When you’re on your own in London, the only place to go for friends
London has the most open city in the world, with a host of cultural and social attractions and an international reputation for being a “social capital”.
Nowhere is this more evident than at the heart of the capital, where the “gift economy” has become so popular that many Londoners are now buying and selling their friends and family.
For many, it’s the first time they’ve ever felt free to explore and make friends, with people and places alike offering a range of experiences.
“I’m so glad I live in London because I can go anywhere I want,” said Ali, who was living in Dubai with her husband when she moved to London.
“It’s so much more open.”
And in the past few months, there has been a boom in the gift economy.
Many of the country’s biggest shops and restaurants have launched new initiatives to sell gifts for friends and their families.
For the first two weeks of September, the first ever gift-giving season, many shops have closed, or have closed altogether.
But the phenomenon is spreading beyond the UK.
Many people in Dubai have moved to the UK to be with their families or friends, in part because of the increased visibility of social events.
This year, many of the biggest cities in the Middle East, including Dubai, have seen their largest gift-selling events in years, and it’s no wonder: many young couples in the UAE are starting to look for a way to keep their families close.
“We’ve become the social capital of the world,” said Ahmed, a 26-year-old student who lives in Dubai.
“People have really accepted our relationship, and we’ve grown.”
Some have also become more open to the idea of spending their own money to get to know people.
In the past year alone, some of the best-known social events in the UK have attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors, with more than 3,000 events in total.
The London event in September was held in the “new and fashionable” Shoreditch, with over 500 people expected to attend.
This was the second-largest-ever gathering of people in London this year, after the biggest in May.
“The social capital in London is becoming more and more open and I think the gift industry is the answer,” said Anjem Choudary, a London-based social entrepreneur.
“They’ve taken the social hub out of the centre of London, and people can now come together at any time of day and socialise, go shopping and get social.”
“There is something for everyone, and there are some great parties, and I love that,” said Khairul, a 25-year old student living in London.
The popularity of the gift market is particularly appealing to women.
While men tend to spend more on gifts, women are often more likely to spend on their friends’ gifts, according to an Al Jazeera investigation.
“A lot of women are more open about this, because they are so happy with the gifts they have,” said Farhan, a 29-year in-law living in Edinburgh.
“But for men, they are a little hesitant.
You have to find someone to take care of them and to make sure that the gifts are done right, and that they are loved by their friends.”
The new social economy There are a number of factors that are fueling the increase in the popularity of gifts, and some are well known.
The recent Brexit vote has seen the UK’s economy take a significant hit, leading many people to leave the UK, and many of them are seeking a new life in other countries.
“When people are leaving the UK and don’t have a job, there’s a lot of stress on the economy,” said Shira, who moved to Dubai with a group of her friends two years ago.
“In Dubai, you can get the cheapest flights in the country, which can mean a lot to you, especially if you’re an expat.”
“It can also mean that if you move abroad and need a job and are looking for a place to live, you’re more likely not to be able to find a job in Dubai because you’re not in the market for jobs,” she added.
“So there’s more stress in the economy, and you don’t get the kind of holiday you would in a hostel or a host family.
You also don’t want to travel as much as you might otherwise because of it.
And then there’s also a whole new set of rules for things that are a social norm in Dubai.”
The trend for giving gifts The gifts market is now thriving in many parts of the UK – it’s also been a big part of the success stories of some of London’s biggest artists, musicians and athletes.
The success of this trend has created an environment where people feel free to give gifts for their friends, but it’s not just the Londoners who are opening their wallets to take advantage of the gifts market. Many Dubai