Aussie in London Georgia Anderson tells what it was like to move to London one year on from when the global pandemic first hit.
When I first started thinking about making a big change in my life, I could have never imagined just how seismic that shift would be.
It all started in mid-2019 when I worked as a journalist in Australia – Newcastle, New South Wales specifically – in a job I really enjoyed but felt wasn’t challenging enough at the time. Plus, after spending three years living in the Australian outback or regional towns – Tamworth, Canberra, Wollongong and Lismore – I was ready to trade in my R.M. Williams for the cobblestone streets which my heels did not agree with.
I made the move to London
So that was that: I handed in my resignation at my dream but safe and secure job and took a month off to spend quality time with family (no social media – highly recommend!). On January 25, 2020, I jumped on a plane with my friend to meet my other friend in London’s swanky Paddington and began my new life in a new city. Unfortunately, the tiny rented room we were living in for the next two weeks wasn’t as swanky as the Victorian building in which it sat, but the cool, winter air and new surroundings were enough to breathe new life into me.
After settling into a tiny three-bedroom flat in central London, I quickly came to realise that living rooms and laundries are a rarity in this part of the world. But, I had a roof after my head, wasn’t living off takeaway food and could start focusing on finding a full-time job because my finances were running out – and fast.
Eventually, I landed a role in digital PR with then start-up SEO agency, NOVOS. For two weeks, I was living the London dream – commuting to our beautiful offices via the underground, enjoying the extra daylight hours, meeting up with Aussie ex-pats and discovering British ‘pub culture’.
Living in London was tough – but not how I expected it to be
It wasn’t long until news broke of the UK’s first national lockdown. Many of my friend’s jobs were at risk, and there was a universal sense of unease and uncertainty growing as fast as the stockpiles of toilet paper were running out. Thankfully, my company has survived what has been one of the most challenging economic times for many people and businesses.
Close to the end of the first national lockdown in June, my friend and I managed to secure a beautiful apartment on Hyde Park at a reasonable (for London) price and even managed to squeeze in a trip to Denmark and Greece.
But that’s not to say it has been all smooth sailing. Meeting people is difficult even at the best of times – when I lived rurally, I would join a sports club to find new connections, but with the city in lockdown, it was impossible to even make small talk with your local barista. It has been almost as isolating as living in the outback.
My British friends mainly come from my work circle due to our endless Zoom calls and virtual bonding sessions, but weirdly, some of them I have never met face to face. With the roadmap out of lockdown recently announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, I can finally say there is light at the end of the tunnel. But returning to a life without social distancing will take a re-wiring of the brain and may even bring about social anxieties for some people.
Related reads: 10 Things I Miss About Living In London
The end of life in lockdown?
According to government estimates, I should be eligible for the COVID-vaccination between May and July – and I cannot wait! I am most looking forward to meeting new people and seeing familiar faces visiting from Australia.
Hopefully, I’ll be eligible for sponsorship through work, as it would feel like a missed opportunity if I had to return back to Australia once my visa expires in January 2022.
If all goes to plan, the UK’s lockdown will end on June 21, 2021 – a week that’s sure to be full of joy, celebrations and gratitude. While I am happy I got to experience London, if only briefly, pre-COVID, I know post-COVID Britons won’t be all consumed in the 9 – 5 but instead, move through life with more presence and purpose.
Moving to London when the world was put on hold gave me an opportunity to really settle in – to be a tourist in my most loved city without all the other tourists. It taught me to look around and within – reflect and rejoice – and build a life where you are not constantly chasing more but are happy with what you have in front of you. Don’t get me wrong, though, I am still very much looking forward to my next trip to France.
Related reads: 38 Things Aussies In London Miss About Australia
Feature image: Georgia Anderson
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