When I turned 18 and finished my studies in my home country, I packed my bags and moved to London to embark on my dream to study music in the big city. This is my journey and how I learned to survive the many challenges of “adulting” in a foreign country.
I’ve always had a fascination with the UK. From the funny accents to the old rich history, I knew I wanted to move here. I come from a mixed background and have never felt particular obligation to stay in the same country as I grew up in. Of course, once I got here, I realised that I had gotten myself into something bigger and scarier than I could imagine. London was loud, huge and chaotic in comparison to the medium sized Swedish city I was raised in. I didn’t understand the strange bureaucracy, getting accommodation or finding a bank. I felt people were very polite, but I was often unsure of people’s intentions or genuine feelings. I couldn’t connect to people and felt even more distant when people made jokes I found too controversial. I noticed how one must have banter to fit in, a particular sense of humour the British have developed to tease each other.
My patience was fading and I was starting to despise the place I had dreamt to live in. There were many moments I wanted to give up. After 6 months of hardship I was able to go home for the Holidays. When I came back to I greeted my fellow students and slowly realised, I didn’t have close friends. I realised then that I had been too busy criticising my new environment to make close connections. Once I made proper efforts to accept the differences of the people around me I was able to embrace several important friendships.
Once adopting friendships with people from the UK and elsewhere, I started to slowly understanding the quirks and sense of humour that were commonly used in almost all kinds of conversations. So-called “banter” was used to take the piss out people, but it wasn’t quite as black and white as insulting someone. Being emotionally intimate with people seemed to be something the brits sometimes struggled with. It’s almost like banter was a tool to show friends how close you considered them. Like someone taking the piss out of you but really, they meant “look how close we are, only a close friend could say that”. There are of course always some people who take advantage of this social behaviour and use it to undermine and abuse people. That was also something I learned to distinguish between.
I also stopped comparing, and accepted it was impossible to hold the same standards to two completely different countries. I started appreciating London for what it had, and not what it lacked. I started treating the places I would go to regularly like my own small town inside of the big city. This really helped my peace of mind, and made London feel less intimidating.
I’ve now lived in London for 5 years, and I know moving here was the best decision I have ever made. Nothing makes you grow more than challenging yourself. London is still a challenge and inspires me daily to keep pushing, creating and living to the fullest.
My survival guide to moving to London:
- Find a community
- Embrace the culture clash
- Make London your little village
- Start creating opportunities
By Liv Barath