So youve decided to move to London oh fuck

Ok first things first, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy rules apply so DONT PANIC and bring a towel. Actually forget bringing a towel they are quite reasonably priced in the UK, so just focus on the not panicking side of things. I receive loads of emails from people who have just booked that expensive plane ticket and then had a massive OH FUCKNUCKLES WHAT HAVE I DONE moment or two, so here is my advice.

Ignore that person who told you that their OE was the best/worst time of their lives and they spent all their time travelling/drinking/working/fucking and you will to. Yeah nah. You can do London however the rainbow sparkling fuck you want to. Travel every weekend? Cool. Work all the time and advance your career? Cool. Find the love of your life and spend all your time ‘watching DVDs’. Cool. Don’t carry someone else’s expectations on your shoulder like a demented devil and angel with a kiwi accent. I say this because it is hard enough living up to your own expectations without feeling like you are failing at someone else’s.

While we’re at it lets review your expectations. If you are university educated and at a certain point in your career you will get a well paying job over here – you won’t be rich but you will be on the same living standard you were at home. If you are coming over here wanting to temp in an office or work in a bar you will not be able to have it all. By the way, London’s definition of having it all is a nice flat near public transport, brunch every weekend, roof top bars every night, flat whites on tap and travel whenever you want. Don’t worry you will have some of it, but you will have to prioritise.

Its all going to be OK

Life in London is like life at home, just because you are on the other side of the world doesn’t take out the boring/hard/scary/awkward/sad bits.

More expectations. Yes winter will be bad but not that bad, it’s the getting dark at 3:30pm that is the hard bit to handle. But then London makes up for it with summer days stretching out till 10pm – swings and roundabouts and all that. Remember its London not Game of Thrones; as long as you have a scarf, a puffer jacket and are not sleeping with your siblings you will be fine.

Yes London is expensive but that’s mostly because you are seeing tourist stuff, you would burn through some serious cash in Auckland if you lived like a tourist. And you can live in London very cheaply, although living cheaply might just make you question why the hell you are living on the other side of the world if you can’t afford to see anything except the mold covered walls of your zone 3 flat. Sorry negative I know, but you can rely on me to drop those truth bombs. When you leave that moldy flat and venture into the city, you will walk by St Pauls/Tower Bridge/Houses of Parliament and it will all seem totally worth it.

When in London just drink gin

And talking bombs yes terrorism is a thing and yes it is terrifying. When you first take the tube your heart will end up in your throat at every random stop in a black tunnel and anyone getting on carrying a backpack. But then you just get used to it. Commuting does bring that chance that you will be left maimed/dead by the latest terrorism group de jour, but the tube sure is convenient.

You will say ‘pants’ in the wrong context. It will be funny. People will laugh.

Which leads me on to safety. Whichever demented fuck-trumpet told you London wasn’t safe for girls please punch them directly in the left tit/testicle before you fly. London is a big city with a lot of people in it, and no you can’t be an idiot and walk around oblivious but if you follow the same rules you would at home you will be fine. In general: make sure drunk friends get home safely, if you are walking alone at night don’t listen to your iPod, if you are meeting someone from the internet do it in a public place, and don’t have a handbag that people can just reach in and grab stuff.

You will develop a weirdly strong link to kiwi things like onion dip, even if you didn’t like it before.

You will make friends, just know that it will be hard and they won’t just land out of thin air unless there has been some sort of mega tragic skydiving accident. You will feel like a dork, and wonder what is wrong with you but it will work out in the end. DONT FEEL BAD IF YOU ONLY MAKE FRIENDS WITH KIWIS. Realistically kiwis you meet over here are actively scouting for new friends so it just makes sense. Your definition of friend will change too, from someone you can pour your heart out with, to someone who will meet you for a drink on a Wednesday evening. It’s fine, just different to home. On the flip side you can meet some of the most soul matey friendship sparkles and kittens people here too. It’s down to luck and how much free time you have to stalk them.

Tired of London Tired of Life FUCK THAT

When you have a bad day some ass-hat will tell you ‘when you are tired of London you are tired of life’, don’t worry they just don’t have the imagination or empathy know what to say in the face of your homesickness – disliking London for a bit is just like hating Taylor Swift after hearing Blank Space for the 500th time; just a temporary malaise towards a thing and not a statement on your normal mental health or love of T-Swizzle.

You will get lost, you will figure it out. And once you think you’ve got it all figured out you will get on the wrong tube. But it’s ok because you know how to get back to where you started.

