Two months ago I landed at Heathrow airport with red, puffy post crying eyes to be greeted by my English friend we’ll call the pilot. I was actually more like a deer in headlights; a mixture of jet lag, shock of temperature (or lack thereof) and excitement. I guess overwhelmed would probably have been the best way to describe how I looked and was feeling.
Over the next few days, I was reunited with some of my best friends, enjoyed quality English family time, got lost more than once, wondered if I would freeze to death and managed to get more blisters than I had ever known possible. Never once however, did I come near to considering that my move was the wrong decision.
Two months later, my feet have toughened, my inner thermostat has adjusted (slightly), my legs are used to walking miles upon miles, my arms are used to having to carry shopping, groceries, suitcases and bags everywhere and my mind has worked its way around the tube lines.
I have learnt there is a difference between the over ground and the train, that when flat hunting, being near a well-connected station is just as important as the flat and area itself, I have learnt to never catch the district line, that ‘fresh’ fruit & veg isn’t what us kiwi’s know it as and that my London vegetarian diet, due to the standard of meat, is looking more and more likely to continue.
I have learnt that “great shout” means “good call’, that “pony” means “sh*t”, that “you alright?” doesn’t mean someone thinks you are upset and is asking if you’re alright – it’s just what people say instead of hello or how are you… I still answer awkwardly every time “um yes, I’m fine thank you, why?”
I’ve learnt that what we know as chips are crisps, that lollies are sweets, pants are trousers and a togs are a swimsuit.
I have learnt that rent is beyond expensive and that the dream of having outdoor living is exactly that, a dream – not a reality. I’ve learnt that moving house by foot is no easy feat, it’s actually really quite hard, and that you have to move as quick as a brown fox through your decision and offer process – if you don’t, you’ll miss out, have your heart-broken and your homely dreams shattered – finding a decent flat that ticks all of the london necessity boxes is more like finding a needle in a haystack it seems.
I’ve learnt to get pushier on the crammed commute-time tubes, to not be concerned by the black snot and the dirty fingernails you find you have daily by the time you get to work and have learnt that no commute is complete without a 15 minute walk in the cold and often wet weather either side of your one or two train rides.
I’ve learnt that being homesick is a given and that FaceTime, Viber, iMessage and Whastap are the best inventions ever, the enablers of living in my new home – but I’ve also learnt that keeping in touch isn’t as simple as I once thought it would be, you have to make a concerted effort and you quickly learn who you make time for and who reciprocates it – the special people in your life quickly shine bright when you’re living overseas.
I’ve learnt that I can use a screwdriver, hammer and an IKEA instruction booklet far better than I thought I could, I’ve realised (& accepted) that I still can’t read maps or understand N/S/E/W directions and I’ve learnt that independence isn’t a choice but a natural byproduct of living in London, on the other side of the world, a million miles away from your safety net we call home.
I’ve learnt that family doesn’t have to mean blood and have quickly realised that your friends become your life, your pillars and your London safety net that you cherish more than anything.
I’m now set up in my new home, I’m 5 weeks in to my new job and when it comes down to it, my daily routine is much as it was at home really. Life is different, but it’s also the same – it’s just a different speed, scale and with a whole lot more people. I’m pretty fresh when it comes to being a Londoner, I’m still a kiwi girl trying to make her way in the vastly larger than life city – but it’s amazing how quickly you become accustomed to the new, diverse, vibrant lifestyle. New Zealand will always be home, but London’s working out pretty well so far – two months down…who knows how long to go!