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London offers the best and worst of civilization, distilled and then shaken out in a chaotic, postmodern collage like a living version of a shock installation by the latest Britart sensation. It is a community in which more than 50 ethnic groups live on top of one another, and where almost a third of the population was born outside of England. Most people come to London in search of something. A few will find what they came for. The rest will establish whatever foothold they can and hold tight. For better or worse, London's vast scale makes it a city in which it is easy to get lost amid the flotsam of urban life. With rubbish piled uncollected on street corners, tuneless buskers in the shadows of Underground stations and sink estates within yards of multimillion-dollar apartments, London can appear unashamedly ugly at times. Outsiders often mistake the frantic pace of London life for unfriendliness or even cold hostility. Londoners can come across as one huge dysfunctional family with a bad case of attention-deficit disorder. Yet it is a world in which a myriad of life stories are unfolding in parallel on the same psychogeographical stage. An endless, ever-shifting work in progress.
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