News Thoughts

Reflecting on a Year in the UK

Last week marked the one year anniversary of my arrival to the UK. Now, one year on, I reflect back on the last 12 months living and working in London.

The Emotional Rollercoaster is much Steeper

Everything is amplified in London and when you’re so far away. It’s big, it’s loud, it’s fast, it’s a constant assault on the senses. Your low moments will feel so much lower than they did in New Zealand, and the people or strategies that you had back home to pull yourself out of your rut may not be with you or work in London. Rather cruelly, when you first move here, it’s these nauseating lows that will hit you first. You probably didn’t cry in a supermarket back home. You probably will cry in a Tesco at some point in the early days here as you become so overwhelmed by the upheaval you’ve gone through. You will wonder why you put yourself through this – no one made you do this, so why did you take a decision that is causing you to hurt? (Pondering this question will also make you fit right in within the UK as they ask the same of themselves over Brexit). However, after you’ve been here for a few months, you will also start experiencing the high moments London life has to offer. The amazing nights out with new and old friends. The incredible weekend getaways across Britain. The week jetting off to Europe to explore places that until now you’d only seen on a screen. These high moments will be more intense than what you’ve experienced before, and you’ll come to have moments where you can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere other than where you are right now. You may not realise it yet, but you are going to cry when you finally leave here too, as you know that for the rest of your life your heart will never quite be fully in just one place ever again.

You Become an Expert in Planning

Remember how easy it was to just pop in the car, drive the 15 minutes to work and park right outside? Or to nip down to New World on a whim, buy a trolley’s worth of groceries and unload it straight from the driveway into your pantry? Yeah, forget that. Singing along with The Dixie Chicks to the steering wheel is a rare luxury reserved for out of town hire car excursions rather than a daily occurrence, everything is now a carefully choreographed mission. Want to be at work for 9am? Memorise the train timetable, identify the train you need to be on, and stand on the platform watching the train depart without you on it when you realise that there are already 1000 people on the train. Watch this happen three more times before you realise that maybe you can be a contortionist and fit under that sweaty man’s armpit like a human tetris piece. It will only cost you more than the price of a car every year for the privilege. Coming back from a week away and need some groceries? Use one of the amazing online delivery services from one of the many supermarkets, just make sure you order it before you head away on your trip! Got a friend in East London? Plan your journey, and whether or not you need to pack an overnight bag. If you miss that last train, an Uber back to West London will cost more than flying to Iceland. Got a friend in South London? Ponder what an amazing relationship that might have been if only they didn’t live so goddamn far away.

Pragmatism is out and Officious Bureaucracy is in

This tends to come with any large population. Whereas in New Zealand you’ll be used to phoning up a government agency or business, speaking to a fellow New Zealander who understands that sometimes rules have to be a little bit flexible for anything to get done, in the UK you will (generally) be stonewalled by someone who is following the rules to the letter. They may send you on a chicken and the egg mission where they will only help you once you’ve spoken to another department who in turn will only help you once the first department helped you. Want a bank account? You’ll need proof of address first. Want somewhere to live? You’ll need to show your bank account which proves you can pay the rent. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

Chicken and egg scenario on the Megabus: To break the glass use the hammer, but to use the hammer you first need to break the glass.

Friends are the new Family

You may find yourself about as far away from home as you can possibly be, but many people you meet in London, even if they are from England or elsewhere in the UK are also a long way from home. They understand the challenges of moving to a big new place having left the comforts and safety net of their smaller hometown behind. No matter how independent we are, we all need other people around us in this big wide world. London can be a really hard place to meet people, but there are amazing people around if you just make a bit of an effort to find them. In my case, I was very fortunate that it transpired that some of my good friends happened to be working in my workplace already – just over a year ago we hadn’t even met, now I couldn’t imagine my life without them in it. Wherever you are in the world, friends are the family we choose, but that becomes even more so when you’re all a long way from your immediate families, and really do become each other’s de-facto family, sharing in the “peaks and pits” together.  Of course, you don’t lose your friends back home either, sure it takes a little more effort to keep in touch, but despite the distance you continue to be able to share laughs, stories, the good and the hard times etc. together. Establishing new relationships and strengthening existing ones are one of the most beautiful and memorable experiences you could hope for in your time in London. #FriendsForLife #FriendsWithoutBorders

Tea is always appropriate

No one loves tea more than the British. Although somewhat shamefully, despite being British by birth, I have not warmed to drinking tea. Yet, I still have an appreciation for what a wonderful elixir it is. I’m yet to find an occasion where tea isn’t appropriate. Feeling great? Let’s put the kettle on. Bad night’s sleep? Let’s put the kettle on. Big night last night? Let’s put the kettle on. Trouble on the tubes again? Let’s put the kettle on. Brexit heading off a cliff edge? Let’s put the kettle on. Even if you don’t drink tea, learn how to make a good brew and be sure to keep stock on hand.

You got this

No one said it would be easy. You’re out on the other side of the world, 20,000kms from your main support network. You’re surrounded by more people than you’ll ever be around again but at times will feel so isolated and alone. I feel so much stronger than I did a year ago, my comfort zone has expanded so much over the last year and is expanding further every week. Some days you are the only person that you’ve got. Let that be enough. Love yourself.

“Love is just a tool to remind us who we are, and that we are not alone when we’re walking in the dark.” – Rudimental feat. Jess Glynne & Macklemore; These Days

New Zealand always welcomes you home with open arms

Perhaps one of the strangest things of living in a big city like London is life is so fast-paced, everything happens so quickly (undoubtedly why the emotional rollercoaster here offers a much more nauseating ride) and it is easy to forget that the rest of the world doesn’t move quite so fast. So while it feels like everything is a whirlwind and life is constantly changing and evolving, back home, things are moving a bit slower. Yes, you will miss out on some key moments like a best friend’s wedding and people’s birthdays which really sucks, but on the whole, when you go back, things are much the same as they were, and there’s a lot of comfort to be had in this. Aotearoa is a small country that punches well above its weight on the international scene. Wherever you go in the world, it feels as though the little country in the South Pacific is right there with you, proud of its ambassador out there in the big, wide world spreading their wings. New Zealand will always be there, happy to take you back and welcome you whenever you feel the time is right to return to the friendly archipelago. Family and friends will greet you at the airport with open arms and the three warmest words you’ve missed while you were away: kia ora bro.

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Whenever you’re ready to slow down again, New Zealand will always give you a warm welcome home.

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