Something Other Than Work

It’s easy to be so focused on learning the culture and finding or focusing on a new job that one forgets to foster other interests. It can seem indulgent to spend time on a hobby when one doesn’t have a job yet. But for people who already had hobbies before moving, it can be helpful to seek out ways to continue them.

In my case, it took a few months, but I decided I wanted to resume playing football (soccer). I’d played basically my whole life, and missed it. A quick search online called up a women’s football club that trained a 45 minute walk from my house, and was looking for goal keepers (my position). I attended a few trainings and was eventually invited to join. Now I train every week, and play one-two matches a week. That’s up to three times a week when I’m with new people, getting exercise, building a skill, and being social.

If you are the person with a job, it might be a bit harder to initially carve out some time, but it’s possible and I’d argue important. But if you are a partner who hasn’t found work yet? I’d argue it’s critical. I’m fairly introverted, but being alone all day most days was even a lot for me. Yes, I’d get out to lunch with friends at least once a week, but I already had a group of friends here from when I lived in London before. But they all have lives and jobs and things to do.

If one doesn’t find at least one small group of folks to spend time with, it can put a lot of pressure on a partner to be the other’s entire social life. That’s not entirely fair. I love that on Tuesdays I get out of the house and my partner has the place to himself to do whatever. Sometimes the club meets for drinks during the weekend. I’m not obligated to participate in all the things, but it’s nice to have options, and nice to meet people and start to develop some friendships.

Making Friends

It’s hard to make friends as we get older. People have the friends they’ve made over the years, and often barely have time for them as their lives get busier. People have partners, children, ailing parents. They might be working longer hours as their careers get moving.

We saw it happening before we left Seattle. As one of only a few folks without kids, we saw our friends with kids much less often than we used to. It seems to be how things go, but it wasn’t something either of us particularly like about getting older.

So now that we’re in London, and closer to 40 than 30, can we even make new friends?

YES. Definitely yes.

You cannot be all things to your partner, and they can’t be all things to you. Whomever is working is going to be busy during the day, but the evenings and weekends are still there, and they can’t always be spent just with each other.

The person who is working may make friends at the office, but it will take time, if it ever happens. Which means looking elsewhere.

Do you have hobbies? Do you like to run, or play football, or read? Libraries and independent bookstores are great places to find book clubs. If you graduated college you can also call upon your alumni association to see if there’s a local chapter in your new city. A quick online search can help connect you to adult recreational leagues for your chosen sports.

You can also try signing up with groups like Meet Up. You can search by topic and find events to attend with other people who like the same thing. They aren’t all going to be perfect, and you might not find your platonic soul mate on day one, but it’ll get you out of the house and doing something you enjoy.

Self Care

As I’ve said numerous times on here, this time is going to be stressful. There’s just so much going on. So much change, so much newness. Plus, y’know, someone has a brand new job.

But here’s the thing. You’re also living in a new, mostly awesome, country. There are cool sights to see, places to visit, foods to try, drinks to sample. It can’t just be all business all the time.

When you start to feel the stress, try to take a moment to remember why you’re doing this. It’s totally understandable that you might end up frustrated to the point of tears (after, say, your sixth visit to a bank, hypothetically speaking, of course), but overall the good should vastly outweigh the bad.

When you’re in temporary housing, explore the neighborhood. It might not be where you end up living, so use it as a chance to see a part of town you might not normally visit. Check out a restaurant you might not normally have tried (if you don’t enjoy the food, you can always heat up a frozen pizza later). Go for long walks. Sit in cafes and eavesdrop on what other people are saying.

Also, dive into the culture. The UK isn’t just the US without the gun violence and with better healthcare. It’s a different country that happens to speak the same language (sort of). There are people here from all over the world, and unless you’ve moved from NYC, chances are you’ve probably not heard this many different languages spoken, or had this many different food options.

Pick up a paper. Start to learn about the politics here, and the entertainment. Watch an episode of a TV show you’ve never heard of. It might be awful, but it might also give you some insight into your new home.

Also, take time to stay in touch with your friends back in the US. Download whatsapp — you can text and have phone calls over WiFi instead of through the phone system, so it’s much cheaper. You can even record little videos and send them over so your friends or family see them when you wake up. Set up chat groups with others so you all can just message whenever.

Go to a movie. I know you might feel like you have a million things to do and no time for it, but go. Or do whatever you used to do back in the states – find a club playing music you like, or a bookshop. Do things that feel normal.

It can be hard to transition from a place feeling like a vacation destination to it feeling like home. For us, it started to feel like home when we got into our flat, but it didn’t really come together until we got internet installed. That was the last little bit to make this feel less like an extended trip and more like our new reality.

It’s also important to know that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed, and to miss home. Often times decisions like this are the very definition of bittersweet. You’ve left behind friends, family, and possible a town you did really like. That’s hard, even if the new job, the new city, and the new friends are awesome. It’s okay to have mixed emotions, it’s okay to want to know what’s going on back in the states, and it’s okay to not be happy all of the time.