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Katharina: 100 Miles Highway

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 London 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 London, etc.

Originally from Spain, I moved to London in 2011 with my job at that time in the Commodities sector. I had already been living abroad in Germany and Switzerland and had visited London for work and leisure countless times, but always wanted to experience the city as a local.

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

I started blogging in 2010 while living in Switzerland. I had been reading travel and expat blogs for a few months but, as many, wasn't sure where to start. I had no idea about how to use a blogging platform and so my first blog posts were quite disastrous. However, once I had found my niche and writing voice, my love for storytelling and photography became a very important part of my life. What once started as a travel blog, is now what I would call a global lifestyle as I share aspects of living and developing a career abroad.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

Among my most recent entries, I am particularly proud of a post I wrote about Entering the Expat Limbo constantly seeking newness sand how this is shaping my life choices. I also enjoyed thoroughly writing about Why Moving Abroad Will Boost Your Career and about the time I learned how to sail in the Canary Islands.

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

I'm originally from the Canary Islands - a place that is rather known as a holiday paradise. It's hard to believe that someone coming from a year-round 20ºC average would want to go through the torturous English weather. Thankfully, I had already been living in places that differentiate summer from winter for 9 years before moving to London - the previous one being a city in Switzerland in which you could watch people skiing down the main roads on a Sunday morning. But I still experienced quite a strong culture shock when I arrived - the main reasons being the constant grey skies, the large distances within the city and the crazy amount of people wherever you go. I sometimes still feel as if I'm in a video game in which I need to get from A to B by dodging the people (or, ehem, obstacles). I find it easier now that I live in an area with lots of green spaces.

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

I think I was quite well prepared for a life in London. The only thing that I might have changed had I known better is bringing all my furniture from Switzerland - first, because many flats are actually already furnished and second, because flat rotation is quite high in this city. Everyone seems to always be looking for a new flat with a larger room, more light, better transport links to work, etc. Moving everything once is alright, but moving furniture and countless bags and boxes every 9 months quickly damages your bank account.

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

My funniest anecdotes involve miscommunication in another language. While living in the French part of Switzerland while speaking hardly any French, I spent my first year having trouble in places as common as a supermarket. I remember one day I was looking for large bin bags so I grabbed a store assistant and did the best I could: "black bag to put things I don't want in the kitchen". She stared at me, completed puzzled, so I thought I'd better clarify this, and added "and a big car comes to take it away". I still believe that she was having the time of her life seeing me suffer with my 20-word vocabulary. Who wouldn't understand such a brilliant explanation? *cough*

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

I would recommend to stay positive, be patient and look for something that feels like home. Sometimes it's easy to overlook how lucky we are to even have the opportunity to live abroad and experience another culture and only concentrate on the frustrations we experience by trying to adapt to a new life. I learned that it's really useful to find something that (a place, an activity, a community) that makes you feel at home. For me, this has been living so close to nature.

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

I didn't move to London completely on my own. I already had good friends in the City, which made it easier for me to adjust. However, outside this circle, I have met many fantastic people from all over the World. The expat community is very vibrant and active - there's always someone ready to meet for a coffee or after-work drinks, a trip to the country side or a day at one of the city's many food markets.

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

Balance, in a city of chaos.

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."

Global Expat Guide