Millenium Bridge View
I’m in London!
And I have been for over two weeks now.
I’ve been neglecting this blog because, to be honest, I’ve just had better stuff to do. This has been the last thing on my mind, but always in the back of it. So, I’m finally posting an update for all you followers, all 903472098578 of you…
Now that I’m writing this, I’m realizing that two weeks isn’t actually that horrible. The thing is these couple of weeks have felt like a couple of months. I’ve done so much and seen so much, it’s hard to believe how short it’s really been. There have been ups and downs, but I finally feel like I’m starting to settle in a bit. The weeks have been very different, so I’m going to break this blog post up and describe them separately.
Week I: I’ve Arrived!
Leaving my home for the last time EVER because my parents are selling it. BRB crying.
I arrived at Heathrow airport on Thursday, September 19th. The family friend I’m staying with was nice enough to pick me up from the airport, so there was no hassle, which was nice because I’ve been traveling for 16+ hours and it was just one less thing to worry about. While driving home (which is in Acton), I was looking out the window and was just so incredibly ecstatic to be here. I received a tour of the house, which is really nice and shared with my family friend and two of her other tenants. Unfortunately, the two bigger rooms were already occupied, so I have a very small room, which surprisingly holds all my stuff (I can teach Organization 101: Living in Small Spaces). There still needed to be some work done in it, so I couldn’t put away my things just yet or take a nap (which I really wanted but also avoided in order make the jet lag easier). Instead, I decided to go explore.
The view from my window is a primary school courtyard. Those kids are cute, but waking up everyday at 8AM is rough.
Exhausted beyond belief and completely disoriented, I somehow managed to take the bus to Chiswick. Of course, I did get a little lost on foot, and the lack of google maps was not a comfortable feeling. After I found my way back to Chiswick High Road, I walked straight into a Vodaphone shop and bought a SIM card. One thing off the list.
I walked into a couple of banks (Lloyd’s and Natwest), hoping to open a bank account straight away. Hahaha. I was so young and naive. Long story short, no bank account was opened that day, or the next, or the next few. Getting proof of residence when you live with a family friend is next to impossible – I had to wait to the 29th for my enrollment to get a letter from my university instead.
London Tip #1: Proof of Residence
- If you want to open a bank account, you need to show proof of residence. This proof needs to be OFFICIAL AS F_____. I had my Canadian bank change my address to my London one, send me a letter to London, and this still wasn’t enough. When they say BANK STATEMENT, they mean it. No simple official letter is enough for these people. Your options include:
- Utility bill (living with a family friend? good luck)
- Tenant statement (living with a family friend? good luck)
- Letter of enrollment from university (no matter how much tuition you’ve paid, they will not help you until enrollment)
- Letter from employer stating your residence (you probably don’t have a job yet)
- Have your bank send you a bank statement with your new address on it, and have them send it directly to your new address (banks send statements every month and don’t print them just like that, so expect to wait a month)
Once you’ve opened a bank account, they send you your bank card and pin separately, which is good for security reasons, but just more waiting time.
After wandering the streets, going on 36+ hours of absolutely no sleep and 16+ hours of travel, I wasn’t feeling very good, or all that excited. I somehow managed to get home, and I took a nap, which lasted 7 hours. I woke up in the middle of the night and I wasn’t in the best mood.
Yes I was excited to be in London, but I was also extremely sad.
Going out with KC!
I thought I was in a bad mood because I was just jet lagged, but this lasted for a few days on-and-off. I was excited to be living in a new city, but I had many moments where I thought what am I doing here? Can I just go home where it’s easy and comfortable? On top of this feeling, I felt guilty for feeling it. Now, thinking back on this time, I’m realizing it was a completely normal reaction – I was alone in a city I don’t know, I was out of my comfort zone. I felt this more than I’d like to admit. However, as the days went on and I began to figure things out more, I felt less and less uncomfortable and more and more excited. Having KC, my one and only friend in London so far, arrive from the States has definitely helped this as well.
It wasn’t all bad the first week, especially on days like these when this was the view for my morning run. I had the South Bank all to myself.
