I moved to London in 2010. It wasn’t planned, nor well received.
Not planned as it pretty much happened overnight. I got an offer for a web dev position at this mammoth company everybody I knew knew about (Oh, the bragging opportunities I’d have! How very bright my high school reunion prospects had become all of a sudden!), and within a week or so I’d left my job of 3 years in Transylvania (Yup, the vampire place, more on this soon!), packed all my rainy weather friendly clothes in a suitcase, took a cab to the airport and 12 hours later (Unplanned 9 hour flight delay with no food or water, priceless!) I was landing in sunny Luton Airport. And yes, it really was sunny that day. The planets must have aligned in one of those friendly once a millennium configurations, as I don’t remember having seen a sunny Luton since. But I digress.
I mentioned my London move wasn’t well received. What I meant to say was that my mom and dad nearly disowned me, and even today, several years and countless fights on the subject later, our phone conversations ensue as follows:
Mom: Is it raining?
Mom: Serves you right.
OK, so it’s not particularly summery here. In the summer. Or ever. Pretty sure it’s the rainiest place I’ve ever been as well. Have you seen my Facebook photos? Pale as a ghost! And then there’s CCTV. Squatting. Riots. I walked out of the flat one morning and the street was full of glass and carbonised car skeletons. By comparison, the scariest thing I’ve ever lived back home was when a bee got stuck in my hair and my friend couldn’t get it out so she had to kill it… In. My. Hair. And it turned out to be a fat fly in the end. Well, you get the point.
Surprisingly, it’s not the riots, or the weather, or the driving-on-the-absolutely-completely-wrong-side-of-the-road that have been bugging me about this place, but a million-billion minute things I don’t particularly hate but I sure as hell don’t understand about this side of the world. They add up to an impressive collection of daily what-the-heck moments, when I’m not quite sure I’m imagining things or actually living them, and I’m seriously considering the possibility that I’ve moved to the kookiest place on Earth.
There’s the shopkeepers. Always smiling, always in a better mood than mine, happier than in my happiest of days. I was used to grumpy old ladies who never said hello and never seemed to keep enough change in the cash register. So they gave me the stink eye for not having the exact money, and made me buy another half a pack of gum so we’d have a round sum. I am now the proud owner of countless jars, cans and ashtrays full of 1p and 2p coins, something none of my Romanian friends seem to comprehend. “Who on Earth gives you change?” Shopkeepers, duh. It’s their job, apparently.
And then there’s the chit chat. Every Monday morning, at least a dozen people whose names I don’t know practically queue to ask me about the recent weekend. Then on Friday, the same super duper exciting conversation about the coming 48 hours we’ll sadly be apart. I get it, you know. I really do. We’re being polite. Polite is good. But my polite and yours can’t possibly mean the same thing. Mine is “Hey, all good?” – “Yep.” – “Cool.”, while yours is more like “So you did absolutely nothing interesting this weekend but sat on your bottom and stuffed yourself with nachos while watching four seasons of The Vampire Diaries back to back? That sounds great!!! The weather was splendid, wasn’t it? Oh, right, you were inside all weekend. I sometimes do that too, isn’t it crazy how antisocial we both are? Do you think vampires exist? How about werewolves? Have you ever seen any back in Romania?”
What. The. Heck.
I know, I know. I’ve never been famous for my sociability. But then again, what do you expect from an Eastern European computer nerd with no friends (In this country! I do know two or three people back home, I swear.), fluctuating self confidence and dodgy English? It’s a miracle I’ve made it so far.
I’ll put the grumbling about all things London on hold for now, mainly because it doesn’t feel like such a bad place today. I’ve got two more days to rehearse my “Good weekend?” speech. It’s not raining. There are no riots going on. I’ve got lipstick and blush on, so I’m sure I look ghostly chic for once. Even mom would approve.