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I'm now approaching my 6-month mark of living as an American expat in London, and the whole thing feels like a flurry of emotions. Some have been good, and some have been bad, but on the whole I'm so glad to be in this city and doing what I'm doing. And what has this expat been doing in London?
My former co-workers and forever pals, Regina and Jorge, came from New York to hang out...
and we all went to the New Forest...
...and saw some ponies...
After rollin' with the ponies, we had some beers at a very English B&B
We found a lovely new flat (still Second Floor, natch) around the corner from an old cemetary...
..and did some really good eating, English-style...
One year you're eating orange cinnamon rolls on your mom's floor in Georgia, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. The next year you're standing by a radiator in London trying to determine which American restaurant would have the best pre-fix vegetarian options for dinner. Guess that's life, eigh?
It's been a wonderful and tough year for me, but wherever you are, I hope you have someone you love and can cling to nearby—whether it's family, old and new, or friends who treat you like family.
Totally stocking up on some of this for our new flat.
And while I'm here, I might stock up on some of these cards for New Years wishes from my beloved Rifle Paper Co...
Just kidding on that last one—Bowtie would be so jeals.
There are several benefits to being an American expat in London.
Some are practical (national health care), some will become clearer the longer you're here (earning your salary in GBP is awesome, the weather truly does suck), and some are superficial (Boots, the general social acceptance of being drunk by 6PM on a weekday).
Another benefit to living in London is having access to the high street glory that is COS.
You know the fancy section of H&M? Yes you do—it's the part of the store that's slightly minimalist, slightly more upscale, and has nicer fabrics. It's the part of the store that you never really shop from because it's too expensive and you're at H&M for Pete's sake.
If you took that and crossed it with Zara, you'd get COS (which is actually a part of H&M, for the record).
Sure, it's a little more expensive but the design sure is good and the quality is better. This is what COS stuff looks like:
A little taken aback by the Scandinavian minimalist approach? Don't be nervous! COS has stuff like this, too:
Not that I've ever bought anything there, but much like the fancy section at H&M, it's bound to happen one of these days. I am earning the pound, after all.
A few months ago I did something that I'd never done before and that was move in with a guy.
In typical fashion, rather than trying something new at a regular pace, I decided to jump head-first into freezing water by moving in with two guys in a different country. And so, here we are.
My husband and his brother moved into the flat that we now live in in southwest London about two and a half years ago. Since then they've spent their time painstakingly decorating in the themes of WWII and Kenny Powers. While I respect their tastes, mine tends to be a bit different.* For the sake of everyone's sanity, we're going to move.
As it turns out, the process of flat hunting is both very similar and very different from apartment hunting in New York.
In New York, you pay a broker's fee of about one month's rent for having a broker do nothing other than unlocking the door of a new apartment for you.
In London, the landlord pays an estate agent's fee of about one month for basically posting the flat online.
In New York, you'll rarely get a dishwasher and never get a washing machine.
In London, you'll get a washing machine and rarely get a dishwasher.
In London, it's totally normal and possible to find a flat with a garden. A garden.
In both cities, you have about five seconds to claim a flat/apartment before it's off the market.
Here's what our new flat looks like in my head:
Keep those fingers crossed!
*For the record, both of my lovely flatmates are troopers who put up with my constant moving/organizing/rearranging of everything. They've never muttered a single complaint and for that I am thankful.
Last week I started working in an actual, live company in London. So far, I've noticed the following:
a) The Brits dress smarter at work
b) Being an American in a British office makes you feel sweaty and greasy
Let's start with the first point. I've always thought of the whole discussion on differences between British and American style as kind of made-up. Sure there are differences, but it's taken a few months of living here + said job for me to be able to point out those differences.
At the core of it, Americans are just a little more casual. You may have heard that we like sportswear, and that the Big Classic American Designers like Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors, etc etc etc. are constantly taking that idea of classic American sportswear and modernizing it. As it turns out, that's all true, particularly in the workplace where the Brits dress just a little posh-er* or more upmarket**.
