that breach the 25 degree mark (heaven forbid) – is met with vocal disdain.

Two notably pleasant, rain-less days in a row, and suddenly everyone is demanding to know when this heat wave will end?! Fortunately, Brighton is full of attractions and activities that cater to those who are willing to brave the elements on a normal day.

Brighton is a vegetarian’s dream.

But also kind of a nightmare, because as a vegetarian I’m not used to this kind of choice. You mean I have options besides a dish where the meat has simply been replaced with soggy eggplant (OK, aubergine) or a sad, gloopy risotto?!

And not only am I presented with several options at regular restaurants, but there are actually countless spots that cater specifically to vegetarians/vegans/just about any other special dietary requirement you can name.

Brighton residents are a (needlessly) self-deprecating bunch.

When people first discover that I moved here from Canada, their responses are usually something along the lines of “Why Brighton?” or “You chose to come here? On purpose? Hmmm…”

Yes, I willingly decided to live in a city full of culture, diversity, history, open mindedness and charm, a city that happens to be surrounded by natural beauty, breathtaking walks and quaint villages to explore, a city with miles of coastline and quick access to a major international airport. What was I thinking?!

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Cover photo by Henry Hemming

About The Writer

Canadian in Brighton. Slowly adventuring and eating my way across Europe and occasionally writing about it.