First impressions of London

I’ve been in London a week now and my first impressions on day one were that “it’s old, cold, grey and green”. It is spring here so its not actually that cold, but it was really hot in Asia and I’m a wuss when it comes to being cold.

The plan is to stay here in London, find an awesome job, settle and make the most of my new British passport. After the first week I will admit I have doubts about this plan. Yesterday I shed a few tears and thought “what the F* was I thinking?”. If I’m honest, my first impressions aren’t fantastic. But to be fair on London, being broke, unemployed and having just had 6 months in Asia (where it was warm and constantly sunny) has not helped. I also managed to get a cold on my 2nd day so have been feeling a bit rubbish.

I get the impression that many Kiwis who come to London are in awe at its size, the history and charm..etc. All of this is a little lost on me as I’ve been here before and have lived in other big cities before. I do like London, I just don’t love it yet. It is a little bit like Brussels, but not as charming or interesting. Quite frankly I’ve been spoilt by my travels and am being a little bit of a brat! I’d love to live in Europe again, but I don’t speak any other languages so it makes finding work near impossible. London is a relatively easy place to find work and my family is here, so London it is.

London is huge and I’m living on the outskirts. Commuting has never been my favourite thing and I can see there is going to be a lot of time wasted commuting in this city. The public transport is fantastic though, expensive but fantastic. My place is a 15min walk to the train station and a 30-40mins walk to the tube station. If I’m feeling lazy (or if its raining) I can catch the train to the tube station. I have decided that I prefer the train as being so far underground a little creepy. The tube is a little smelly, claustrophobic, a rabbit warren of stairs/passageways when you change lines, and it’s a little creepy. I suspect I’ll get used to it fairly quick as it’s definitely the easiest/fastest way to get around the city.

Supermarket shopping here has been a joy after 6 months in Asia. In Mysore I went to the supermarket 3-4 times and did a lot of my shopping at small local street shops/markets. In Bangkok I was disappointed by the supermarket as the food was highly processed and I couldn’t find familiar vegetables that I’d been craving. In London I found familiar fruit and vegetables, a good range of organic products and my favourite herbal tea comes from the UK so it is cheap. I also found my favourite chocolate, fresh free range organic eggs and artisan bread. There are also plenty of ‘international supermarkets’ so I was able to easily find spices, rice and chilli sauce.

The EU rules state that produce must have the country of origin in the packaging which I think is really cool, but the packaging is not so cool. Everything here comes pre-packed in plastic which is not currently recyclable. In general though, food shopping is MUCH cheaper here than in New Zealand.

They have a really good recycling system here in London that I’m impressed with. Each household has 3 bins.  1 for rubbish, 1 for compost and 1 for recycling. The rubbish bin gets collected fortnightly which forces residents to recycle and use the compost bins.  They even give each house a small compost bin for the bench. As soon as the plastic packaging at the supermarket is recyclable, it will be a really good system.

The other big thing that has left an impression… central heating and double glazing is awesome. It must be costly to run the central heating, but its lovely. The whole house is warm. Er.. except my room as my radiator is a bit broken and needs fixing. Houses in New Zealand are typically very cold as we only heat the rooms that are being used, we don’t have double glazing and we have a “put a jersey on” type of an attitude. This is changing thankfully as many homes get insulated and I have a few friends who are now installing double glazing and central heating.

So, as you can see my first impressions aren’t great. But they aren’t terrible either. I’m very lucky to be able to stay with family as I get settled. I’ve got two brothers here, both with partners and one with two children who are under 4. Its been wonderful to spend time with the family and overall I’m feeling OK about the move here.  My plan is to find work ASAP, find a yoga studio to go to regularly (probably one in the city) and join a local community choir. I know that if I don’t make an effort to like London, London won’t make an effort to be kind to me!



Playing tourist in London

Today I had to go into the city to get my national insurance number, I decided to make the most of the trip and met my brother for lunch. I got the train to the city, found the job centre where my appointment was, dealt with English bureaucracy (terribly inefficient) and got told it will take 4 weeks to process the application.

I had a wander around Liverpool Street which seems to be where a lot of offices are. I liked the vibe and can see myself working in this area. The contrast of modern and old buildings is great, I saw the Gherkin (not sure if its real name) and checked out a street market.

After that I got the tube to Oxford Street and got lost down the backstreets of Soho. I was going to check out an art gallery but couldn’t find it. I did find lots of little shops, cafes and bars. I imagine its quite lively at night, but at 11am on a rainy weekday it was fairly quiet. I made my way to Piccadilly where I met my brother for lunch.  His office has a view of Piccadilly square which is quite cool, the area is an interesting mix of tourists and suits. We met his girlfriend for lunch in a pub and after that I did a bit of window shopping and got the tube home.

So, first day sightseeing in London. I’ve been to London a few times so it wasn’t new to me, but I’ve not been here for years and it was fun to play tourist. My plan in the next few weeks is to check out the free museums and art galleries as I have a feeling that when I start working the idea of playing tourist will quickly loose its appeal.