Stephanie: Little London Observationist
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Great Britain, etc.
I’m from a suburb of Buffalo, New York. A few interests are writing, photography, travel, street art, tea, making jewelry and exploring London.
The first time I lived in the UK was during a study abroad program in 2004. I came back in 2007 after graduation, stayed for four years. In 2011, I left to live in Colombia for six months then returned to London in November. Altogether, I’ve lived in London for about five years.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I’ve been blogging for 10 years, but started blogging about London specifically in 2007 on a different site, mainly to share my experiences with friends and family back home.
I switched over to Little London Observationist in 2009. It’s less about my personal experiences and more about little observations of life in the city shared through photography (both my own and contributions to the Flickr pool) and interviews with Londoners and London-based artists. (I’m always looking for volunteers – hint hint nudge nudge.)
I like to share the ordinarily quirky slices of London life – the street art, the people going about their day, the small things.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours? Please add the URL as well.
After three years, that’s a tough question!
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 wouldn’t say I truly experienced culture shock in London (certainly not the way I did when I went to live in a tiny Colombian village), but it has definitely opened my eyes to a different way of life.
Back home, there is very, very little diversity. London is the whole world living in one sprawling metropolis.
I have greater freedom here, more opportunities for work and travel and an incredibly international group of friends from all backgrounds, some of whom speak four or five languages. You can walk into a market and eat Tibetan, Japanese, Brazilian, Moroccan, Ethiopian foods.
In terms of culture shock, I probably feel a greater sense of reverse culture shock when I go home than I have ever felt true culture shock here.
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 don’t think you can ever be fully prepared for a move to a new country, but part of the fun is the experience of all the surprises. I don’t think I would have changed my decisions. I came over first with no job or flat, and I struggled my way through to where I am now, but I’m glad I did that because it taught me more than I would have ever learned if I would have popped over into a comfy life straight away. I think the greatest preparation you can give yourself is an open a mind as possible, a healthy dose of motivation and a sense of adventure.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
The most amusing experiences come through some of the people I meet along the way.
I lived alone in a beautiful two bedroom flat in zone 1 for a year. Two weeks before I left, I found out the woman I was renting from owned brothels in central London, had a history of jail time for money laundering and drug dealing and a whole lot of other things that would make an excellent book. She now runs a dominatrix club. I had had no idea the whole time.
But really it didn’t surprise me because it’s London and in London there are plenty of people with colorful lives. That’s one part of what makes it so interesting to live here.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Great Britain?
- Bring as much money as possible. You can barely walk out of the door in London without spending money. It takes a lot of willpower to save here, especially with all of the fantastic shopping and travel opportunities on your doorstep.
- It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of London life. Make sure you stop to breathe once in a while, step away from the chaos occasionally, take some weekend breaks around Europe or find a great café or park to while away a few relaxing hours.
- Get lost. I always discover my favorite places when I have no idea how I got to where I am. I often get off of the bus or tube at a random stop and just wander with my camera. I’m rarely disappointed and I always manage to find my way home.
How is the expat community in Great Britain? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
London has a brilliant expat community. Partly because nearly everyone here is an expat and partly because there’s so much to do that it’s so easy to organize a get together. There are some great expat groups on Facebook like American Expats in London or Meet Up groups.
How would you summarize your expat life in Great Britain in a single, catchy sentence?
It has been a life-changing, eye-opening, rollercoaster ride through a bustling city that is home to an entire world.