I’ve decided to give you all a break from my ramblings this week and allow another fellow Expat living in London do it for me!
My great friend and colleague (read: manager) Ella has been living in London for 7 years now. She hails from the land of hobbits and pineapple lumps (read: New Zealand), though she also spent a significant amount of time living in Australia too, which makes her the perfect first candidate for the first ever London New Girl exclusive interview! (‘exclusive’ makes everything sounds so great)
So without further ado, here’s the lovely Ella…
Hello! Tell us a little about yourself…
My name’s Ella, I’m a 32 year old Social Media Account Director working in Shoreditch, London – the UK’s silicon valley!
I’ve been living in London for the past 7 years, having moved from Auckland with no real plan or direction as to what I was going to do here. Turns out it’s going pretty well!
Tell us about your move to London. When and why did you first decide to move?
I got married pretty young, at 23, and my husband had gotten his hands on an Irish passport around the same time. We kept planning our great move to London, but there was always something that got in the way of us booking our flights. Eventually we realised it was now or never, and at 25 I got on a plane, travelled for a few months around South East Asia, and arrived in drizzly old London Town.
We slept on various friends floors and couches, I got a job pretty easily so we got our own flat, only to find it took my husband about 4 months to get a job (why not add a career change to a major life move?!). I think I regretted the decision about 6 months into the move, but after the first 12 months I’ve never looked back.
What do you love most about London?
London is a big, crazy, busy city. Some days everything goes wrong, the tubes don’t work, people are rude, and it starts raining on the one day you leave your umbrella at home. The great thing is though, everyone goes through that, we all have ‘London days’. But on the days that things go right… You find yourself on a roof terrace overlooking a park filled with people sunbathing and drinking in the fading light. The streets get this festive vibe in summer time, and it’s like no where I’ve ever been. Those are the days I love London – the days when you really remember how lucky you are to be a part of the madness of the city.
And anything you miss from back home?
The biggest thing is always going to be friends and family. However, we live in a world where Skype, Facetime and social media keep you connected to not only your closest friends, but also to those people you don’t want to lose touch with, but you might not have otherwise.
Obviously nothing compares to being in the same room as those people, so we make a plan to go home every 2 years. It helps that people don’t mind a trip to London / Europe either. If you live in London, get a sofa bed, it’ll be well used!
What has been your biggest learning from living here?
My first learning curve was my first day in London. I got an Oyster Card to travel on the tube with. My friends took off ahead of me and I didn’t see how they got through the tube gates. So I stood there, trying to shove my plastic card into the slot for paper cards, getting infuriated that it was that hard just to get onto the tube platform! Turns out you simply swipe it over a sensor – who knew!
But in all seriousness, in New Zealand I felt a bit like a big fish in a small pond, over here – not so much! However, I love that in a sense it’s bought me back down to earth, and the achievements I’ve made now mean so much. I’m proud of myself for overcoming the challenges that London throws at you. Like convincing recruiters that NZ (or Aussie!) experience means something. Figuring out the crazy healthcare systems. Working out the quickest way of getting from Bethnal Green to Nottinghill with minimal tube changes! There are the big challenges that give you a great sense of personal pride, and then there are those days where you have a little win that makes it all worthwhile.
Do you think you’ll stay in London forever?
I think I’ll live in London for a long time – I’m buying a flat (nightmare if you haven’t heard!), and really setting down some roots. However, one of my favourite things about London is secretly and smugly thinking ‘I don’t have to live here forever’. Don’t tell the Brits, but I sometimes feel a bit sorry for them only having the UK – we can always sneak off home to sunshine and sea sides, BBQ’s for Christmas and a summer that goes on for MONTHS!
In the meantime I’m pretty happy to book my next trip to Spain, and plan which Greek Island I might like to relax on next. It’s a tough life…
What has been the absolute highlight of your time here to date?
I don’t think there is one amazing highlight to choose. There are loads of little highlights all the time, the opportunity to travel and meeting people from all around. However, the real highlights for me are those few moments every now and then when you just feel so proud of yourself for doing this. Those moments when you think, ‘how lucky am I’. Those are the best.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Nah – only because it had to be a roller coaster ride. I feel like I had to hate the first 6-12 months, I had to screw things up, and sometimes get stuff right. Those things are what have made me appreciate what I have here now.
Finally, do you have any tips, recommendations or advice for people who are thinking about making the move to London?
Don’t think, just do, you will never regret it.
Well, that’s it! A huge thank you to Ella for the honest and inspiring answers. I hope you all enjoyed reading, and let me know what you think or if you have any questions in the comments.
Also, on a side note, I’ve just set up a group on Facebook to help you all connect with one another, ask questions, meet other expats or people planning to move to London and maybe even make some great new friends 🙂
So check it out and join up – https://www.facebook.com/groups/LondonNewGirl/