This week I’ll be sharing something special, the story of someone else.
I have asked others to share their story about their emigration process.
They said goodbye to their loved ones, just like I did
Quit their jobs, just like I did
They are/were fighting to stay in their new home, just like I am doing.
This week it is Alex’s turn to share her story about moving to London, curious? Keep reading.
27 boxes and a one way ticket to London
It only took 15 days for my life to turn upside down. In the nicest possible way.
Never was I the kind of person who wanted to live in another country, let alone emigrate for good. I was always happy with my life in Bucharest, Romania. I had a good job, good friends, loads of fun and the weather was great most of the time. Sure, there was a lot wrong with living in a former communist country, but more often than not, the positives outweighed the negatives.
Until one day I got an offer I could not refuse.
On the 3rd December 2009, I got home from work and saw an email in my inbox. It was a fantastic job offer for a very well known British company, which involved me moving to London permanently. Of course, I still needed to go through the interview process and tons of bureaucracy – we still needed work visas back then, but on the 18th December, I signed the contract. And on the 14th February 2010 I packed a very large suitcase and got on a one-way flight to London UK.
I was 26 years old and ready for my big adventure!
If you have never experienced a big, life-changing move, it’s a difficult feeling to describe. A bit of apprehension mixes with a lot of excitement and planning and dreaming. I had been to London on holidays the previous summer and I knew I loved the city, and indeed, I felt like I knew it already. It felt like a place I could easily call home. But I also knew I would be pretty much on my own, as I knew only one other person in this big city, a former school friend that I had not seen in almost 10 years. A bit daunting, to say the least…
So how did I manage my big move?
I am a planner, a bit of an obsessive planner one might argue, so I absolutely enjoyed getting ready for the move. I loved sorting out my belongings, thinking about what to take and what to leave behind. It felt like such a cleansing process. I packed pretty much all my wordily belongings in 27 cardboard boxes, which were waiting to be picked up once I found my new place to live. I only took a massive suitcase with all that I might need to tide me over until the rest of my stuff arrived. And one can always go shopping, right?
I also loved discovering the city virtually, via Google maps, and trying to understand where might I want to live in relation to my new office. How naïve to think that I can figure out this complex city, where you move from posh to slum by crossing the road, by just reading about things on the internet. But I was incredibly lucky to find a wonderful flat that became my home for 2 years. I ended up buying my own place in the same apartment complex, so I have been pretty much living in the exact same place my entire life in London.
Speaking about luck,
even now, more than 7 years later, I can’t believe how incredibly lucky I was in those first days. The stars aligned and everything went so smoothly. On my first day in London, I found my flat, opened a bank account and got my national insurance number. This almost never happens so quickly. I am a very positive person, and I do believe in the power of positive thinking, but in those first few weeks, everything seemed to magnify. I remember waking up every day thinking ‘today is going to be an even better day that yesterday’. And it almost invariably was.
Except for the weather. Man oh man, it only took me a week to understand why English people talk about the weather so much. You can avoid it. You pretty much get four season in one day sometimes, and it’s just so pervasive, so engrained in everything you feel and do each day, that it’s almost impossible not to. Plus it’s a good conversation starter.
What was the hardest thing to leave behind?
I lived off this euphoria for the better part of my first year in London: the conscious decision to break away from Romania completely. I spoke to my parents very often, of course, but I did not follow news, hang out with Romanians, or even speak Romanian very often. And I really did not feel homesick at all. What did I miss the most? The food, the wine, the heat in the summer and the incredibly cheap taxies. The first two were easy. I can cook for myself and mum was only a phone call away if I did not remember the recipes. My parents used to send me Romanian wine – I can see you scoffing now, but it’s really good wine – by parcels every few months, so I was pretty sorted on that front. And that first summer in London was amazingly warm and sunny. Nothing can be done about taxis, but I love the tube, so hey ho.
What was the best thing I found in London?
This is the easiest question. The answer is: LOVE! I met my now husband after two month since my move and we have been together ever since. I never thought I would end up marrying a Romanian guy, but neither did I think I would end up with a Brit. Well, clearly I did not know much. My best advice on this is to give the unusual suspect a chance. It worked for me, and not only did I gain the most amazing life partner, but also I got an amazing group of friends and a loving family that adopted me right away. This all made a massive contribution towards making London my home.
Words of wisdom for my past-self
Plan & research
– learn as much as you can before moving away; dig up old friends who might live there, read blogs, forums and gather any piece od info you can. Most of it will be dispelled once you get there, but it will help ease your mind. If you can, go visit and try spending time in the city. Talk to locals and try to understand if you’d be happy living there. Don’t just do the touristy stuff, but go to the supermarket, take public transport at rush hour, get out of the beaten track and see what life is like outside the attraction areas.
Kick start your social life as soon as you can
– If you have a hobby, like cycling, or dancing, or sewing in my case, join a class, a club or an online community. People will embrace you more readily than if you are trying to make friends in other random situations. You will have things in common before you even started the conversation. While it’s tempting to hang out with people from the same country as you, you should make efforts to integrate into the culture of you new city.
Enjoy your reinvention
– How cool is it that no one really knows you in your new country? No one knows that embarrassing story from uni that your friends back home delight in telling every new boyfriend you bring to meet them. You are who you are then and there, and you can choose to hide or reveal as much as you want. Also, you can work on the things you want to change without any baggage and bad memories dragging you down. You can start anew and that is worth taking the leap into the unknown.
I am now 35 years old and I truly feel that London is my home. I will never be quite British enough, not with my funny accent that will never go away, but I am as immersed as I can be in the life of my new country. And if people are still looking at me funny sometimes, I always tell them that I’m not odd, it’s just cultural differences!
I am a 35 year old Romanian living the London dream. Sewing is my superpower and I’m using it for good! It helps me curb my fashion consumption whilst still having a stylish wardrobe. Sewing also enables me to teach others to be creative and sew their own clothes too. It connects me to the most amazing community on the internet: the online sewing community.
I blog about my sewing adventures and my journey towards a sustainable, stylish handmade wardrobe at Sewrendipity.com. You can also find me on social media:
If you liked Alex’s story, find her here.
I want to thank her for sharing her story and giving all of us the believe that it is possible.
You can start over, you can make new friends and you can change the place you call home.
Lots of love,