Living in the UK – My story

Be prepared for a long, raw, open post. The good the bad and the ugly. It’s taken me quite some time to even be able to write this, I needed time to process the last two and a half years! Everyone has different journeys, some good, some bad and some ugly! I’ll tell you one thing though – no matter what, there will definitely be a roller-coaster when you travel, it’s anyone’s guess how high and low that roller-coaster goes! Deciding to travel for an extended amount of time is a very scary thing to do. It takes courage and determination. I guess it’s why alot of people don’t do an OE (Overseas Adventure), they are scared. Most of us look at fear as something to avoid don’t we? For me, personally, the regret of not travelling – something I had wanted to do for a decent chunk of my life – overtook the fear of actually doing it. I had time to prepare from when I made the decision and I saved, sold as much of my stuff as possible, got my UK working Visa and planned the start of my travels. I had to let the rest of it go, and hope that it would work itself out!

Nini

 

Nini and I in London 

I left New Zealand on a winters day, 9th July 2014. I flew to Zurich via Bangkok. My plans were to travel for around a month and a half before getting to London on the 25th August to start my new life there. I stayed with a friend in Zurich for a week then I was on my own! I joined a tour around Greece and Turkey where I was able to meet a few people – some of which were headed to, or already lived in London, otherwise I traveled alone. I traveled through Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Switzerland, Greece, and Turkey before I flew to London.

Tower of London

The Tower of London

I knew one person in London, a girl I had met at my local pub back in Christchurch. She met me at the airport and we took the LONG journey back to her house. I spent two nights there before she had to move out. Unfortunately she didn’t have another place to go to so we both moved to a Hostel. I was looking for jobs while she worked at a pub. Not too long after we arrived at the hostel I was able to find a room to rent in Shepherds Bush, West London. I moved in and continued to apply for jobs, while hanging out with Becky on her days off. Becky was struggling to find a room to rent she could afford, not long after I had arrived in London she made the decision to move to Glasgow. I was now alone in London! This story is already going to be a novel, so I’m not going to go into detail about every job I had the last 2.5 years. Let’s just say there were a few. Why? A number of reasons – I was travelling and sometimes having a job got in the way of that, London is a very “all about me” place and a lot of people aren’t very nice, which includes colleagues and bosses, so I left some jobs because I wasn’t being treated well or the environment was toxic, some jobs were trials which weren’t extended, sometimes I got another job while working at one,the line of work wasn’t for me. The list goes on. I took the opportunity in London to try new things, to get out of my comfort zone job wise. I had worked in Insurance for the last 4 years and I was fucked if I was going back to that or any other office job. Mainly I worked in hospitality, bars, restaurants and cafes, as it is universal, readily available and easy to do. I also dabbled in face to face sales – something I have NEVER EVER wanted to do, but I challenged myself. Turns out I wasn’t too shit at it, but it’s definitely NOT for me. It was also commission based, which is not cool living in London. Job hunting, the experience of some of the jobs themselves was…..quite stressful for me. If I had wanted to continue in Insurance I probably could have found a job and just stayed in it the year and a half I was in London, but that’s not what I wanted to do. So my experience is a lot different than people working in a corporate or office environment, a lot of people tend to just get a job and stick with it and go on holidays when they could. Because I was in temporary jobs in a fickle industry I was forced to chop and change a lot. I also have begun to tolerate bullshit less and less, I’ve realised there is always a choice and I do not have to stay in a job where I am being bullied or the environment is toxic – so I didn’t. I’ve never had the guts to do that in the safety of my own country, let alone over the other side of the world, alone. Pretty damn proud of myself for that and I will continue to follow my gut and leave an environment if it is affecting my health (after seeing if things can be improved first of course!). I see SO many people stay in jobs they hate, put up with colleagues and bosses who are nightmares because they think they have no other choice, they have rent to pay, what if they can’t find another job etc. I get it, I was like that myself, until the age of 28!! Now I can’t go back, once you step over the fear and get to the other side, you cannot put up with the shit anymore. Some tough times, but some valuable lessons learned. I also learnt some great skills in regards to the different roles I had and the different bosses, and colleagues I experienced. I made lifelong friends with some colleagues, short-term friends with others, even found love with one too!!

Harry potter

Being a tourist in London 

London itself, I could write a bunch of blogposts on, it is such a HUGE melting pot of cultures and it is always ON.  I was followed home once, I had my bag with everything in it stolen – TWICE, I wandered the city alone, marveling at everything, I attended concerts, events, premieres, shows, I bonded with other expats and shared stories, I made impulsive decisions, I cried, I laughed, I got tattooed. I LIVED.

Turkey

 

Turkey

Whenever I could I made sure to travel out of London and to also be a tourist within London. A huge goal of mine was to try and see as many new bands as possible. Music is a passion of mine, and very few bands make it to NZ. Going to concerts is SO much cheaper in the UK. On average you’d pay $100 for a concert in NZ, the most expensive gig I went to was about 50 pounds and cheapest 8 pounds!! I also ticked attending a European festival off my list, which was a whole new level of experience in itself (think mud calf deep, flooded tents, lightening strikes and evacuation!). I saw over 20 bands for the first time, some others for the second or third. I went to small, intimate events to the festival which was 93000 people! I was lucky to be able to attend these concerts at various locations around London, which was pretty awesome in itself. Moral of the story? Get the fuck out there and experience shit! I was lucky enough to befriend an aussie who happened to have a car, so we made sure we did plenty of road trips in Witney (yes, we named her). We road tripped around England and even drove to Europe and back! Another cool experience, travelling in different ways. I traveled by bus, train, car, ferry and plane. Variety people!

