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Melissa: Wanderlust

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in the UK makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come  from, when you moved to Great Britain, etc.

I'm a pianist, traveler and avid reader, I was born in Kingston, Jamaica and my family moved to Toronto when I was 2 months old. When I was five we moved out to the suburbs. In 2008 I decided to act upon my dream of living abroad and moved in September of that year. I chose to study in London and expected to be finished studying and back in Canada after 2 years.

Nearly four years later and I am still here.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

My friend Shawn encouraged me to blog about my (mis)adventures in London. It never occurred to me on my own to start one. I started it in October 2008. I stalled after a post or two since I was very homesick so I just didn't bother to properly post. After a month home at Christmas I came back with the renewed sense of really trying to settle in London and lay down some roots. After that I started posting regularly and it sort of continued from there. Nowadays I continue to blog at times for my sanity and as a creative outlet. I also blog as a record for myself, friends and family. Finally, if I can help another potential or current expat then I'm more than happy to do that.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

O Canada -Breaking Stereotypes

This entry came about after a house party where the host tried to play Canadian music and failed terribly. I had to inform him and other guests of the many talented Canadian musicians.

The London Olympics is Already Failing

My review on how the branding for the Olympics was a bit of a Hodge podge of bad decision making. While I enjoyed the games I still think the logo, the posters, and the volunteer outfits could have been way smarter looking.

The Geography of Bliss

My love for London changes periodically and I always question where I will be in the next few years. Still in London, England, back in Canada or somewhere else. This entry though inspired by another blogger touches on my constant indecision on where I will settle and highlighting what I love about living in London.

Tell us about the ways your new life in Great Britain differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

I think before moving here I thought life would be drastically different but it just isn’t. Besides probably being a bit healthier, as I walk everywhere, you get into the same routine of life. I guess I can mix it up a bit more since there is so much to do in the city and it is easier and cheaper to travel than in Canada. I had a terrible time adjusting in London and was very homesick for the first 6 months. I’m sure this was made worse by the weather. Winter, although way milder than Canadian winters, sucks. I experienced culture shock in as low and measured way as I continued to settle. I underestimated how different things would be between my old home and London.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Great Britain? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

I tried as best as I could to prepare myself for life in London but I don’t think that you can ever be fully prepared until you actually live in here for a few months. I never visited the country before making my move so I would have changed that decision and paid a visit prior to decision to pick up and move here.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

Most funny experiences generally involve language/slang mishaps. I was having dinner with two new friends I had just met earlier that day. One asked me what Canadians do in the summer for fun. I went on to gush that we love the outdoors and a lot of people especially love to go cottaging. There was an awkward pause and a look of surprise on their faces. I said, "Cottaging means something different here doesn't it?" They laughed and the guy said, "Yes, here it refers to anonymous sex between men in a public loo." Lesson learned.

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Great Britain?

  • If you can visit your future city! It seems most people have visited London before they move but I can’t emphasis this enough.
  • Read a few expat blogs in your new country to get a better sense of what living there will be like.
  • Make friends with locals, do not gravitate towards your countrymen and women. Put down roots right away and get into a routine. Know that you will naturally compare your new home to your old. That is ok but do not get wrapped up in that narrative. Know that you can always go home but home will be forever changed, as you will be too.

How is the expat community in Great Britain? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

There is a huge expat community here however I did find it a little difficult in the beginning to make meaningful friendships. When I started to meet up with other bloggers I found those to be the best friendships as they are likeminded and could sympathize with what I was going though.

How would you summarize your expat life in Great Britain in a single, catchy sentence?

Bigger, bolder, and brighter.

Jan-Peter van Tijk

"I wish I'd found InterNations sooner: It would have made my first few month as an expat in London much less overwhelming."

Therese Yeboah

"For me, the InterNations events are the best part. I attend almost every get-together and always get to know lots of friendly fellow expats."

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