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.
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.
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.
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