England

England Road Trips 

Somewhere along the line I decided that London wasn’t for me. Some people go to London and never leave, others want to get the fuck out ASAP. It is a HUGE, bustling city with ALOT going on. Coming from such a small, super laid-back country, and being brought up in a small city it was a bit much for me. I loved living there for a bit, but then the everyday life of London, well,just wasn’t for me. The commutes, the sheer size of it,making it such a long day to go anywhere, the stress of everything, the job scene, the rush, the attitude of the majority of the people there. It’s like they get swallowed by the “London” way of life and turn into cunts. No way was I going to turn into a rushed, status, money and social media focused wanker. My mate Alex and I talked it over and we decided to move to Birmingham! We were both excited by a fresh start and the freedom to do what we wanted, when we wanted as we were staying with his aunty for free! We thought save money, travel, work a bit less, work near to where we lived etc

AMsterdam

 

Amsterdam

In April 2016 my parents, whom I hadn’t seen since I left came over to London. I quit my job and traveled with them to Ireland and Amsterdam and showed them around London. The day after they flew back, Alex and I packed up Witney and hit the road. It took us about an hour just to get out of London – fuck off London! The next few weeks was our time to relax, get to know our local high street, our new city and for me,to find a job. Alex was able to work from home which was sweet. I thought I’d give myself a break after a full on year and a half and just get a part-time job since we were not paying rent. We were lucky enough to live just around the corner from a high street and I checked out the local cafes and put some applications in. One of the first places I sent my CV to asked me in for an Interview, I had a trial and they offered me the job on the spot. An 8 minute walk from home. Winning! Or so we thought. Let’s just say Birmingham wasn’t the break we thought we’d get. In fact, it was probably one of the top 5 most stressful things that happened to me in my 2.5 years away. We only have so much control don’t we? We can think about how we want things to be, we can hope, but we can’t always control.

New Orleans

 

Partying in New Orleans, US

I’m a big believer in everything happens for a reason and I certainly took away some lessons after Birmingham. Alex was made redundant not long after we arrived and was subsequently jobless for awhile. To put it very briefly, his Aunty was batshit crazy and it was a stressful, sleepless, uncomfortable nightmare living with her. With us not knowing anyone else in Birmingham, me working part-time, Alex not working and a crazy aunty in what was meant to be our home, we felt a bit lost. We had nowhere to escape to. We went for lots of walks and a few pints, that’s for sure! We had to stick it out as we needed to take Witney (crazy Aunties car) on our already booked and planned roadtrip to Europe. So we persevered, we drove to Belgium and stayed with my friend, we drove around Germany and hit up a massive festival, we drove to Luxembourg and ticked another country off our list and drove all the way back to Birmingham. Such a good break for us away from real life for a bit! Once we were back in Birmingham things had not improved at home, my Manager had revealed her true colours at work and was starting to be a bitch to me and Alex was still jobless. I had my birthday,my girl Nini came up from London and we hired a hotel in the city so we could feel comfortable to do whatever we want for at least a night! (Did i mention I was living in the lounge? Yeah.) we had a great night and partied hard. We tried to keep our head down and hope things would work out for a bit longer as my visa end date was ever looming. I just had to put up with it for a bit longer right?

Brooklyn Bridge

 

On the Brooklyn Bridge, US

After London, being treated like shit at work and at home I was a non-sleeping, getting stress pains fucking mess. It was hard. There is no point going into detail about how I was treated by Alex’s aunty but it was bad, you’ll just have to trust me. He felt powerless and so guilty, so Alex was stressed out as well, he thought if only he could get a job we could move out. Well, one Tuesday right before I had to go to work things escalated. Crazy aunty had a go at me for stupid shit as usual and I stood there and took it (hating myself of course) she then told me to leave. She kicked me out. I literally said “I have no where to go” and she said “I know, and I don’t care”. I grabbed my bag and walked out. I balled my eyes out and walked to work. It was super embarrassing but my workmates were great, they comforted me, I called Nini and balled over the phone to her. I had no idea what to do. I did my shift and stayed the night with my colleague. I went around the next day while crazy Aunty was away and packed my shit, Alex drove me to a hotel I had booked. I was working barely part-time hours, my visa was 6 weeks from ending, I couldn’t afford hotels or a flat, plus who would rent me a room for 6 weeks only? No-one, duh. I didn’t know my colleagues well enough, in fact, I had only just been invited to hang with some of them the Sunday before. I was a motherfucking mess. My parents were begging me to come home but I couldn’t, I had plans. I was due to fly to Berlin that Thursday. On the Sunday that I went out with my work colleagues, sparks had flown between the Head Chef, Dan, and I. Because we were hanging out his house,I knew he had a spare room. He also lived with the General manager of our Cafe who was best buddies with my Manager who was being a bitch. I had to push all the awkward feelings and fear aside and message him. He said he wanted to help me but had to check with Sarah too. Long story short, they said it was fine, the plan was to temporarily stay and try and fine somewhere to stay till my visa ended. Honestly, I knew I needed to stay there for 6 weeks, I knew I wouldn’t be able to find or afford anything else, so I hoped that would work out. I went to Berlin, tried to put everything aside and enjoy my time. Alex picked me up from the airport when I got back, as we were driving he got a call offering him a job, he had been looking for flats since crazy aunty went super crazy and instantly rang one back to accept. He wanted the fuck outta there but had to find a job first. So we grabbed some ciders to celebrate and he dropped me at Dan’s. Happy ending time right? Not quite.

