Upon my move to London, my friend bought me a book called ‘ How to Become a Brit’ which was a satire detailing quirky things about Brits. How they love talking about the weather, avoid talking about sex and more. I naturally didn’t take it seriously. All nations are subject to stereotypes which are barely observable on an individual basis. But then I move to London and … well, I have had many long conversations about the weather.
Below is a list of things which I still don’t comprehend even after living in Britain and London for three and a half years.
1| People seem to be uneducated about or immune to the effects of tea (caffeine)
By now not only the health-living conscious among us heard about the negative effects of caffeine consumption and the benefits of healthy sleep. Sleep hygiene should be on the top of your wellness list because a good dose of deep zzzs every night have numerous health & mental benefits. By now we also all know that caffeine isn’t only present in coffee but also in tea, the amount depending on the type of tea.
Yet, Brits and people influenced by their culture here seem to be completely oblivious to this fact and are able to down 6 cups a day. What is even more shocking, they seem to still get a good night rest. I am lucky because now I work with a group of fitness obsessed women who wouldn’t touch anything that isn’t trendy – sorry caffeine. However, in my previous offices, I was under constant threat of overdosing on caffeine in the form of tea, as I was asked whether I’d fancy a cup relentlessly. As it naturally also felt impolite to decline, I drank obediently.
And I still do whenever we visit N’s family. It seems obligatory to get through at least one tin of 100xbags of English Breakfast, otherwise, something terrible might happen. Unfortunately, while all those with Anglosaxon blood in sip their ‘before-bed’ tea (how is this evening a thing!) and then sleep happily through the night, I end up buzzing like a radioactive squirrel after this evening ritual. Someone explain how they managed to get this biological advantage?
We’ve recently moved flats in order to escape a very loud upstairs neighbour. While I love our new flat, we unfortunately can still hear every single footstep of the girl who lives above – damn those wooden floors. In order to stay sane amid my growing concern that I will again not sleep for 6 months and we’ll pack our backs in eight months when our contract finishes, I decided to bring as much calmness and peace into our apartment to minimise the effects of the noise. One of the best ways to bring some calm atmosphere is to decorate the place, particularly with candles and other low-key sources of light. Below I listed some of my most favourite candles which bring at least a little bit of zen to my mind when I am drawing a map of my upstair’s flat in my mind as she stomps about.
Neom has some amazing home fragrances both in form of candles and diffusers. They come in different ranges, based on what effect you are looking for. I got the De-stress candle for Christmas because the flat situation makes me reasonably on edge, but they also have candles to help you sleep, boost your energy or relax. They even have one to make you happy! They are a bit pricier than my usual candles, but they are worth it as they last longer and have a very strong scent which fills up the room without being aggressive.
I have now been living in London for three years and a couple of weeks. I’d love to say that I fell in love with the city on the first tube ride but that would be a lie. My relationship with London has evolved over the years and sometimes took a detour too. I still experience waves of negative and positive feelings about London and I haven’t decided yet whether I’d want to spend the rest of my life here.
I decided to pin down some crucial experiences from each of my London years. I hope they will help you understand how I feel about London and possibly help you avoid some mistakes I’ve made.
Let me start with the first year, 2015. What did I learn?
1|I lived in two shared houses and had my money stolen
Renting is one of my least favourite things about London. Finding a flat is a daunting task. I made the mistake of not arranging any secure accommodation before coming to London and made my life tiny bit more difficult by not having any address to start with. The first house was in one of the poorest and most dangerous neighbourhoods of London – given how many places there are to live, how lucky was I? -, it was a cold and old house with weird strangers living in it. My housemates included a Spanish prostitute which didn’t communicate, a French boy I’ve exchanged two words with, an older Brazilian couple which loved telenovelas. But there were also two lovely girls that I am still friends with. I found the room on Spareroom and arranged a viewing with the guy whose room I was gonna take. I gave him the deposit money and what I trusted to be the rent amount. I found out two weeks later that the rent is actually £200 cheaper and he was overcharging everyone in the house. I remember panicking and thinking I am going to end up on a street. My parents were supporting me as I didn’t have a job (yet] but I knew it wouldn’t be enough. I remember I cried for hours because I was scared I got into trouble. I guess the advice I’d give myself back then from today’s perspective is ‘calm down, it will be alright’. Panicking didn’t help. I wish I wasn’t so hard on myself, I wish I didn’t blame myself and I wish I learnt how to ask for help and accept it. I know this today and I do let people help me way more than I did three years back. It is okay to ask for help and it is okay to accept it. The tables are going to turn one day and you will have a chance to help someone too, so let karma work that out.
Me and N celebrated a two year anniversary recently. When we met I was sure I never want to be in a relationship again and I couldn’t imagine dating a street musician with waist-long dreadlocks, thinking that my dad is never ever going to approve. Now we live together and we are able to support each other through any sh*t we need to. I was unemployed for half of our relationship, N is getting ready to quit his job and start off in a new industry and we are dealing with our terrible living situation. On top of that, my anxiety is taking the best of me on those few days that we actually get to spend with each other due to the opposite working schedules. But here I am – happy.
Which surprises me, given my own relationship history and the number of toxic relationships I see around myself. Abuse, cheating, desperation. If you’ve ever been in the same position, when only a handful of your friends is in functioning relationships and the rest burst into tears or orders tequila shots whenever you open the topic, don’t let that get you down. It can be very hard and bring annoying doubt into your own relationship – no matter how confident you are with it – but the key is to remain positive and not compare your relationship to others.
1 Help your friends but don’t let them tear you down
More of my friends are coming to complain to me about their failing relationships lately. Whether that is a crush, friends with benefits dead-end, cheating or just sadness of being single, the ratio of negative to positive is around 80 to 20. I love my friends and I want to help them. I volunteer my hours (and liver) to discuss their problems and offer the best advice I have. And pay for the wine.
