We arrived into London late on Tuesday 7 October to Gatwick. We flew with Easy Jet and were surprised with how good it was since we had no issues and all we ever hear about that airline is bad things. People now days definitely take hand luggage only to another level while flying. Nearly everyone on the flight had their maximum allowance for hand luggage, meaning that there was not enough room for all of the bags in the overhead lockers, resulting in some tense arguments coming from the guy who was last on the plane and whose luggage would not fit.
We had booked a guesthouse near the airport since our flight arrived in the evening and we didn’t want to have to negotiate the London transport system late at night. This turned out to be a great decision as we just wanted to get a nice pub meal and turn in for the night. We walked down the road to the local pub and were greeted by a very welcome sight – £7.45 for two pub meals and two pints! I got a steak and stout pie that came with fries and peas, and Alex got a hotdog and fries. The food was actually really nice, but especially for the price we paid for it. When we got back to the guesthouse we turned on the TV and had a great time watching English speaking programmes for the first time in 2 months. We did notice that ads over here tend to focus on two main subjects – gambling and loan shark lending. One of the lending ads had an annual interest rate of over 1,000%!! (in teeny, tiny small print of course). How is that even legal?
In the morning it was back to the airport to catch the train into the city so we could get to our temporary accommodation. The trains back to the city were very expensive and could possibly end up costing more than some of the flights overseas. We made it to London Victoria, with the next part of our journey to take part on the tube. Since a lot of our friends live over here already, we had plenty of instructions about what we would need to sort out, one being an Oyster card for the tube fares. When we got to the ticket booth, the lady had a very strange attitude to us wanting to buy an Oyster card. I guess she thought we were tourists so it wouldn’t be worth it. Weird. After she got over that, she was very helpful in explaining how to get to the place we needed to get to and how the tubes worked. When I told her where we needed to get to, I was so amazed that she could work out almost straight away how to get there. What I know now is that the tube map is extremely easy and every place in central London is only a change away from you.
We were staying at an AirBnB place for the remainder of the week in an area called Surrey Quays, mainly because it was “cheap”. Well, cheap for London. When we got off the train, we realized that we were in a pretty rough part of town. We rounded the first corner and first thing we saw was a car jacked up on blocks with all its wheels missing. Safe to say we didn’t concentrate our flat search around this area.
One thing that we did enjoy about this area was the wildlife. During our stay we saw our first squirrel and one night, the mythical urban fox (it is a real thing). The locals must have thought we were crazy, taking all these pictures of the squirrels in the park. Now we have been in London a while, we have seen how common they are and how silly we must have looked.
What I was surprised about was how foreign London felt. I had been warned that it would be very foreign, but I thought that it would feel like getting home since I would be hearing a language that I recognised. I think the only thing that was the same as home was the language.
The next week was pretty stressful as we were thrown unceremoniously out of holiday mode and into ‘getting-life-sorted’ mode. We had endless calls to recruiters, tweaked our CVs, sorted out sim-cards, spent hours looking online for flats, got bank accounts (one of the most torturous tasks known to man in London), bought new work clothes, negotiated the tube across the city, applied for our NI numbers, the list goes on. I felt like I had a full time job, but I was not getting paid for it. All of the people who I have talked to since arriving agree that it takes about 3 months to get stuff sorted in London after you get here before you are able to really start enjoying it. I completely agree with that sentiment as we have been here for almost 3 months, and things have only just (in the last couple of weeks) properly started to fall into place.
Over the next few blogs, we will be going semi-chronologically but trying to group some of the similar experiences together as a lot has gone on since we moved to London.