Well that was Unexpected: Moving to England Edition
As anyone who has traveled ever can tell you, things will inevitably not go the way you planned them. Moving across an ocean was no exception to this rule. Having moved to China twice, I figured I knew more or less what I was doing this time around. But this trip came with some of its own unique challenges that I hadn’t quite expected when I began this process.
Definitely not something I thought I was going to find difficult. Come on, at the time I was being paid to help other people with visas–I know this stuff! But that exact same logic ended up being my stumbling block. I knew too much about visas and found myself over analyzing every question. On top of that, it was a lot more money up front than I expected. There was a fee to the company that was assisting me with my visa, the visa fee itself, and then the National Healthy Care fee. I could have gone on a weeks vacation for what I paid all in. The big thing that got me though was the insistence that you had to keep the amount required for proof of funds in your bank account until after you got your visa, but still pay all these other fees up front. Some very interesting accounting went into getting over that hurdle. If you’re going to try for this visa, seriously, have at least double what they say you need.
Everything in London is expensive–that’s just a fact. When you’re living in a hostel the costs add up fast, and all you’ll want to do is get out of there. Either you move on to a new city, or if you are in the situation that I was in, you find a flat share. However, a flat share can mean still living with 6 people and you’re still spending way too much on it. Prices were per week, which was something new to this Canadian who had never seen rent listed in anything but per month. I’ve seen deposits that are the equivalent to two months rent for places that is barely a shoe box with a mattress in the corner. Then you have to take into account agency fees, cleaning fees, and any other fee someone can think up to add. Just moving in can be a massive expense. I got really lucky, I found a great set up with a really lovely family, and it’s reasonably priced on top of that. I have a job waiting for me at the start of June, which I had meant I was looking for places convenient to work rather than looking at the whole of London–which actually helped with the search immensely. Pick a neighborhood you like, ask lots of questions, have a budget. Essentially everything you’d do getting a new place at home! It just feels way more intimidating with currency conversion in a city you don’t really know.
Another thing that I didn’t think I’d have any problems with. I had researched it extensively, I had written out a comprehensive packing list about two weeks in advance and gone through it repeatedly to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything or that I had included anything useless. I did however neglect to, you know, look at the weather report or at least general trends for London in Spring. Which means I have a combination of clothes for high summer and mid winter and nothing really in between. If I got to do it all again, I’d bring far less and much more transitional pieces. Another good idea would have been to start packing more than three hours before I was to leave the country for the next two years. I had pushed everything to the last minute for a paycheck. This meant I worked full time until Thursday, Friday I packed my apartment and had my leaving party, Saturday I moved out of my apartment completely, Sunday was spent with my family (no judgments, we went to the zoo), and Monday I packed and flew out. In hindsight I should have taken more time to do this, so would have time to edit down the amount I was bringing without being stressed and running out of time. It’s a delicate balance between the “I’m living here for two years so I need those gorgeous stilettos,” and “I’m hate traveling with more than a single carry on so I need to pair down a lot more.”
How Expensive Everything Is
I’ll try to not belabor this, but there is a certain brand of painful that comes with seeing half of your money disappear in an instant every time you buy something. Even things that seem inexpensive end up being the exact opposite of that with the currency conversion. All my worst freak outs so far have involved an impending lack of money. Seriously, if you’re going to attempt the move, have as much money as you can get your hands on (short of doing anything illegal–though I wont pretend like I haven’t considered that option once or twice). Trust me, this whole endeavour will cost you way more than you think it will.
Since all of the above were really negative, here are some awesome positive things I’ve discovered since moving to London
Drinking in the Park
Since arriving in London we have had some amazingly good warm weather. Temperatures up to 27 degrees celsius has meant that the whole of London spends the weekend in the city’s parks taking advantage of the sun while it lasts. All you need is a blanket, some snacks, and some drinks and you’re set for the day. In Ontario it is illegal to drink in public spaces–to the extent you cannot bring alcohol onto the sidewalk in front of your home or you can be ticketed. We find ways around these laws all the time, but conveniently in London I no longer have to. Me and my bottle of wine can just spend a lazy afternoon in the park with no issues. A far more civilized way to live, I feel.
The Australian Expat Community
I feel like I’ve been adopted by the Australian community here in London. They’re constantly doing different events, and they do like a good party. Both of these happens to be some of my favorite things–though my bank account disagrees with me on this. After three weeks in this country, I have met only a couple actually English people. Almost everyone I know is an Australian, with a few New Zealanders and a couple other Canadians thrown in for good measure. As much as I laugh at what I’m calling my “authentically British experiences,” I actually love my new adopted community. They want to go places and do things. There is always something going on in the city and someone game to go do it.
How Much I’d Start to Love this City
Though my relationship with London did have a bit of a rocky start, I’m really starting to love it! You take a long walk through it’s winding streets and around each corner you find some new hidden treasure or experience. Hundreds of years of history and change stand side by side in a mix of streets and tiny alleyways. Even going through the same neighborhoods again is never the same experience twice. The longer I’m here the more I see. The more I see of this city and the more people I meet, the more this place becomes my home. Pubs, free museums, gorgeous parks, and something new to always find, London is my kind of place.