Going back to DONT PANIC. You will panic. But that is ok because you will then book something/call someone/buy something/see something and stop panicking. And every time you get over something that made you panic, it’s just proof for next time that you will survive it and keep going forward.

You will compare yourself to others who have moved to London, and you will feel a bit inferior. As a rule, the two year visa people travel more but the five year and passport people do more cool/expensive stuff in London. It’s all good, as long as you are content try not to worry about it too much.

I use the word content rather than happy because the last truth is that London will be an adventure, and you will grow as a person and get some cool stories and maybe a tattoo but moving to London is not the key to happiness. It’s not a silver bullet or bulb of garlic for every bad thing in your life. It is however a very awesome city with a lot going on, with opportunities everywhere, a chance for creativity for love and travel. A place where YOU CAN FIND REALLY GOOD COFFEE and a place where you can be yourself or failing that figure out exactly who yourself is.

So DONT PANIC. Move to London. Enjoy it.

And if you get stuck/freaked out/desperate for coffee feel free to tweet me @runawaykiwi

She’ll be right mate.

 

For more practical London tips, check out my ultimate London survival guide:

How to survive London

Costal view over Waiheke island

I am a slow traveller, it’s my ultimate guilty pleasure. I love being able to take my time and admire a view, and if there is a glass of wine in hand while I’m admiring then all to the better. My penchant for slow travel is particularly true since the invention of the smart phone; recently it seems like most people rush through a city seeing all the views through the camera on their iPhone. We are so focussed on creating Instagram worthy shots that we miss out on seeing the view with our own eyes. I mean, you may as well just search Google images and save yourself the cost of the trip if you want to travel that way. So I like to take my time, see less but experience more. And thus my last New Zealand post, a visit to the perfect vineyard that is Man O’ War on Waiheke Island.

A couple of days before Christmas and we really should have been prepping for our insane Christmas Lunch (15 courses…what were we thinking?). But since list making, shopping and cooking sounds like a lot of hard work, we played hooky and escaped to the sunny Waiheke Island for the day to go vineyard hopping.

Farms and a beautiful view over Waiheke island

Waiheke is super easy to get to, the ferry is only 30 minutes from the city centre (the ferry leaves from the wharf at the bottom of Queen Street) and once there you can either hire a car from the ferry terminal or just taxi. But as soon as you arrive there is a huge problem…which vineyard to choose? I am a fantasy freak from way back, so picked the amazingly named Man O’ War. This also happened to be the furthest vineyard on the island which gave the unexpected side effect of some knock out views on the drive over.

 

First tick in the box is that the wine tastings were free, the second tick is the wines being drop dead gorgeous. Man O’ War is named after the battleships that Captain Cook sailed on, and all the varieties have frankly kickass names like Valhalla, Ironclad or Dreadnought. I went for the Pinot Gris named Exiled (hopefully not a sign of things to come) which I was warned was very sweet – thankfully sweet wines are a dream for me.

Man O War Exiled Pinot Gris

We each took a glass and then … did nothing. If I was there with my blogging hat on we would have rushed all over the island getting those perfect shots and trying as many vineyards as possible. But instead we were on go slow: we sat, we ate cheese, and we tried more wine. At one point we were visited by a dog.

Without the time, without those seconds stretching out into hours I never would have heard my feminist father loudly proclaim to the aforementioned dog “us bitches fight the world”. I also would never have heard my mother’s controversial opinion on current events “as much as I love caramel I am irritated by the popularity of it”. These little moments of silly matter. These little moments and the sunshine making condensation on your wine glass are the ones you carry with you. The ones that will get me through the freezing dark London winter, the homesickness and dropping a bowl of cornflakes on my foot as I made them for dinner.

Slow travel is the answer. No it won’t help you tick off another country on your list, it won’t be content fuel and you can’t Instagram the feeling of a gentle Waiheke breeze. But it will sustain you. And if you forget that feeling all you need to do is take a sip of Man O’ War and you will be there again.

Sheep on Waiheke island

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Rangitoto from Takapuna beach

Going home for a holiday is a terrifying experience for any expat. Of course you want to hug your family and stock up on all the treats of your dark London dreams, but there is always that thought at the back of your mind wondering if you will like it. You will always get moments of home sickness, but you know there are reasons you are living on the other side of the world, that you are happy on the other side of the world. But what if, what if when you go home you like it more? What if its easy? What if you enjoy it too much? What if you want to move home?