The clothes are all-in-all the same (Lana Del Rey for H&M, anyone?), but you're more likely to see a guy in a dress shirt, slacks, and even jacket and a girl in a tailored dress and heels or heeled booties. Of course , workers dress nicely in any fashion-industry job, but it's refreshing to see them looking both nice and professional. A way of saying We're At Work instead of the classic New York Iwokeuplatethismorningandwaitedfor3Ltrainsandspilledcoffeeonmyselfrunninghere.
As for my second point? Somehow listening to all of those crisp accents and looking out into all of those chic grey skies makes you feel like you should wash your hair and paint your nails. Also, my brain has started doing this weird thing where it can't decide whether my voice/dialect should:
a) Stay with the accent it's had it's entire life and sound normal
b) Adopt certain English phrases and dialects in a poorly disguised effort to fit in and sound a little weird
c) Stop thinking so f-ing much
They say that when it rains it pours, and this week happens to be one of those weeks where everything. happens. allatonce. Here are the things that happened today, and what I've learned from them so far:
1. I started my first offiicial (freelance) job in London. A little scary as first days always are, but I made it and am happy to return. "They" say that making it to your mailbox is the hardest part of the day, and that is so true.
2. We gave our notice and are officially on the hunt for a new flat, so patience comes from those who wait! (And apparently also to those who throw tantrums and/or shoes when their el cheapo hanging racks collapse on top of them.)
3. We got our hot water fixed. As the temperatures in foggy London started to cool down, so did the temperatures in our foggy water boiler. Luckily it's now fixed and I can go back to showering like a fully-functional citizen of society. Check those water heaters, folks!
This all makes me feel like this:
Woah, we’ve been doin’ a lot of stuff! Things were rocky at first, but all in all conditions improved enough for us to leave the house a few times this summer.
Here’s what we’ve been up to during the Great British Summer of 2012:
…making sure to say hello to the cows before we left
And speaking of farm animals, we let some horses cross the road
then we went on a picnic
and then we went bowling
I got a teapot
we went to Florida (and got stranded for two extra days)
and overall enjoyed the sunny, warm-for-the-UK-weather
I’ve been a few times in New York, but last night I attended my first Fashion’s Night Out in London. Here are a few things I learned:
1. I have no money
2. Tack “fashion” onto pretty much anything, and you’re guaranteed to get either a lot of pretty people or at least a lot of people who think they’re very pretty
3. Free drinks definitely make you want to shop—and buy—more (stores: take note)
4. Designer stores make you very much aware of how much money is in your bank account* but people who don’t have money are generally more fun than people who do
*See lesson 1
The show features different patterned prints, and revolves around a female character who moves between each print. Pretty great concept, right?
The only show I’ve been to since I’ve moved to London was the very obvious Damien Hirst at the Tate, but there are tons of galleries and museums I’m looking to explore (I’m looking at you, White Cube, Serpentine, and Barbican).
Not to mention that the V&A has just announced a giant David Bowie retrospective that’s set to open next March. This exhibit is expected to put my past experiences with Bowie tributes to shame, specifically those that took place in Atlanta between the years of 2004 and 2008 (above-bed Bowie tribute, photography, freshman dorm room, 2004; Best of Bowie video display, apartment 2416 living room, 2007-2008).
Unfortunately it doesn’t open until March, but a Google Calendar reminder has already been created for this so we won’t be missing it.
A bonus about the museums here: general admission is free. I’m used to $20 entry fees at MOMA soo that’s cool.
My mom just left after a week’s long stay in London. She’s the first visitor I’ve had since I moved here, and we did all kinds of awesome stuff like…
…and creepily look into (still old) private gardens
visit markets (including Borough Market, which is maybe my favorite place to go in London)
eat chocolate from Liberty
spend a morning at Highclere Castle aka DOWNTON ABBEY (!)—hi cousin Matthew!
explore (Little) Venice before eating at the always-yummy Pizza East
and see the world.
Come on back now, momsers!
Photo credit: my mom