23 June 2013

Is the grass always greener?

The other day on Twitter I saw a Tweet that didn't just frizzle away into amusing oblivion, but it really stayed with me.

Let's face it, my blog is more about what I enjoy living in London, sharing it with you to enjoy too. I really struggle to convey how I think about London, it's fast-paced, crazy, challenging and a rewarding place when you start to settle in.

London can make or break you. For a lot of young people, it's their first time truly on their own two feet; no parents to pick you up when your car gets stranded in a car park, no Dole (aka Benefits) system to have as back up back up safety cushion which is a big financial pressure, and it's really hard to find decent Vegemite.

But, one of the hardest issues I've found living permanently in another country as an expat, are the days that the grass looks greener on the other side. It is so easy to think "Hmph, if I were at home it would be so much easier/better/simpler/this wouldn't happen..." when you run into problems and you're not in your home. C'mon, really?

So your alarm clock wouldn't go off, your bitchy workmates wouldn't slag you off behind (and not so behind your back) and the train wouldn't be delayed for an hour in the pouring rain the day that you wore your new uncomfortable heels?

Sure, of course this happens at home as well. This is life. But isn't it better that it's happening in a town where you take a minute of peace in a 17th Century Church, where you can fly to Italy for the price of a 3 course dinner or catch a train to Paris in a couple of hours?

It's also really ok to sit down and have a good cry once about it once in awhile too. Whether it's with a friend and a bottle of wine, a soppy movie or at the Laundromat.

I can't really provide a solution, except to not get too complacent. Become a perma-tourist and enjoy your city. Find a small café that no-one knows about that does an amazing Latte, make a few expat friends - they understand - and take the initiative to plan small trips as your budget allows. Don't forget Tea, it's essential.

It will get better, and the grass isn't always greener. Don't give in, battle through the hard stuff because the good stuff is always around the corner. I have days here and there that everything seems to be magnified way out of proportion and because of it I've occasionally cried because I opened mail the wrong way.

 Yep, just as green at Kew Gardens...

@chickenruby, thank you for the unintended challenge. I'm not sure if my post will help for a change, instead of just telling you guys about the fun stuff, but I hope it does. Normal service will resume tomorrow, don't worry!

Expats, what are your coping strategies? Please share!


  1. For me, it's visiting American candy stores to make sure I have a stash of sweets - when I'm homesick or especially, missing my family, the comfort foods I had as a little girl are really helpful.

    1. Absoloutely essential in my opinion too!

  2. I moved here with my family (not my choice) so had a very different experience. I really didn't want to be here for the first two years of living here, but also had a family to support me. Despite all this, I think there is no magic answer. You just sort of have to get on and learn as you go. Ask questions of friendly people, observe as best you can but also don't change who you are or what you want too much in order to fit in. You'll change a bit organically as you get used to your surroundings, but don't wrench your personality apart. There will be a culture shock, but if you just get on with the getting on, it will settle down and life will feel normal again. After 13 years of living here, England is my home and I can't imagine not living here. America feels oddly foreign to me now and I wouldn't dream of leaving London!

  3. I left Italy three years ago, to pursue my dream of living in London. I experienced far too many more setbacks than I expected, but don't regret a thing. I do get to wonder, sometimes, if never leaving would have made things easier; my coping mechanism is remembering why I left in the first place.

    I did it because I felt stifled in the country village I grew up in, and wanted to build my own, independent life in a city that I really loved. That wasn't going to be easy, as it's never easy to stand on your own feet at twenty-something, in a place where you have to build yourself a new comfort zone from scratch. However, the difficulties I had don't mean that my dream has turned into a nightmare: they simply mean that it has become reality, and reality has ups and downs - it's only natural.

    When I have "those days" - the days when opening mail the wrong way causes drama and upsetting, the days when I'd just like to curl up in a ball and cry because I feel stuck in a day job that makes me sick - I remember all of this. I ask myself if I would be able to rent my own flat, or find so many opportunities to nurture my passion for writing and food anywhere else; and the answer is no. I miss "home", as in the comfort of my family, and the hugs and laughs with the friends I can only speak to on skype now. But London is also "home", and it's the "home" I want to return to, time and time again. The grass is not greener on the other side: the grass is only green, anywhere in the world, if I'm able to take care of it, and make it the best garden I've ever seen.

    So here's how it works for me, most of the time. It's not the only coping mechanism, but definitely the main one. Plus, I have one of London's best ice cream dealers a ten minute walk away from my house - which helps a lot when I'm feeling blue!

  4. It always shocks me how quickly the feelings of homesickness and questioning life as an expat can creep up on me.

    It usually helps to do something I can only do in Ireland, or figure out a way to make my life here a tiny bit more "American." I really do believe choosing an Expat life is a daily decision and some days it's a harder choice to make.

    1. Absoloutely - and sometimes I've found myself with homesickness, but coming out in other emotions (if you know what I mean?)

  5. Found you via G+ and now following chickenruby! I agree and loved your thoughts and pics. I've written about this extensively so I understand :)

    1. Hi, can you give me your twitter name so I can follow you back please

    2. Thanks for the visit, and via Google+ which is really interesting!
      Yes, it's quite a feeling isn't it!

  6. Hi, it's Chickenruby here, sorry for the delay in responding. I've been back in the UK now for 8 weeks trying to evict tenants and sort out a million and one issues. I've struggled. It was a difficult 2 and a half years settling into South Africa. I thought in British and struggled as everyone I met wasn't British so had no idea why I found things complicated. During my stay in the UK ive had to sort out legal matters and cant believe how complicated the system is here, compared to SA


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