1) ...How strange it is that in a city of 10 million people you can feel totally alone.
Before London, the biggest place I had lived was where I was born, and Tallinn has only 500k people living there. That is nothing! Later, Altea in Spain was a tiny tiny village with only 20k people. Because they were quite small places I ended up knowing everyone and even when going out alone I was always guaranteed to meet a friend by accident. I never felt lonely because everyone was so friendly and welcoming. That does not happen in London. And it's fine, here you actually have to make an effort to meet up with friends and keep them around. I think it creates more meaningful connections. And when everyone lives and works in different places it is not as easy as one might think, so you see the people who are actually worth the effort.
It's not always a negative feeling - being alone. If I've been super fabulous the night before, it is very difficult for me to be fab the next day. When I'm lazy, hungover or sick (you choose the scenario) and I don't feel like dressing up as a human being, I just go out in my pj's. I can look like Jane from Tarzan or like a zombie, I don't care, because no one else cares. I will never ever see these people again – the perks of anonymity.
2)...How small my world was before.
If I could I would force (or make it reachable for) every single person in this world to travel and live in different countries. It is amazing how it changes your life and the world around you. You kind of restart your brain. Everything you thought that works in a way, you realize that actually it is not that simple, it is not that straightforward, it's not all black and white.
I feel like it opened up a new chapter in my thought process in general, always considering and trying to see everything from different perspectives. As many countries, people and situations there are, that's exactly how many opinions, reasons, outcomes there can be to everything. It makes no sense in a way, but in another way, it makes perfect sense.
3)...How I turned from slow to fast (and I don't like it).
In Spain I turned into a “slow” person - everything was always so chilled and there was no stress what so ever. Everything was mañana. But it also had a lot to do with the fact that my whole life was located in a little village and I didn't have to rush anywhere. In London, it takes time to get from home to work, to meet with friends and so on, and time becomes precious. The concept of time became clearer after starting my first job in London, and I kept feeling that if I'm like a snail daydreaming around I was wasting my time, and time seemed to always be running out. At first, I was the annoying dream-ey person while walking between tube platforms or on the streets, chilling on the tube escalators, looking around. Now I'm on autopilot - gone with the wind and cursing under my breath at the people who get on my way. Note to self – start looking for some balance in your life, please.
4)...That in a big city you can find new friends from all around the world without travelling.
One of my favourite things about London is how many different people and nationalities you can meet. At the moment my closest friends are an Italian, Swedish, South African and a Ukrainian and one Estonian I met totally by accident at work. One is 34 and one is 19, one is an accountant and one is a goldsmith – it always goes from wall-to-wall here. It doesn't matter with whom I hang out with, we always do things that I would not do on my own or with a typical Estonian like myself. It's so-soooo interesting getting to know the different cultures, cuisines and other things that make us all unique. And when these people ever decide to move back home, I'll have a new place to travel to with a local tour guide. What more could you want?
On that note, I worked with a Finnish girl a couple of years ago, and this year when I went back home to visit the family I saw her totally randomly in Tallinn and we had loads of fun. It was so strange, that we met in London, both far from home, then lost touch when she moved back to Finland and then by accident we met in Tallinn, where she was for the first day and I only go there twice a year... This is how you turn into the Citizen of the World. - not tied to a country but more tied to where you travel and who you meet on your adventures.
5)… How drinking tea is freakin' awesome.
No, the English don't have tea five times a day as one might think. But it is a thing here, though. I didn't have any feelings towards tea before moving to London. But then (I'm getting a bit excited writing about it, hahaha)... I discovered adding milk(!) to tea, which I had never done in my life before. I always thought that at first tea is too hot, then you forget about it, and then it's too cold – one big pointless drink I used to think. But now, if I feel a bit cold – I have tea with milk. I feel a bit down in the evening, I have tea with milk, if I need to wake up in the morning – you guessed it, I have tea with milk. It is fantastic! I have been turned to the tea religion and I will never turn back. It's comfort in a cup and with this miserable weather it is indeed needed daily.
6)...How I turned from caring to ignoring.
I feel a bit like I've transformed from the sweetest always supporting charities girl to a selfish person. I don't have enough time or energy to worry and think about other people anymore (or is that just growing up?). London does bring all different kind of obstacles even to the luckiest peeps and you start concentrating more on helping yourself than others. In the four years I've been here I have gone through water and fire, had to deal with things I never thought could happen to me. Now when someone has a problem or behaves strangely, I don't judge them, because you never know what is going on in their life at the moment. But I do try not to make it my problem either, while before I was always trying to help everyone. Other people I know here have also said that they have experienced it, somehow getting a bit numb towards other people's problems. I remember the times when I used to buy a newspaper and read the news in peace and enjoyed it. Nowadays it is just error-terror-horror.
I'm not sure if I have turned into a bad person or is this what living in a big city with thousands of troubled people does to you? On the bright side, my tea will never get cold in hell.
7)...How my travel anxiety went from 100km/h to zero.
In the beginning, I used to have nightmares of how I ended up on the wrong train and didn't know where I was. For some reason in these dreams, I always had a phone, but I couldn't make it work to call someone for help or to use Google Maps, and it was super scary. I think I was just a bit afraid how actually even when I kind of know where I'm going in London, it will always still be new and unknown. Because here, almost every day you go somewhere you haven't been before with a new route and you are always far from home (especially when looking for places to rent or going to job interviews). I felt the “click” when I stopped being worried, I think it took about a year. Now I have this confidence which I think comes with the big city life – kind of like “hey, if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere”. That is how my anxiety turned into excitement and butterflies - with experience.
8)...That the phenomenon of going to a pub was not what I expected.