I spent the rest of the week searching for jobs like it was my job, searching for new flats (this living situation is temporary), and wandering around London. I came to London two weeks before my programme started because I wanted to settle in (aka: open a bank account, find a job, get a NI number, etc.) I now realize that most of these things are impossible to do so soon and I maybe should have arrived just one week before. Whatever, it is what it is.
Week 2: Things Fall Into Place
Week two has been MUCH more enjoyable. For starters, I had the best case scenario with finding a job. I applied online to a few restaurants and had some trial shifts set up, but I must say I really lucked out. My next-door neighbour from Calgary, Lauryn, happens to live in London as well and is working at Barrecore, a barre/fitness studio with three locations in central London. She told me they had just finished hiring for receptionists at the time, but were potentially looking for someone to start in November. I really needed a job immediately, but Barrecore sounded amazing and I would also be able to do workouts there so I went for an interview. Turns out a position became available the day before my interview, so I am now employed. I’ve ben working pretty much all week and I absolutely LOVE it. I also took my first barre class, and I loved it as well. I love the location I work at (Mayfair – near Oxford Circus and is just ahhhmazing). Love is in the air in this area of my life. Thank you Lauryn, I owe you a drink.
2nd week better moods = more selfies
Also, applying for an NI number, which I thought would be another ridiculously hard thing to do, was actually the easiest! An NI number is the equivalent of a SIN in Canada and an SSN in the US, and I’ve read and heard that it’s notoriously tough to get here. I had to call to make an appointment, which was a week from the call, and then I had to bring as much information with me as possible (both passports, proof of residence (uggggh), proof I am a student, proof that I am looking for jobs or have found one, etc.) With everything else in London turning out to be such a pain to accomplish, I was quite nervous. I walked in, and walked out in less than 30 minutes. The interviewer asked for my passports, asked if I had found a job (didn’t need any proof, even looked up the address himself) and asked for my current address (also, didn’t need proof). He then proceeded to photocopy my passports and explain to me that I will receive my number in four to six weeks. Then, I was out of there. Simple. Refreshing.
Turnham Green Station, my tube stop.
Having a routine with work has definitely helped me feel more normal in London. I’ve also learned to navigate the tube, buses and the city in general like an expert (I really must say I’m quite good at it), so things are looking up, up, up. There are moments when I’m commuting to-and-from work with ease, or going out to KOKO Camden or another bar with KC, and I catch myself feeling euphoric about being and living here. Tonight probably the first night I’m actually home, and not coming home from work, from touring the city or from a bar. I’m never at home, and I love that. I’m sure this will get very old soon once the honeymoon period is over, but for now I’m enjoying it.
Now It All Begins
Tomorrow is my first day of class. Therefore, tomorrow my full routine begins. I’m excited about starting my masters, I’m excited about the new adventure, and I’m also excited about meeting new people and making new friends (that sounds like I’m in kindergarten – should I bring PB&J sandwiches to share?). I’m glad I wrote this blog post before this, and I will try my hardest to find the time and energy to write one next week. Wish me luck!
List of things I still have to do:
One last thing to add:
- Having an EU passport has been a LIFESAVER for me here! Not only did I not need a visa, I can work as many hours as I want and things such as opening accounts and applying for NI numbers, as complicated as they are already, were 10 times easier. If you are a soon-to-be expat and are considering getting your EU passport (if eligible), DO IT – it will help out a great deal.
- Oh and byyy the way, I was waiting to get into a bar with KC, and I see that some people are waiting behind us. I turn around and f_____ing JON SNOW is standing behind me. Kit Harrington. Everyone may fangirl right now, it’s ok. I kept it cool……….. Just kidding, I totally asked him if he was Kit Harrington (he 100% was) and he said no, and wasn’t very nice about it. I totally get that he’s out with his friends and doesn’t want to be bothered, and I wasn’t going to say anything at all, but I thought I would kick myself the next day if I didn’t do it, and I kicked myself the next day anyway…
Borough Market (serious eats)
Another running view, this time in Gunnersbury Park
Stopped by 10 Downing Street on my way to work (you can’t see it, but the door is there!) Wonder if Dave was in.
Admiralty Arch, my view during a coffee one morning
Neal’s Yard – this picture doesn’t do the colours justice