I understand they are in a sad situation which clouds their judgment so I am not surprised when they try to turn the table and analyse my relationship. Tell me that I should be suspicious too, that all men cheat and that the fact we don’t want to get married (like ever) is a lack of commitment from my boyfriend.
If you are experiencing similar backlash from your friends, it is understandable you might start to feel insecure about your relationship. But remember that this insecurity and the reasons for it are completely external, that someone imposed it on you. Yes, sometimes insecurity creeps in and if it comes from within you, then it is worth exploring why (see point 4), but if you suddenly want to check your boyfriend’s phone because your friend told you to, don’t. Remember you didn’t feel like this before your friend told you and trust your own gut and relationship.
As you may know, I have recently started a new job and boy it hasn’t been easy! I struggled with doubts, stress and worries. Finally, after three months, I can say that I am beginning to enjoy my new job and see some positives.
We all have dream jobs – which usually turn out to be nothing like we’ve imagined – but the truth is that if you are young and lack years of experience, getting any job is a success. Most of us end up accepting jobs that are not exactly what we were hoping for and have to learn how to love their jobs, which can be quite challenging. Since we spent most of the hours of the day in work, feeling stressed in work is very dangerous to our mental health and takes a toll on our physical health too. So how can you look after yourself if you’ve just started a new job?
Below I put together a few tips that helped me to make it through the confusing and difficult initial months. While I believe they can be especially useful for newbies, many of them will help even those who feel stuck in a job they had for a long time.
1 Accept the learning curve
I am a perfectionist who struggles to admit when she doesn’t know something. Accepting that I am new and I have to ask for help was quite difficult for me. Even if you don’t take it to the extreme like me, I bet you do not feel comfortable asking twenty questions a day and you wish you knew who Carol is, when they tell you to ask for her signature.
But let’s face it, you’ve just started and no one can expect you to know who Carol is. Your team and workplace should help you overcome this too and encourage your questions rather than make you feel inappropriate. If you feel like you are bothering people, try explaining your situation to them and adding that you appreciate their help.
Don’t beat yourself over not knowing things. Embrace the learning and enjoy that you are sort of allowed to make mistakes. Try to absorb as much information and make as many connections as possible. They’ll be handy in the future. I personally recommend taking notes of everything and anything. Procedures, names, logins and important dates or how Dave from finance takes his coffee… You never know when you’ll need a favour.
I will always remember getting off a delayed coach in the Victoria station and facing the overwhelming buzz of the station, stunned and scared. The size and beat of London, represented by the station on an autumn day in 2015, was one of many shocks I experienced in London and learning how to fight my way through crowds was just one of many things I’ve learnt. After three years of living in the capital, many things come naturally to me and I feel confident and safe – well at least about 50% of the time.
Moving to London on my own without knowing anyone in the city was the most terrifying and empowering journey of my life so far. However, I did not come unprepared and I knew what were the first steps I wanted to take to when setting up my life, having previously checked various forums. To give you a quick overview, I listed things that I see as essential steps for any newcomer to London. Unfortunately, I can only provide guidance for those coming from the European Union pre-Brexit, although some of those tips apply to anyone. I also attached links to relevant websites for more information or any pre-registration necessary.
1 | Find somewhere to stay or a someone with an address
Obviously! I have previously written a guide on renting in London, but the truth is you might be more comfortable staying in a hostel or hotel when you first move to the city. If you are moving for work, this might even be something your employer takes care of or if you are a student, there is the option of halls. Whatever it is, you should find a place that you are going to stay for at least a week or two and use it as a base. You will find it hard to take the steps described below if you do not have somewhere to stay and address that you can use on official documents.
Some people come to the city and stay with their family or crush on their friends’ sofas and that is perfectly okay. The importance of this step is not so much your comfort but the address you will be giving to the bank and the council.
I have been missing university lately. You probably think that I am talking about the parties, fewer responsibilities and eating pasta three times a day without regrets. Yes, I miss those, although I still happily eat pasta three times a day without a second thought about carbs, I miss how my energy and time were almost entirely dedicated to learning. It was days, weeks and years to learn and explore.
When I started to think about how much I miss university, I soon realised that putting my university life and life after into a contrast n is wrong. Many of us have taken their lives in completely opposite directions than what they were ‘meant’ to be according to their degrees, and this might make one think that university is a separate episode in the life of those who are lucky enough. But that is not true. I believe that by remembering things we did at university and, more importantly, our mindsets, we can enhance our lives after graduation. Try and bring a little bit of the student in you back rather than trying to suddenly transform into someone who only thinks about university when they deal with a hangover on a Saturday morning, praying to have their 19-year old body. When I reminded myself of the basic rules I followed that made my university years successful and worth remembering, I realised I can easily do the same now.
Firstly, being focused is about paying attention like you’d do in a lecture. Listen to your boss, colleagues, friends and partner. Be present. There are a million things that go through my mind when I am at my desk. What am I gonna cook for a dinner? Why is my skin so bad lately? Taxes to pay… but now I remind myself to focus on one thing or task at a time and switch off the rest of my brain. In a way, I reset my brain to the less stressful time of my life – when I didn’t have to pay taxes – and this way I am giving the present person or task my full and undivided attention.
Secondly, choosing your university degree was about focusing on one particular subject you enjoyed. Maybe it wasn’t what you wanted to do as a career or it was the only program you were accepted onto but you were able to keep the focus and take appropriate steps to achieve a focused goal. Let that inspire you when you set goals in your life or career. Write a list of things you need to do – like you would write down the modules you needed for credits; research classes and opportunities – like you did with extracurricular activities; and network with the right people – like you would for group tasks.Read More »