Today marks my first London anniversary. One year since I packed my bags and moved from The Hague to a city that I hadn’t visited in 15 years. I can’t believe how fast the first year has gone by. And how easy it is to feel at home in this city. Although of course the life of an expat also comes with its own interesting – how shall I call it – challenges.
For example, since people are now struggling even more with my first name (don’t get me started about my last name with its funny g-sound) than in the Netherlands, I started to call myself ‘Jess’ when ordering my Starbucks coffee. It’s what the coffee guy at work calls me and it saves me a lot of time not having to deal with those puzzled looks, a marker in their hand, no idea how to translate what they just heard onto the cup. Also one of the first things people I meet usually ask me is if I don’t have a nickname they can use. (And no, you can’t call me Jess).
Even after one year, I’m still missing the HEMA (a Dutch retail chain). There’s just no such thing here in England. Whenever I need to buy daily necessities such as towels, socks, office supplies, bed linen, kitchen stuff or other things for my home, I’m struggling where to go. And even though I can’t remember the last time I had a HEMA worst (smoked sausage), I now sometimes long for one of those as well. Apparently I’m not the only one having this ‘problem’ since there’s even a book with stories from Dutch expats called ‘Ik mis alleen de HEMA‘ (the only thing I miss is the HEMA). But….the rumors are that next year they will open a shop in England.
And do I even have to mention the measuring system? I know, I know, at some point I will need to start making an effort in understanding these different measuring units. But why does it have to be so complicated? It’s a bit like when we had to go from the Dutch gulden to the euro. But at least back then they helped us by putting two numbers on every price tag. I know my height in feet (since that’s another question I often get), I know how much an inch is, but then stone, gallon, miles, pound (which is 453 gram, not 500 gram), square feet…? That’s going to take me at least another year.
But then who would want to miss:
London parks: I may be a city girl, but I love that there are so many green spaces in London.
London busses: I still feel like a kid when I get the front seat on the upper deck of a double decker bus.
Bank Holidays: Those extra long weekends almost make up for having to miss
Queen’s King’s Day in the Netherlands.
Afternoon tea: If you’ve read my blog you know that I had no problem whatsoever embracing this British tradition.
Cool independent coffee places: Much better coffee and I don’t have to give them my fake name.
Food markets: London supermarkets are no fun, but buying fresh produce on a market when the sun is shining makes my day.
International friends: It’s great being able to share your expat experiences with people from all around the world. (And how we’re all missing different things)
And what I love the most is that you’re never done exploring London. I’ve done so many things this past year, walked around in so many different neighborhoods, had countless teas, coffees and cakes at different hotspots, and still it feels I’m only just beginning to get to know the city. Here’s to another great year in London!