Living in a foreign city is exciting, pulsating, saturating, taxing and exhausting.
I’ve lived in two.
One, was a complete culture and emotional shock; Italy. I was young, naïve and desperate to release the shackles of my Australian suburban life. As a fresh-faced (and somewhat ‘green’) newly 18-year old, I hastily and tearfully (after a heart-wrenching goodbye with my mother) boarded a British Airways flight to Milan, Italy in January 2010.
I was hardly qualified to do be thrust into the situation that I found myself in: 18 and the sole caregiver for two, very spoilt, very petulant Italian children, aged 4 and 2. To add to this, I became a school teacher of conversational English at the local high school in Chiari.
Yet, it was one of the most rewarding, grounding and edifying experiences of my life. I was desperately homesick in my first two months, but that soon passed and what was left was a raw and unflinching determination to make it on my own.
This unshakable resolve has never left me, and in the following years from my departure of Milan I once again forcibly thrust myself into demanding, confronting and at times uncomfortable cultural settings: sleeping for 3 months on a stone-cold floor in India, accosted in Thailand, eating tarantulas in Cambodia and backpacking through Australia’s red centre. Luxury travel has never really appealed to me.
But, despite my innate and intrinsic ties with the United Kingdom I really can’t stress how hard it has been to adapt to ‘London life’. The shift from sunny Sydney to moody London occurred in September 2016.
Why was London so austere? Why so gloomy and impenetrable? I am British, so why did I feel so foreign?
No money, connections and cynicism does not make for easy London-living. London’s a fascinating, warped and cantankerous city; learn to be in synergy and you’ll succeed. Try to compete with it and you’ll undoubtedly fail.
I’ve written prodigiously about my relationship with London, it’s one of the defining relationships of my adult 20s life. And as I’ve grown and adapted, and shed my suburban Australian coating, I’ve become an out-and-out Londoner.
Three years have been spent on these shores. Three years, in which one of them I was so broke I ate watered-down leftovers, worked three jobs and still found the strength and determination to complete my masters. Nobody said London was easy, but it will certainly change you – and how many cities have that resolve?