Living Abroad: Moving to a New Country
I have been living in London for close to a year and a half now. It’s been quite a journey and one that I will never regret because it’s been a desire of mine for over a decade. I had been living in Toronto for most of my life. While I was able to go to university in a different city, study abroad in Europe, work in Asia, travel frequently for work and pleasure, it wasn’t enough. Deep inside, I knew that there was a better life for me across the pond. And yes, coming over has been tough and I definitely traded away a pretty comfortable lifestyle for my current one. But every time I encountered a challenged or a setback, I knew I still made the right decision because I’m learning and growing.
So, how did I make the move?
When I decided that it was time for a new start, I gave myself six months to prepare. I looked up all of the information I could on immigration and border control. As a Canadian citizen under 30 at the time, I was able to apply for a Youth Mobility Visa, which grants you 2 years of living and working in the United Kingdom. (It wasn’t until I successfully received my visa that I found out that all along, I had a British passport. More on that story later.) That was the easy part.
Next, I had to rent out my condo and move back home for the last month before flying out. It was the thing I dreaded the most because somehow, in the last three years of living in my home, I amassed quite a few possessions. It also took me a while to furnish my place to my liking so just when I felt comfortable and settled in, I was making a life-altering change. Story👏🏼of👏🏼my👏🏼life👏🏼.
Luckily, I worked with a real estate agent who lived in my building and new the area well. We managed to find a suitable tenant pretty quickly. It was a bittersweet moment when I vacated my empty condo. It had been my residence for exactly three years and a sign of my independence as an adult with a mortgage. So with that in mind, I moved back home to live with family like a teenager again for once full month.
Meanwhile, I handed in my resignation at my job. I had been there for 7.5 years. It was my first real job out of school and was a company that I really grew into. When I handed in my one month notice, I felt relieved but also extremely terrified. I wanted so much to leave a legacy and felt very sad that for the last month, every single meeting I was part of, I had mixed emotions because I was planning projects that I wouldn’t be able to see through. Like I said, I grew into that role and moved up through the years taking on as much responsibility as I could and learning so I could grow. Alas, change is always a good thing. It’s only fear that really stops us but if you rid yourself of the myths and the little voices doubting you, you’ll realise how wonderful change is and how quickly you’ll adapt.
I said I quit my job before moving to London but I didn’t have a new job waiting for me. London is a notoriously expensive city. To say that money issues didn’t keep me up at night would be a lie. In the six months of preparation, I saved enough to keep me financially afloat for six months of unemployment based on very modest London calculations. I had to save aggressively and live frugally. Nothing was cheap. Not even moving back home and paying agent fees. I sold as many possessions and furnitures as I could. I took on freelance writing jobs. My former employer was even nice enough to hire me back as a freelance supplier so I could continue a comfortable stream of income. I had three long-term clients when I arrived in London but still, I knew I had to find a full-time position if integrating into London life was a long-term goal.
Finding a Job as a Foreigner
Moving to a new country unemployed with zero prospects was definitely one of my riskier moves. Even more risky if it wasn’t for my savings and my freelance business. I tried to contact recruitment agencies and apply for jobs while I was still in Toronto. I did get a few phone interviews using my UK mobile number and paying for long-distance phone calls but they were all fruitless. I was trying to enter the job market as a “foreigner” post-Brexit. The level of difficulty was double. Despite being in my industry for almost 8 years, it turns out that all those years of experience didn’t count if you were not working in the UK. Ever the determined one, I continued to apply for jobs and even managed to get a job interview on the day that I landed in London. (Note to self: don’t over-exert yourself.) That interview was a disaster because I was so exhausted from my flight and the drama that happened in my AirBnB flat. Another story for another day.
Anyways, I continued to push forward. There was no time to give up or to mope. I signed on with as many job agencies that I could and networked with fellow Canadian expats. It wasn’t until a new friend who referred me to a marketing recruitment agency, that I was able to interview and subsequently land a job as a Marketing Manager. It was in a new industry that I wasn’t familiar with but it was my line of work and I was so relieved to have secured something. It wasn’t a permanent job though but I had time to build my UK experience for that. The next thing that I needed to do, among so many other things as a newcomer, was to secure a bank account and a flat at the same time.
Getting Settled In
Finding a flat to rent and opening a bank account. You need a proof of address to open a bank account. And you need a proof of steady income to rent a flat. I managed to find a flat through a post on a Facebook group for Canadian expats in London. However, I didn’t have a job at the time. Depending on who you are renting from, unemployment may be a roadblock. In this instance, I was renting from a private landlord who was happy to accept my clients letters confirming that they retain my services on a regular basis, proving steady income, and a guarantor. On top of that, my flatmate, who was a fellow Canadian expat and now a good friend, highly recommended me as a suitable flatmate.
Then, there’s the bank account. I wouldn’t recommend going about my way of opening a bank account as I needed to open one before I secured a flat. Let’s just say, I made it happen in the only creative way I knew how without breaking any rules. Looking back, I’m still not sure how I would’ve done it any other way.
So, within a month of moving to London with no job, no flat, no bank account, I was able to get that all secured. I think luck and good timing and loads of perseverance had much to do with it. Integrating into society was increasingly becoming a reality. Now, I just need to interact with society.
Making New Friends
Making friends after graduation is surely tough. Making new friends in a new country? Absolutely nerve wracking. Being the introvert that I am, I had to force myself into situations where I’m constantly surrounded by strangers and somehow, leave an event with making at least one friend. For fellow introverts out there, you do get used to it. All you have to do is to keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, join an expat group, join Meetup groups based on your interests, and immerse yourself in any way you can. Sometimes you may even meet your friends in the most unexpected ways. For example, I have a group of friends that I met one evening at a holiday party in my building. I did not plan on going because it was hosted by our concierge team, and I wanted to spend the evening doing laundry. I was returning home from a day of shopping for new linens and as I crossed the concierge desk in the lobby, I was roped into attending said party. Lo and behold, the first person that I met there detected my Canadian accent because she happened to be a fellow Canadian too! From there on, we befriended other neighbours and formed a brunch group! That’s just one crazy example of meeting new friends. I’ll have to write a separate post on this one as I’m sure everyone will be able to relate to this whether you are living abroad or not!
Have you thought about making a move? If this is something you are thinking of or just wondering about, feel free to post your comment or ask any questions below!