Lessons I’ve Learnt Since I Moved to London
I’ve lived in London for almost three years now. Three years! That’s enough to have started and failed at a small business, given birth to 4 babies or binged watched every Netflix series and still have time to spend hours browsing Netflix working out what to waste my life with next.
While I may have achieved one of those three options (guess which!) I’ve also surprisingly learnt a thing or two about London and how to survive it. These are their stories *insert Law & Order dun-dun! sound*
‘Are you alright?’ means ‘hey, how are you?’
When I had my first job interview in London, the first thing the interviewer said to me was ‘Are you alright?’ Immediately I panicked. Was I bleeding? Had my eye liner smudged to fashion a black eye? Had that dream come true and all my teeth had fallen out? Thinking quickly I just smiled and said “Oh, I’m fine” in what was probably a nervous tone. After the interview I rushed into the bathroom to check that my teeth and eyebrows were still in tact; I was fine. Turns out, as my Australian friend explained when I recounted the story, “that’s just how British people great each other.” Try and use it as a greeting today. Spoiler alert: it’ll feel weird.
The weather isn’t as bad as everyone says it is
In fact, I quite like it. I mean, it’s not perfect. There could be a few less cloudy days each year, but having come from a city of mild to hot weather, I’ll never tire of the changing seasons here. Each season offers something new and a multitude of possibilities. And as someone who loves change, I relish every season.
In winter it’s cosy and there’s ice skating, mulled wine, christmas lights and fur coats and gloves. Come spring there are roses everywhere and squirrels too, and it means floral dresses with tights and pink lipstick. Then summer rolls around and everyone in London just goes nuts with long sunny days spent drinking in the parks, rooftops and pub gardens in sun dresses and espadrilles. And then autumn, when the leaves change colour and the wind picks up and spiced pumpkin lattes are served and you buy a new camel coat. And then every now and then it’s cloudy and rainy and so you just take the opportunity to curl up at home and read a book – what’s not to love?
Tea is not a liquid, but a lifestyle
If you get a job in an office in London and don’t drink tea, life isn’t going to be so straightforward for you. At my old jobs in Australia, if I required a lovely refreshing glass of water I would get up, enjoy a lovely walk to the kitchen, pour one lovely glass of water, walk back to my desk and sit down without having to utter a word to anyone.
In London, this activity is not the norm. Instead every 10 minutes someone says ‘Tea?’ to everyone in the nearby vicinity, takes everyone’s orders then return 15 minutes later with multiple mugs of scorching hot bitter water. Sometimes having to return to the kitchen again to get the second batch. As someone who has no interest in taking part in such an activity, it took almost a year of me saying “no thanks, I don’t drink tea” for the round of tea not to be offered to me. I’m dreading ever having to work at another office…
Where you choose to live is really important
There’s no wrong or right place to live in London, all areas have their pros and expensive cons. But the two things I highly recommend considering when looking for a new home in London is a place that’s warm, and as close to your friends as possible. Because there’ll be times in winter when you’re in hibernation and wish desperately you could just jump in your car to visit your friend. Only you can’t because the only people in London who can afford cars are rich Arab kids (and they have the most amazing diva cars, just take a look at the cars parked near Harrods if you don’t believe me). So if they’re just round the corner or a short tube ride away, or better yet there’s a cosy pub you can meet up in between your two places, even better. If your friend, or someone you start dating, is more than two train rides away…. the struggle will be real.
Also invest in a nice bed with nice sheets, you’ll spend a lot of time in there in winter so it’ll be totally worth it.
You will drink more than you normally do
I’m not a big drinker and I’m not fond of pubs. And yet since I moved to London I’ve consumed far more tizzy beverages than I’m used to. Boozy brunches in spring, Aperol Spritzs on a hot summer’s day, mulled cider on a chilly night, margaritas year round. Cocktails in underground toilets, cider at 92 stories high, gin and tonic at the pub for lunch. Booze is a big part of life in London so get ready to get buzzed or die trying.
Living here will do weird things to your accent
And no, before you think I’ve turned into one of Australians everyone hates that lives in London for four days and suddenly sounds like they got to Hogwarts, I’ll have you know I’m not that kind of a girl, booger! Instead my accent has gone the other way… it’s become American. People ask me if I’m American here all the time. Even Americans I meet ask me if I’m American! I’ve also noticed my tongue has become quite lazy of late resulting in a subtle lisp. So I have the vocal fry of a LA based reality star with the subtle lisp of a Chelsea-residing Toff – oh what goals I have achieved!
You need to keep a calendar
When I lived in Australia, I didn’t keep a calendar. If you wanted to hang out, I was free. Always. I’d plan my weekend on the Monday before. That all changed when I moved here. At first I thought I’d be fine. I didn’t have that many friends here so how hard could it be? That is until I accidentally double booked seeing a play with one friend, with tickets to stand-up comedy with another. Having learnt from this expensive mistake I now have a calendar, and it’s filled with West End musicals, dinner reservations, weekends away, birthdays and weddings, all the way up to July next year. Which is one of the reasons why I love London – there’s always something to look forward to.
You’ll love the city more and more each day
New York will always be my most favourite city in the world, whether I get to live there or not. As my formative years were shaped by the high-brow cultural influences of Seinfeld, The Nanny, Sex and the City et al. I will always feel much more like an obnoxiously loud and ignorant American over a quiet, conservative and passive aggressive Brit. With that said, London does grow on me more and more each day. Even though I’m a small tropical fish in a big tea-soaked pond, my life here feels big. The more I feel that way, the more I don’t want to leave.
Want to move to London? Do it! In my opinion, you can never move too many times.