It’s been already 2 years since I moved to London, but I realized that I wrote little to nothing about it. Here are some thoughts of a Romanian expat.
*cough cough* immigrant
To begin with, it wasn’t my dream to move here. One year before, I went on holiday in London. I thought it was pretty and I enjoyed it, but I left with the idea of “been there, done that”. I was planning to move outside Romania, not because it’s awful, but because I was bored. Or let’s say, I was challenged, but not in the way I wanted.
My intention was to move somewhere in East Asia. I tried all kinds of applications, I spent a huge amount of time searching for opportunities. At some point, I got tired of not hearing back from anyone. I thought maybe there is something wrong with my cv. One day, scrolling through Linkedin, I saw a job (my current one). I read the description, thought it was matching my profile, and just sent my cv with a click. No letter, no email. It was the first job I had applied in the UK and did not think for a second I will get it.
Why this one?
Next day I get a call and I get excited. Then I realize it’s from UK (+44) and I’m like “Noo, out of all applications, why this one?” But it all went smooth and easy. My mom was laughing at me one evening: “So what will you do if you get the job? Will you move there with the sad people?” I used to say that UK locals are sad because it’s too much rain and little fun (compared to sunny locations and joyful cultures). The irony, I know.
I soon got an offer for a 6 months contract. I decided I would give it a try. It can’t be that bad. The worst scenario, I don’t like it and I come back to Bucharest. I was excited I will try something new, but not excited about the location. Instead of preparing my swimsuit, I was preparing my umbrella. Everybody I would tell was reacting: That’s amazing!/ It’s my dream!/ So lucky! Etc. And they seemed excited. I used to complain to my close friends that ok, maybe it’s someone’s dream, but not mine!
Cutting the drama, I quit my job in Bucharest and went to Thailand. I came back a few days before, pack few stuff and flew to London the day before my job started.
The job was good from the beginning. I felt welcome. I have a strong (Eastern European) accent, nobody ever mentioned or complained about it. And I say this because many Romanians are giving way too much importance to their accent. I also received more appreciation, work-wise, than I had back in Romania. Strangely, it was so much easier to fit in my expat job than it was in my home one.
The only challenge I had with the moving, was finding accommodation. But this was my mistake, for not arriving at least a few days in advance. I was staying at a friend’s place, commuting almost 2h to my new job while searching for flats after work. It was tiring, but after two months, I was done with all the “admin work”.
Socially, I would say it’s a different kind of friendly. It’s very open, but fast moving. I personally liked being in the “international bubble”, as I had experienced it a few times before. In fact, I was missing it, while living in Romania.
I got used to it and I like London. Ok, maybe just not the rain. It took me a while to accept this was a great choice for me at the time, but finally got there. Though I didn’t feel I made any effort to adapt to my new life, I did gradually change my mentality. I learned and experienced new things that will benefit me long term. And this weighs more than not being able to wear flip flops outside.
I go to Romania quite often and keep in touch with my family and a few close friends. It’s a weird sensation to realize everything looks quite the same, but it’s actually moving on and you are not part of it. You are not a player anymore, you sit in the audience. You just step in once in a while. And this switch of roles happens every time you travel. You are there, but not quite there. On the other hand, it’s like living two lives. Your new life and the extension of your old life. You can keep the best of both and that’s amazing. When one fails, you get the energy from the other one and vice versa.
What I noticed, is that many expats complain they cannot find real connections like they did back home. To make it simple, you cannot compare your bestie since high school with a new friend from a meetup. A totally different background. It takes time to blend in, and it takes more effort to understand a different culture. And there is also the pace, in London, it’s all fast and busy. So when you add everything in, it is more difficult.
And for the same reasons, it’s easier for expats to stick together. If it’s the same culture or a similar one, better. Because what gets the people closer, it’s the similar interests on one hand, but also the things they complain about. You know, the pain. But in the end, it’s all down to the individual. I have friends from very different cultures than mine, and also local friends who have never been expats. And I find it enriching.
I don’t know really. I’m all cosy and comfy. London is very resourceful and a great place for the young. I don’t see myself living the rest of my life here though, it’s a bit of a boring scenario in my head. I’m lucky enough to not be very concerned about Brexit. And I also have the mentality and confidence that I can always pack my bags and move somewhere else. Of course, it’s not that easy. But I think one can create a happy life anywhere, it’s just the amount of time and effort you have to put in, that makes it better or worse.