Learning about London

19 09 2011

Hello All,

WOW!!! What a start to my time in London! It has been nothing short of incredible and I have only been here 72 hours. Hanging out with friends on Wednesday night in Vancouver seems like an eternity ago, as so much has happened and my whole life has essentially been flipped upside down.

Having lived in England previously has helped me through these first few days. Despite the fact I was barely a teenager at the time of my first experience in England, I did learn a significant amount about the English culture and in particular the sense of humour. As I got off the 9 hour flight across the pond I was able to adapt quite quickly to the British attitude and wasn’t totally like a deer in the headlights as I got off the aircraft. As I found my way to the London Underground (affectionately known as “the tube”) I heard the familiar sounds of “mind the gap” and “beware the closing doors” and felt as though I was arriving back into a 2nd (or 3rd as I cant forget New Zealand) home.

After settling into my temporary new digs, a quaint little youth hostel in West London, off Baron’s Court, I decided to take a quick tube ride into Central London just to reintroduce myself to some of the sites, and quite honestly, to avoid falling asleep at 2PM and being jet lagged for a week. It was on this tube ride into town that I began to notice a lot more of the cultural changes I am going to have to adjust to while living over here. Despite the familiarity things have changed since I was here last, and it is always an adjustment coming from the laid back west coast of Canada to the busy, hectic streets that make up London.

The first thing that was extremely noticable to me was the fashion in London. Now, it was recently pointed out that Vancouver is the 3rd worst dressed city in the world, so it shouldn’t come as a huge shock that I observed this. What really stuck out was the lack of regular t-shirts throughout the city. Every male seems to be wearing a collared shirt of some kind, or at the very least a V-neck. It became clear that I will have to improve my wardrobe as quickly as I can!

A second cultural difference that I noticed was the patience, or lack there of, of the Londoners. Whether you are crossing the street or queueing up at the bank for service, people do not have much time or patience for anything and it is go go go all the time. Occasionally this mentality combines with the British wit and sense of humour to provide a moment that can only occurr in London. I observed one of these as I was walking down the road, away from visiting the Queen at Buckingham Palace. There were two ladies having their picture taken by a third and despite holding everyone who had stopped to wait for them up, they seemed in absolutely no rush. Eventually, one of the few locals in London yells from the back of the hold up “come on luv, give us a smile”. Not something you would see in Vancouver, but a funny way to make a point.

The first weekend in London was a busy one and I hope that this trend continues. There is a lot to see and do, and as I settle in I am finding that I have quite a few connections in this city. A nice feeling! On Saturday, after a day of running errands, I was able to meet up with an old friend from Vancouver, Guy, and we went out for a bit of a pub crawl around Oxford Circus, Leicester Square and Covent Garden, not a bad evening experiencing the pub culture that is Britain. The next morning, after sneaking down to Piccadilly to watch Canada come within minutes of beating the French at the Rugby World Cup, I met up with a friend from my New Zealand days. Chris and his wife Emily were very gracious in inviting me to climb the monument to the fire of London and take a tour of Tower Bridge, overlooking the Thames. It was nice to do some sightseeing with other people, and a few of Emily’s friends came along as well so I was able to meet some new people.

It was an excellent weekend, but with the new week came responsibility and I still have to find work and an apartment over here. This is what I started working on today, and it will not be an easy process. There is work, and there are apartments, but I just have to work to make sure I am the one getting what I need to! The week ahead will bring some struggles, as I already had to overcome at the bank. Setting up a bank account in England is just about the most complicated thing I have ever done. I got it sorted eventually however and feel as though I am well on my way to having a successful time over in London. Things are slowly falling into place, I am viewing a flat on Wednesday and I feel like work is just on the horizon.

I will update this blog as regularly as I can, hopefully with positive news about flats and jobs as I proceed.


London Bound

15 09 2011

Originally I was going to begin this blog post with a story about how excited I am to be heading off to London and to travel around Europe while establishing a career in teaching. Don’t get me wrong, I am very enthusiastic about all of this and I will get to it, but a funny thing happened to me yesterday as I was running my last few errands before departing.

I had to go by the Langara Family YMCA yesterday to pick up a reference letter and to drop off my old uniform, and as I was driving back home I decided to take a bit of a detour through Kerrisdale. As I was driving I was thinking to myself just how much I am going to miss working at the Y. The great people I met, the positive work environment, and just the energy of the place made it such a fantastic workplace (and before you accuse me of sucking up, I already HAVE the reference letters).  As I was driving I was forced to stop at a red light, and as I looked to my left I spotted the Your Bin Disposal bin truck that I used to drive for about a year. Quickly all the memories of driving the truck came flooding back and, while there were some positive ones, I was hit with a significant sense of relief. Its not that I didnt enjoy bin truck driving, or even working construction. I met some fantastic people along the way and learned many new skills, but what I came to realize in that moment is that I was much happier working in the education sector. The work I did at the YMCA over the last 6 months has allowed me to get back into the world of education and now I truly feel that the next step is to pursue the teaching career I have wanted for a while.

The past few days have been incredibly emotional for me and I’ll be honest, leaving is very tough. Vancouver is my home, plain and simple. It is the place I grew up, the place I met a lot of amazing friends, and the place I hope one day to return too. Whether thats 2 years from now or in retirement I’m not sure yet, but I do like the city and all of the people I have met there.  So before I start discussing London I want all you Vancouverites to know that you will all be missed. In particular my parents, who have been incredible through my year of transition, helping me out however I needed, and being exceptionally supportive of my decision to go overseas. I also want you all to know that despite the fact I’m across the pond, I will do my best to stay in touch, and if you find yourself over my way don’t ever hesitate to contact me.

So off to London it is!  As I left Vancouver this morning I was a little sad to be heading off, to be leaving loved ones and the city. But now, as I sit in the Calgary airport on a 6 hour stopover, I am starting to get very excited for my new opportunity.  I suppose the phrase “the world is your oyster” has never been so appropriate, given the name of the card you use to get onto the London tube!  The saying does mean a lot to me right now though as I know that out there in the big, intimidating city of London, there is a lot of opportunity, and it is now up to me to go and find it.  I know that there is a chance things dont work out in London, and I am certainly very fearful of that possibility, in a good way. I think the fear of failure will help me succeed in the sense that it will motivate me to get out there and meet people, to go after the jobs I want, to make the absolute most of the London experience.

I will be doing my best to update this blog as regularly as I can. If you have any requests or questions about what you would like me to talk about then feel free to ask. I think its the best way to communicate with a large group of people and I hope that at least a few do get some enjoyment out of it.

Talk to you again from Europe!

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