Today’s Expat Story is from Stephanie who lives in what I think is one of the greatest cities in the world! LONDON! I’ll be taking a few of her tips with me for the next time I go.
Expat Story: London
Tell us a little bit about where you’re living and how you got there.
London has always been a part of my life. On my first trip over the ocean to see my dad’s friends and family, I was just a year old. He is from London, so we returned many times throughout my childhood. When I was in university, I spent a semester abroad in London and then moved back again two weeks after graduation in 2007. Looking for a job here was an obvious choice as I had fallen for this city in a big way while studying abroad. With the exception of six months in Colombia in 2011, I’ve been here ever since.
What has surprised you about living abroad and what has been difficult?
I’d say what has surprised me most about living abroad is the number of opportunities it has opened up for me that I most likely wouldn’t have had if I stayed in the suburb where I grew up. I’ve had endless blogging inspiration that has expanded my network of friends and creative contacts; I’ve been lucky enough to travel to quite a few different countries since I’ve lived in London; I’ve landed myself in a career that I love; and I’ve had my first solo photography exhibition. A very welcome surprise was the diversity that’s come into my life. I have friends and colleagues from all over the world, who speak many different languages and have cooked me some delicious food I never would have tried otherwise.
Something that has been difficult? Getting my feet on the ground was a challenge. London is expensive. It’s a huge sprawling city. There’s plenty of competition in the job hunt. I came without a job or a place to live, but thanks to the generosity of family and friends who helped me out in that crucial first month or two, I managed.
What new tradition or habit do you want to take away from London.
One habit I’ve developed in London is heading out to random places I’ve never been to around the city and exploring the little things in each area through photography and blogging. I’ve also been interviewing locals and artists who live in London for my blog as another way to get to know the city a bit better. I’d continue to do that no matter where I end up living in the future.
While there are definitely plenty of British traditions, London itself is a mishmash of different cultures and I’ve enjoyed learning about and experiencing the traditions of many of them. And so rather than name one new tradition I’d like to keep, I’d say that I hope to continue to break with a lot of old traditions by continuing to welcome new ideas. Keeping an open mind about the way things are done has been a great source of creative inspiration for me.
If a friend came to visit you in London for the day, what would you take them to see?
It would depend on the person, but I’d almost definitely take them to East London around Hackney. It’s unlike any other part of the city sprouting new cafes and trendy shops and street art by the minute. But it’s also incredibly diverse, colourful, gritty and raw in a way that much of the rest of the city is not. If it’s a Sunday, the markets around Brick Lane are in full swing, which is always fascinating. I’d make sure we had time to fit in a few of my favourite places to eat like Souk, Sushinho, Bumpkin or Maggie Jones. But I’d also leave room for spontaneity because that’s when exciting stuff usually falls into place.
What advice would you give to someone who is hoping to live abroad one day?
Keep an open mind. Have patience and a healthy sense of curiosity. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Take a genuine interest in the people you meet along your way; they will be a highlight of your experience. Also, that other old cliché is also true – when you’re packing, take half the stuff and twice the money!
Thank you so much for sharing your Expat Story with us, Stephanie!