I have lived in Cornwall my entire life, I am used to a very quiet lifestyle by the sea and even in bath this lifestyle was not changed all that much. Bath is a very small city, surrounded by parks and fields, it had a few more people and better public transport – but that’s about the biggest difference! I chose to do placement with the intention of doing it near my hometown – but very clearly that did not happen and instead I’m 6 hours away in the capital. It was a very challenging shift in lifestyle for me and no one expected me to be able to do it. On top of this, I was getting to grips with management of my own anxiety. An incredibly difficult thing to combat in a situation like this and I hope if anyone else is feeling the pressure of London in this way that my experiences and help and will prove that you can do it regardless!
So, I live here:
And I moved here:
Dealing with culture shock
In this blog I am going to talk just a little bit about how I found the move and what I experienced in such a big move, having anxiety and moving somewhere so far from my usual life and almost everyone.
To put into perspective how much of a culture shock it was for me to move to London, the population of the entire county of Cornwall sits at just over 500k – half a million people vs the population of London – as reported in 2021 – of over 9,000,000. Nine. Million. People. That’s 18x the population of where I grew up.
So needless to say, it was an extremely huge change in my life and something that I was not in any way prepared for.
Suddenly I had gone from one bus an hour to one bus every 5 minutes, a very limited roll through of trains to the consistent supply of the underground and a lack of taxi or delivery services to uber at my fingertips, and this all sounds amazing, never waiting for public transport and a maccies whenever I wanted it but it was possibly one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life. London has a tendency to make you feel tiny, it is something I noticed the minute I got here, no longer are you compared to houses and school buildings or a small block of flats but surrounded by buildings taller than you can see, screens that are bright enough to turn night into day and battling thousands upon thousands of people hustling on and off of trains and in and out of shops. Being intimidated or not at all used to such things only worsens that shrinking feeling, it makes you realise just how small you really are. And – three months in – this feeling has not changed, I don’t think it ever will, I have just become much more used to it and learned how to fit into that in a way that i joined the flow of things and people.
Coping with the commute
It is a beyond overwhelming situation, and I did the move and started my placement within 3 days of each other – don’t do that, it was not a good decision (but that’s a different post). The point I am trying to make is it was terrifying. I have never been through such a big change and doing so in the free fall out of covid that we all experienced to some level, just made it even more challenging. London is not easy – it never was going to be easy but I learnt it quick I adapted. The underground is actually remarkably easy if you find your own way of understanding it – I dislike the use of maps or city mapper to find my way to places via underground. I find it much easier and nicer to plan a trip using the map – yep that massive colourful mess of lines.
Knowing how best I get on with London has helped me a lot with confidence in travel, especially as my commute is close to two hours one way… I do a lot of travelling around the city, living north and working south is no joke. My journey consists of two to three underground trains, an overground national rail and a bus journey (and that is just on the normal days, when I have activities to attend it is even more confusing) but you get used to it very quickly…
As I have said, the underground really isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be, it is actually very straight forward, getting lost or going the wrong way is so common for a while that I've ended up in lifts to other platforms rather than ticket barriers purely because I just had no idea where I was going… but saying that, it quickly becomes muscle memory and you won't even have to think about it, once that journey is set in your head there is no going wrong.
In fact, it becomes so down to muscle memory that I got through the kings cross underground station on a normal Wednesday and jumped on the train that I always get on and it told me it was going the wrong way and that the next station was one in the opposite direction, I was obviously confused and trying to remember how I had got there and if it had been an error by me, but it had such an automatic action after 3 months of doing it that I couldn’t even remember what platform I had been on – turns out the train was incorrect and it pulled up to the usual next station, panic over.
My top tips when moving to London
Anyway, my point is that it is nowhere near as scary as it feels. There are a hundred things I could tell someone moving to London for the first time - especially if they have no idea about it like me, but I guess I'll just briefly run through the most important ones. These are not to worry anyone but are things I wish I had been told before such a drastic move.
- You will go wrong with the underground, I have, it just happens, and you have to accept it sigh at yourself and then get on the right route when you can!
- If you are a bit anxious about people coming up to you or talking to you, trying to sell you things or ask for things etc, my best advice would be overhead headphones - nine times out of ten they will pick someone else.
(They also work great for drowning out the noise levels of stations and trains if you're not feeling the best! - these are things that I experienced in relation to anxiety - even with medication to manage it, specific things do still make me very nervous).
- One last point, be mindful. every person that you pass or come across are just trying to do the same thing that you are and often if someone needs help or someone drops something or asks for directions, be kind and do what you can, you tend to be treated as you treat, apologise and you will be apologised to etc!
I cannot accurately express to you how much I hate the Victoria line though. It’s a personal problem with the heat and busy-ness that I have to endure everyday, but trust me you will find the ones you dislike and like very quickly, I don’t think I have every liked it on that line and I don’t think I ever will… but again – that is a personal hate for how much I have to be on it, it not that bad really!
A worthwhile challenge
The other thing I wanted to cover in this post is how isolating London can feel, especially moving to London from somewhere else. Living here it has shown me already that London just is unlike any other place I have visited, it can be unpredictable and scary but also provides endless opportunity for activities, you will never be bored. Broke, sure… but never bored 😊
With nine million people you wouldn’t think it possible to feel alone, but when moving away from home and into London those are nine million strangers that you will never know, I don’t think I've seen the same person twice in three months (other than those at work and home obviously), and that can very quickly become overwhelming. Without friends and family in London, it is made all the worse. This, I would say, has been the hardest part of the move for me – I am naturally a people person I love my friends and family, I am very close with them, and it feels unnatural not to have them here. I miss them a lot, my siblings, parents, aunties and uncles, housemates and friends from Uni, my boyfriend, they are all people I had to move away from in order to be here, and it was far from easy, it IS far from easy. There are days still now when all I want to do is go home and I think I will have this for all of my time here…
I like London don’t get me wrong, but I will never belong in London – it will never be home, and that is completely okay! Knowing this and realising that’s okay has been a huge help to the homesickness too. I'm finding that always knowing your next trip home is helpful too, even if it is months away, knowing that plan is there is a huge comfort (My next trip is the end of November – I can't wait) i'm not going to talk too much more about leaving people and being long distance with my friends and boyfriend, I have a lot to say on that but not here, this is already pretty long of an explanation, but it was and is by far the hardest part of placement so far. Getting over and learning how to best deal with that is something I am still working on for sure.
I believe wholeheartedly that if I can do this then anybody can. London is a challenge if you are not used to this, it brings so many new things to learn and get used to along with new habits to build, a new routine and a lot of time walking/travelling but, already, I am much more confident and outgoing with others and much more adapted to the environment that I have moved into, it has made me miles more independent and have achieved things just in these few months I would not have known I was capable of otherwise – and this is only the beginning…
Thank You 🙂