I used to think that pubs are these disgusting weird places where drunks sit 24/7. Well, because in Spain or Estonia you don't really have proper pubs and it might give you that feeling from the strange one you might have had the “pleasure” to visit.
But in London pubs are awesome. Going to the pub after work is more like a part of the English social lifestyle than going somewhere to get aimlessly drunk. In Estonia, you go home or you go out, and by out I mean out-out.. all out. People don't usually go for one drink after work with their workmates, but here it's the most common thing and I absolutely love it.
When you are visiting as a tourist you wonder why the pubs close so early and everyone is quite pissed by 10pm, that is the reason – they started drinking without dinner at 5 o'clock, hahaha. And sometimes “one drink” turns into five. I would call the pub culture in London 'Smart Casual' – you get drunk enough to seem casual, but not so drunk you are no longer smart.
9)...That sometimes I stay out for too long (and go on the “ride of shame” on the first tube).
There are two options why one would take the first tube: either you are still awake and drunk as a skunk or you are going somewhere for work really early. When it is the first, it feels so nice and calm, you watch the sunrise (when waiting for the station to open) and hope to be home soon, it is before the city wakes up and everything is somehow … beautiful (beer goggles). You feel like you are in some kind of an awesome movie and all the great adventures lie ahead... .
..Especially when accompanied by a new crush, holding hands, walking on Tower Bridge, talking sh*t and contemplating about if you should go get Eggs Benedict or go to Borough Market and find yummy food there, totally forgetting that you were supposed to go on the first tube, and pull a double all-nighter instead.
When it is the other option, and you must go to work - you look around at all the drunk people and think they should really do something with their life, step over some vomit, straighten your tie and wish you would never have to wake up so early again. The first trains are always empty – it's either sleeping teens, embarrassed girls on the walk of shame looking “very prostitute” or all suited and booted dudes ready to take on the day... or in some cases just me and a pigeon (that was a freaky ride). .
10)...That I used to be a snob.
To be honest, when I lived in a small place I didn't want to work in a bar or a shop, or do anything else which might not feel “so cool”. But when I moved to London and knew no-one, I went to a bar school and become a cocktail bartender. (My mum was not happy, hahahaa.) I believe it was the best decision I've made in the past couple of years. I didn't stay long, but I learned so much, met amazing people (including Luca) and got an awesome experience that I'll never forget. It taught me a lot about mixing different tastes together, attention to detail and oh yes, most importantly that a lot of the people in this world are total d*cks for no reason.
Fun fact: it's amazing how many people moving to London start as a bartender when looking for another job – I worked with lawyers, accountants, doctors, policemen, and animators to name a few – what a crazy bunch.
11)...How my life turned into Work, Work, Work – no, not that Rihanna's song.
I have never worked so hard in my life. Average job count: 2,5 at a time. In the beginning, it was about money, since I couldn't get a good job straight away. At the very start of my London life I travelled 1,5 hours to get to work by 8.30am – stayed in the office until 5pm, then travelled 1 hour to get to the lounge I was working as a bartender, started work at 6pm and worked until 3-5am depending on the day and travelled home for another 1,5 hours. It was insane! I had a trick up my sleeve though - I slept through my office lunches to get some energy. Also, Redbull and Snickers were my besties. On the weekends when I didn't work at the office I slept the whole day and started work in the lounge at midnight and went straight through 7am. When I had a free evening a couple of times a month I did an extra job of bookkeeping for a third company. I was lucky, I was young and crazy. I can't imagine myself doing that now four years later, but hey... you gotta do what you gotta do to survive. Now, I still have 50-60 hour weeks but it is by my own choice and I enjoy it, gotta put in the hours to get somewhere, right?
12)...That disco naps on the tube or in a black cab are necessary.
The first year after moving to London, after all that hard work and travel, I was constantly exhausted, but instead of sleeping at home I forced myself to go out, have fun and meet new people. After all, it is London, I didn't move here just to work and sleep. I've been known in the past to party a lot but I have never ever fallen asleep in any public transport before. Quite embarrassing, but in London, it has happened more than I would be proud to admit. I guess it is the working hours and travel distances that have a say in this situation. While going to work without changing trains I often used to set my alarm couple of minutes before arrival time, hold my bag tight and fall asleep, not the safest or smartest of moves, but what can I do when sleep just won't take “no” for an answer. Same with getting home from late night parties. When I finally let myself go and had a few drinks too many, I would've never thought I would do it but the black cab disco naps felt so nice and cozy – surprised I'm safe and sound. .
13)...After you've been mugged once, it's like a normal thing.
I find something romantic about being mugged in London, nearly every girl I know who moved to London from somewhere else has been mugged at least once. I think it's kind of like a “Voila, you are a Londoner now...”
That experience actually made me less afraid of situations like that. I am now more careful, but after you've been through it once, it can't really get worse – hahaha, well... fingers crossed.
14)...I have a love and hate relationship with London, where passion for adventure wins.
I have grown out of London a bit... At first, it was super exciting, but then I got tired of all the masses of people, traffic, and rushing. I am ready to move to the countryside if an opportunity arises, but I don't want to be far from London. Somehow even if you don't use everything the city has to offer, the fact that you can, is all you need to know. This is what I came looking for, this is why I moved here – I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. Even if I don't do anything, even if I don't go to central for 6 months, I know I could be there in 20 minutes whenever I get the idea, and that is all I need to know. The passion for meeting new people, experiencing new places and storing all these memories in my fictional safety deposit box of dreams and goals is what London is all about, and why it has kept me here for so long.
In the end - it was the best decicion of my life to move to London!
Thanks Graeme for planting the idea into my head and helping me out!
Cheers for the photos Andreas! https://www.instagram.com/meletispix/