Written by Carolina Baker who landed in London in November, a bit bleary eyed and nostalgic for what was formerly home. She’s Colombian American and loves Chai Lattes. During the day, she works in finance and at night she can be found blogging at GirlHabits or working out at Crossfit Thames.
The hardest thing for me upon arriving was feeling foreign.
Your baristas in Canary wharf didn’t know me, so they just took my order without smiling or even nodding. Your employee’s jokes I didn’t understand, so I just nodded my head and tried very hard to not space out. Your people’s wardrobes of grey and black didn’t match my own, so my pink coat and pink bag were very ill-matched. Your food was different and a bit bland, so I spent ages choosing what not to eat for lunch. Your General Practitioner made me go see him three times to get my blood test results; Your people really like to say no; Your letting agencies took their sweet old time with our rental; Your people don’t really like to talk loud; You aren’t home to many Latins, so as a Colombian, I felt different in a loud and exotic kind of way.
But now, your baristas in Canary wharf are starting to warm up to me. Nobody can resist a smile, a “have a nice day,” a pink coat, or someone who orders an Iced Drink for long. We chat about how cold it is outside (really?), and how happy we are that it’s Friday, and that to me, is what I call, progress. Even though my wardrobe hasn’t changed and neither has your peoples’, they are starting to understand me as a bubbly and bright American. I found a way to get your people to talk and that’s by asking question after question, so that’s what I do. Your food hasn’t gotten better, unfortunately, but I’ve narrowed it down to having eggs for breakfast and an iced chai (no water!), a chopped salad for lunch (in which I’m only allowed one egg…), and cooking something from Waitrose for dinner during the week, and trying out random restaurants on the weekends; (Wahaca is a winner; Mestizo restaurant is…not). But your Crossfit Thames is quite amazing and reminds me of my brother every time I go work out; it’s like a home away from home. Your GPs I haven’t gotten used to, but they are teaching me the importance of patience, as there really is no better way to deal with a different medical care system. Your people respond well to being challenged, something that is completely unexpected. And I still talk loudly when given the opportunity. I smile whenever I hear Latin Spanish on the DLR, on the tube, or on random London Streets.
And while it’s important for me to have you feel like home, being here is more monumental than creating a routine that is fulfilling. You feel like an open door, inviting me in. You are a breath of fresh air; a brand new perspective. You are patient with me as I stop idolizing my past and start treading lightly on my present, and with more purpose on my future. You are introducing me to people and situations that will alter the course of my life, and for that, I’m forever grateful. You are showing me that choosing different is better than not choosing at all, and that sometimes, it’s necessary to jump and feel what it’s like to free fall. Your ground is sturdy and its caught me quite a few times. And you know what? I’ve managed to brush myself off and get back up again.
So before I forget, I thank you. For taking me away from New York and for showing me a new way of life.
If you’d like to guest post about London for LLO, drop me a line: email@example.com