Russia

 

Russia

My Manager at work, upped her bitchyness and just gave me no hours, Dan being the headchef, kindly gave me hours in the kitchen cleaning dishes – what a champ! So I was dealing with her shit, I had stress related physical pain, I couldn’t find anywhere to live obviously and Dan was happy for me to stay but we needed to make sure his flatmate/our boss was too. She got promoted and was (thankfully) not our boss anymore, but she was never home for us to ask and we didn’t want to just send a text. One day the shit hit the fan at work with my Manager and unfortunately she is besties with said other flatmate. Cue her going nuts at me at home one day and telling me to leave (that’s putitng it VERY politely, lets just say I cant think off another time someone has spoken to me the way she did, crazy aunty scenario was different), anyway I’m a crying mess, being kicked out AGAIN? FML. I told Dan and he basically told her I was staying haha. So I avoided her like the plague with 3 weeks to go, put up with Bitchface at work and kept working in the kitchen, since she only gave me, like, 4 hours a week. Because of everything going on at work and home, Dan and I hadn’t really had the chance to think much about what was going on with us, let alone talk about it, Eventually one week before my visa was to expire, our lovely flatmate lost her shit and kicked me out for good. So, I get kicked out AGAIN. Again,I won’t go into detail, and I’m not perfect, but these two kicking out scenarios were literally not my fault, sometime I just seem to attract assholes in my life. Crazy aunty wanted her nephew all to herself and never wanted to “share” him (so it wouldn’t have mattered if it was me moving to Birmingham or anyone else, she would have done the same thing), and the girls at work were just jealous, sad, nothing better to do individuals. I don’t think they liked that I got along with everyone at work, especially all the boys and then Dan and I happened and they upped their bitch dial.

Portugal

 

Portugal 

Even though this is the brief version of these events, I never look back and regret my time in London or Birmingham. Life is a series of lessons, if you don’t have hard times, how can you appreciate the good? If you don’t have personal challenges, how can you grow as a person?I learnt that even though it is scary to always stand up for myself. I learnt that I don’t have to “take” being bullied. I learnt that my integrity is important to me. I learnt that it pains me not to be myself and that by being myself  I attract people who truly love me for who i am. I learnt how strong I am. I learnt how much I can tolerate. I learnt health lessons. I learnt alot. This trip truly changed my life.

Prague

 

Prague 

The last week I spent in Birmingham I crashed at Alex’s since I’d been kicked out again. It was the first time in 5 weeks Dan and I hadn’t been together either at work or at home. Spending a bit of time truly alone I realised I had feelings for him. We shared how we felt with each other and spent as much time together as possible. Luckily he felt the same! I was headed to Europe to travel a bit, before heading to Australia where my parents lived, for a bit of chill time. I said goodbye to Alex and Dan dropped me at the airport, we shared one last pint together before having to say goodbye. As soon as he walked away, I felt a part of me was missing.

Hawaii

 

On top of a volcano in Hawaii

I flew to Portugal and spent a few days alone, before travelling to Lisbon and meeting up with a mate from NZ who was travelling Europe. We explored Lisbon, Ericera and Porto before I flew to Spain. I traveled Barcelona, Valencia alone before I arrived in my final destination – Madrid. Dan flew over from Birmingham and we spent our last 4 days together. We had already spoken on the phone and knew we wanted to be together. Those 4 days cemented it and this last goodbye was HARD. We didn’t know when we were going to see each other again.

Spain

In Spain with the new Boyfriend 

I flew to Sydney and stayed with Mum and Dad for 4 months. I chilled, I rested, I improved my health and I just took time out for a bit. Meanwhile Dan and I skyped, talked and messaged everyday. He was making arrangement to save money, get a visa and come to NZ so we could be together.  6 months later, he arrived.

I’ve visited 27 countries. I’ve experienced different cultures. I’ve had crazy ups and downs.  I’ve made life-long friends, I’ve learnt valuable lessons, I have SO many memories, I found love.

What an adventure.

I will always encourage anyone I meet to travel, it is an experience that is so individual, so different for everyone. However, it is guaranteed that the experience will be an incredible journey that you will not regret!

We are at the bottom of the world in NZ, isolated, it is so incredible in itself just to experience different cultures and see how others live. I will forever be planning my next trip.

Sarah x

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