A few weeks after I moved here, one of my flatmates showed me an article by a Spanish man who had moved to London looking for work. He described a common expat experience: The first month your savings account is cushioned and you run around the city starry-eyed, visiting free museums and snapping snapshots of landmarks to send back to your family.
But quickly your savings account looks a lot less cushy and the reality of living in a huge, unfamiliar sets in. You worry about whether you’ll ever find a job – how will you pay your rent if you don’t? You’re constantly lost. The tube is too crowded. You don’t know people to make plans with on the weekend. You wonder, can you really make it here?
The author of that article moved home after four months and I was so worried that that was going to be me. A lot of my time was spent worrying. About finding work. Having enough money. Making the most of my time here, in case I didn’t end up having that much of it.
The first week of April marked my 6-month anniversary of living in London.
I’m finally starting to feel settled and that’s one thing I didn’t expect: how long that would take.
There are still many moments when I stick out as the token Canadian. Like when I order “over easy eggs” (just fried eggs here). Or call “Stropshire” “Strope-something-or-other.” Or I have to ask someone to repeat themselves three times because I’m still a bit muddled by their accent. But that’s part of being an expat: finding your way somewhere new, even if it means fumbling a lot of the time.
I cherish those moments when I feel a part of this city that I’m so in love with.
When a man at a market across the river recognises me from work.
Couriers who wave and know me by name.
The barista who remembers how I like my coffee on a Sunday, which is different than during the week.
Creating traditions with new friends.
The little signs of familiarity that we disregard when we’ve lived somewhere for a long time, when we’re naturally in sync with the rhythms of a place, become precious when a city is just beginning to unfold itself for you. When you’re just beginning to make it your home.
It feels silly now, all of those things I was worried about.
It’s like going on a first date and wanting to step out of it in the throes of a long-term relationship.
These things take time to cultivate. And they always require allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.
Some expats will move home much sooner than they’d hoped. Some relationships will self-destruct, even though we thought they were “the one.” That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying. Because we learn and we grow and we try something new. And sometimes we are absolutely triumphant.
Sometimes the dream comes true, in all of it’s messy, unexpected glory, and it’s time to start chasing the next one.
Here’s to plunging in headfirst,