Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Big Smoke...

When I was originally toying around with the idea of ex-patriatism (I'm not sure if that's a real word) I thought that, perhaps, the best way for me to get an idea of what life would be like wherever I ended up was to find an expat blog or two for each of the countries and cities that I was considering living in. My options were limited, as I intended to move across the globe under the sponsorship of the company that I worked for, so I had the following areas to consider:
  • Luxembourg City
  • Paris
  • London
I sat around in Seattle for more than a year looking at Wikipedia pages, travel guides, and Flickr snapshots. I had conversation after conversation over countless beers with people who had traveled to, spent an extended period of time in, or lived in the three cities above and, in the end, I had what I would consider to be a fairly good understanding of the big picture that surrounds living in any of the aforementioned areas.

Unfortunately, it seemed that basing the biggest decision of my life on a macro level view of any of these places just wouldn't cut it. Culture shock doesn't seem like something that arises from a "Woah, look at all of these weird old buildings" experience, but rather from an overwhelming number of "You seriously pronounce the word 'lieutenant' as 'LEFtenant'?" situations, and those were the type of things that I was missing, simply because they aren't the first things that people think of when they think of the experience of living in another country.

The tweets and status update age has given people the opportunity to actually draw attention to all of these seemingly insignificant things, but not in a way that I had cared to digest them -- I can spend an hour reading someone's tweets and feel like I haven't actually learned anything at all about anything at all. Blogs that centered around the expat experience seemed to be the best way for me to go, though finding one that was up to date and interesting to read was harder to find than I would have thought.

Regardless, I found a few that I trusted, and moved myself out here with the absorbed wisdom of a few folks who seemed to be just like me. To that end, I think I'm doing alright out here, and recently decided that it was time to give back... so here I am.

I moved to London at the beginning of April 2010 at the age of 25. Here's some stuff that I wasn't prepared for...

There are basically three types of drinking establishments in this city:
  1. Pubs - These close at/around 11pm... which is just, absolutely insane.
  2. Bars - These are fancier, more modern bars, and they usually open until 3 or so. There's usually a dance floor or something, which distinguishes them from pubs, which are more like coffee shops that sell beer and breaded fish... and coffee.
  3. Clubs - These are big, and people dance in them.
People in London really do say all of those things that you think are just jokes for American audiences. They really do.

Ryanair flights aren't nearly as cheap as you think they are. And it actually is unreasonable to take a train to Paris every weekend. Just remember, they stamp your passport EVERY TIME you do that.

Not everything is outrageously expensive here. Grocery stores are actually quite a bit cheaper than they are in the States. Most stuff is more expensive though.



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