It’s a scary prospect. There are not many times a holiday can change your life (excluding of course éclairs in Paris which are a religious experience), but as an expat there is a chance that going home could change everything. If you go home and discover that the grass is really greener you may end up altering the course of your life entirely and moving home. It’s a scary unknown mixed in with all that joy of seeing your family again and relief that everyone understands your accent.

Thankfully (I don’t think thankfully is the right word, but I can’t think of a better one) I didn’t feel the desire to move home. For me it was like stepping back into an old slipper, yes comfortable, warm and familiar but just not quite how you remember. I just didn’t quite fit.

This is such a hard post to write because it is such an undefinable feeling. Its not that New Zealand sucks and London is awesome. London is a really hard city to live in, and it is a place where you have to consciously forge your life because if you passively sit back you will just get carried away and feel alone. Its just that for right now New Zealand isn’t right for me.

I know that if I moved home and lived with my parents for a while my huge life dream of buying a house might be possible (its never going to happen in London). But living with my parents would be comfortable but not what I need. I need that challenge and to have to fend for myself (although right now I am close to actually hiring a hooker just for someone to make me a cup of tea after a hard days work).

View from the top of Mt Eden

The old slipper feeling became more evident the longer I was there. Friends back home are at a different pace, a different part of their lives. In London a casual conversation will cover everything from your next travel destination, the situation in Syria to matcha lattes. I found back home it was mostly about babies and houses. Not that there is anything wrong with that, its just that for where I am right  now it feels like a small world view.

See hard post right? Its hard to say you don’t want to live somewhere without offending someone. When you first become an expat you are leaving for adventure and new horisons, but the longer you stay the more it is an active decision based on your previous home not being right for you.

As much as I feel some relief that I know my heart is in London, in a way it makes everything so much harder. I miss my parents and sister so much its like I’m missing a limb. And I know its going to be even harder than normal this year as my sister is getting married, such an important thing that I am going to miss all the fun planning and family times.

But the old slipper can’t be changed. Yes I could take the seriously easy decision to move back home and get my family back, but I know that it is not the way to happiness. London is.

Mt Eden

Orphans Kitchen Brunch

Because what is a trip to Auckland without a serious amount of brunch? Two highlights for me were Orphans Kitchen in Ponsonby and Dear Jervois on Jervois Road, both suggested by my big sister. As mentioned before in New Zealand it’s not about just getting the poached eggs right, its all about brunch innovation. I genuinely can’t think of a café in London that even comes close to matching these two in the innovation stakes. I think you could say that Duck and Waffle et al are comparable food wise, but they are high concept restaurants, these Auckland beauties are just humble cafes. Humble cafes that kick the London offering to the curb.

Orphans Kitchen

My visit to Orphans Kitchen got off to a sunny and entertaining start. The table next to us was obviously a group of old friends, but when the waiter went over to take their order there was a shriek and hugs all around. Turns out one of the group had just come back from overseas, but instead of a normal off the plane welcome had decided to pose as a waiter in Orphans Kitchen to surprise them, super cute.

Brunch at Orphans Kitchen Auckland

The food here was tricky, I honestly couldn’t find anything I wanted on the menu. Talk about innovation, there was no easy ‘poached eggs with bacon’ offering here, and I just couldn’t picture the end product from what was on the menu. But getting hangry I let my sister choose for me, and by gods it was good. Mum went for the breakfast panna cotta with kiwifruit and buffalo milk (why had no one thought of a breakfast panna cotta before?!?!), my sister for the black rice pudding with tamarillo, blood orange, and banana (above) and chosen for me was the  roasted avocado with bacon, feijoa and vine tomatoes…heaven.

Dear Jervois

Dear Jervois brunch

Dear Jervois was an interesting one, I LOVED it and my parents had the opposite view. It was all down to how busy it was. In London I am 100% used to battling the crowds to get to food, and while I refuse to wait for brunch I find sitting cheek by jowl totally normal. My parents however are used to the kiwi luxury of a more peaceful spaced out brunch, which is not what you get at the very popular Dear Jervois.

Dear Jervois sage fried eggs

But as always the food is most important. Well maybe not the coffee is important to and we had to send back the first round because they were cold. Eh. Anyway the food was yum, the highlight for me was the sage fried eggs that just did something stratospheric to my taste buds. I would have married those eggs if I could. And the interior was beautiful, for those who did have to wait they wrote their names in a chalk pen on the tiled wall. Love.

Oh and the second round of coffee was AMAZING.

Dear Jervois coffee