Friday, 5 September 2014

Settling in London

It has been exactly one year since we landed at Heathrow airport in London after our 6 month backpacking stint around the Americas. It's been a year of ups and downs and I finally feel settled in London. London is a city that offers so much but she doesn't reveal it all it once. She's a bit stand offish at first, but once you get to know her, she'll invite you over for tea with open arms. So here are a few things I've learnt along the way through my own experiences and having many a conversation with other people in the same boat. Everyone's experiences are different and it's important just to go with whatever comes your way.

Culture shock is something everyone deals with
A lot of Australians choose to move to London because of a wonderful little thing called the Youth Mobility Visa. Also because you think that because Australia is so closely linked to the UK that everything will be quite similar. In that you'll be a little wrong. Because everything here is different. Something things are even just slightly different. But that difference will still throw you off and you'll need time to adjust to it. I remember getting upset in how people walk here. They just don't seem to naturally move out of the way like they do back home. Their concept of personal space is completely lacking. But over time, I adjusted and now, I'm probably as bad as the rest of them. Don't stress about it or overthink it, it's just time and often it can take up to 12 months to get that 'settled' feeling back. 

Get some housemates
I know some people are adverse to sharing with people but I find it a really great way to meet new people and as long as you get a good vibe from them at the start, then you'd rarely get into any serious houseshare nightmares. Just stay relaxed and pick a place with people of similar ages to you who can carry a normal conversation and have relatively similar hygiene standards. Get a good mix of genders and it always helps to set up a good cleaning system or better- chip in for a cleaner. We've met some lovely people and even got to go to a fantastically fun British wedding just through housesharing. Also it helps to shuffle about every 6 months unless you find something truly perfect. Just so you can try new areas as well.

Housemate wedding!
Join a club
Kevin set a great example for this. He's part of two running clubs that he religiously goes to. In the first 6 months he didn't really meet that many people but he kept going and slowly built up a few acquaintances who then turned into friends. Now, they're all having BBQs and picnics together and it's just a nice way to meet whole bunch of different people. The point is that he didn't really go there to make friends initially and English people can take awhile to open up. So it's just time and persistence really. And though I don't like running and got to tag along to all these fun BBQs and met some lovely people as well. 
Run dem crew BBQ
Keep in contact with friends and family
It always gives a me warm and fuzzy feeling everytime I randomly message an old Australian friend and I get an enthusiastic reply. Though it's hard to keep in contact all the time, make sure that you keep tabs on what's happening at home because you do get lonely and it does help to know that someone out there cares. Also I've facebook messaged my parents every now and then just to keep them up to date with all the random stuff happening in my life. I think they appreciate it.

Freelance/locum work
As a Vet I found that it was quite easy to contact a few recruitment agencies and get 2-3 week working stints around London. I tried to accept jobs in different areas and with different situations. One week it'll be a charity clinic with 7 Vets on at a time and then afterwards it'll be a sole charge clinic. It gives you a chance to try out different work environments, meet new people and try out a variety of different food. My favourite peri peri chicken is a small chicken shop in Wembley called Boston Peri Peri. And the best tabouleh and garlic chicken is in Kentish Town at El Phoencia. I just wouldn't have bothered going to these places otherwise.

Randomly contact that friend of a friend who is also a Vet because that can give you a bit of insight to how to set yourself up so it all doesn't seem so frightening. People are always willing to help. And lastly, don't panic. If you persist but at the same time, enjoy the time you have off, you'll realise later on, how unnecessary it was to try to grab the first job on offer. Think carefully what you'll be happy with and realise what you're worth. Also, Kevin who is a freelance copywriter took a bit more time to find freelance jobs but he's got some good contacts now and is in a steady groove. Try to be proactive with your time even though you may be out of work for a few months. He spent a lot of time building on his website and thinking of good ideas he could put forward in the future. 

Be practical but not frugal
You can convert pounds back to Aussie dollars all you want but at the end of the day, you're here to live, not sit in your house all weekend because (you think) you can't afford to go out. It does help when you start earning pounds because that's when the mental conversion stops. Obviously you can't be having 50 pound dinners all the time but give yourself some good experiences and just try to enjoy things that you would normally in Australia. Whether it's going to the movies, having a nice dinner out  or getting yourself some watercolour paints. 

Cockney ATM
Get to know London, not just travel out of it 
If you're spending every weekend travelling and exhausting yourself exploring other countries in Europe, then it's hard to appreciate what you actually have in London. Get a Barclays bike and just ride down the canal for coffee. Or go to a local food market. There's always something going on but people miss so much of what London is a about because they don't give it some time. It's such a large city with pockets of interesting areas but it really takes some exploring to find them. But it's well worth the effort. It's easy to get sucked into the whole FOMO when you see everyone's photos from Greece or Italy but I've often been told that after awhile the cities start blurring together. Work on a lasting bond with a place, not just a flimsy 36 hour date.

Get a bike
At first London roads look really hardcore and most people think they will literally die riding a bike on them. But remember that the busy roads you see on the bus are definitely not the ones you will take on a bike. There ARE some nice bike lines running from Shoreditch and up through Angel. Then there's the canal which makes a lovely ride on a nice day. There really is only a slim chance of falling into that radioactive looking water. Miniscule really. Not only is it faster, but it's cheaper and as long as you invest in a good bike lock (I got myself a ARBUS 120cm foldable lock which alone is half the cost of the bike itself) you should be smooth sailing. You get to know London on a much more intimate basis.

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