Expectation vs Reality – The London Edition
I went to London for the first time when I was twenty years old. I stepped off the train I’d caught from Leeds, out into the city and by nightfall I had fallen and fallen hard. This was where I wanted, needed to be. I felt like I had finally found my home.
Problem was, I was newly graduated with no real industry (or life) experience and I really didn’t fancy the idea of pulling beers for two years. It seemed like a waste of time in a decade of your life that isn’t really given the value it needs and deserves. So I set myself a goal – I would move to London when I was twenty-five. That in place, I started formulating a game plan to get myself there.
It was a long five years, full of hard work, sweat (I went to the gym a lot) and tears. There was also plenty of time for fantasy. I was smart enough to pick a career that involved shift work and there were many nights where I found myself at work at three in the morning, imagining what my life abroad what be like. Of course, it seemed absolutely fabulous. The joys of crafting scenarios in one’s head!
I’ve been “living the dream” in London for two months now. I expected it to be hard.
It hasn’t disappointed.
Here are some lies I told myself, when I upset about being at work at three in the morning:
I Will Actually Be Able to Afford Living in London
I was repeatedly told that London was expensive. To this, I would scoff and say “Sydney is expensive too.” Then, I realised I had made a grievous error. Elements of Sydney are expensive. Rent is upsetting, running a car is like having a hole in your bank account, groceries add up and you better be prepared to pay out your nose to see your favourite band live. If however, you are earning the median average wage in Sydney, you can live there quite comfortably within your means. The same can’t be said for London, where the median wage is a laughable £24k a year and if you’re not yet earning pounds, your wallet can suffer an almighty blow.
What I’ve Learned: All the museums are free and can be fun to visit. The Tube is phenomenal, but buses are cheaper. And for £17 a ticket, it’s best to not go see a movie in Leicester Square.
My Years Of Experience Will Guarantee an Awesome Job
“We usually take people with more experience,” one potential employer told me, as she gazed down at my resume. I was flabbergasted. Had the last five years actually counted for anything?
I spent my first few scary weeks writing cover letter after cover letter, harassing contacts and in my darkest moments, applying for everything under the sun. It took the longest seven weeks of my life to actually get anywhere and I’ve been told that is quick. There were a lot of moments I considered throwing in the towel and going home or worse… getting a job in hospitality.
What I’ve Learned: As a personal choice, I stuck to my guns and refused anything other than an industry job. I was lucky enough to be in a position to do this. Be resilient, keep at it but don’t let it get to you. As one wonderful friend reminded me – a cover letter is not a measure of your worth.
I’ll Make Lots of New, Foreign Friends
Maybe in time. More likely you’ll track down every person you’ve ever met who now lives in the city. Then you’ll realise you’re still exclusively hanging around with Australians and wonder why you ever bothered leaving the country in the first place.
What I’ve Learned: Re-connecting with old acquaintances can be fun, but let go of friendships that are toxic. Time alone can be healthy, too.
I Won’t Miss the Heat or the Sunshine!
Yes, you will.
What I’ve Learned: I’m really naive.
I’ll Get to Travel Loads and See All of Europe!
No, because first you won’t be able to afford to travel. Then you’re going to be working loads, trying to make ends meet. You’ll get to travel a bit and see a little of Europe. It’s better than nothing.
What I’ve Learned: Some of Europe is better than none of Europe.
It’s Going to Be a Grand Adventure
It’s going to be wet and cold. You’ll struggle to make ends meet. You’ll miss home with a steady ache in your heart, that refuses to dissipate. You’re going to be lonely. There will be times where you come so close to booking a return flight, desperate to catch some sun, or see a familiar, friendly face.
Then you’ll have a moment where you’ll look around. You’ll remember where you are. You’ll reflect on what it took to get you here. And you’ll smile, because you’re a go-getter. You take risks. You’re terrified, but you keep it together. You’re out there, doing the things that others spend a lifetime dreaming about.
And it’ll all be worth it.
What I’ve Learned: Sometimes I’m right about things.