By Joy Lancaster


When people ask why I decided to move to London, I never quite know what to say. When you’re a New Zealander, moving to London isn’t very original.

Wikipedia tells me there are around 58,000 Kiwi ex-pats here, which is more than a quarter of the population of Wellington, our capital. With my brother and some of my closest friends already in London, it seemed like the obvious next step. I’d also been living in Spain for the past ten months, and paying for an EasyJet flight to Luton was much more appealing than forking out the €700 or so a ticket home would require. And so, last August, I re-crammed my life into a 60 litre rucksack and came to see what this Big City Life thing is all about.

And so far it’s going pretty well. I was lucky enough to get a temping role at ICP not long after I arrived and have since managed to land a permanent job here on the Diageo SmartBrand team as a Brand Asset Manager (Hooray!). Flat hunting was soul destroying for a few weeks, but I eventually found a place to live in East London with four other Kiwis. So now I catch the Tube to work every morning from a station that previously only existed in my consciousness as a tile on the Monopoly board.

Some of my favourite things about living in London:

  • Public transport is amazing. Seriously, It’s amazing.
  • There’s always a vegetarian option, meaning I no longer feel like an outcast (In Spain the only vegetarian option was tortilla de patatas. It was delicious the first few times).
  • So many museums and galleries are FREE (I donate sometimes, I promise).
  • You can drink in public here, allowing for lovely summer picnics in the park.
  • I can be in and around tall buildings without getting anxious about earthquakes.
  • It’s possible to go to a different country FOR THE WEEKEND.
  • There are canals. Canals! With canal boats and locks!
  • There are people everywhere. And, contrary to what I’d been warned, they are lovely.

Some of my least favourite things are:

  • Everything is so expensive it makes me want to cry.
  • You can’t buy Whittaker chocolate or Pic peanut butter here, and the Marmite tastes different.
  • You have to carry cash around, because some places have minimum payments for cards.
  • Cyclists aren’t required to wear helmets here, and watching them bike past terrifies me.
  • There are people everywhere.

New Zealand Ex-Pat

But my favourite thing of all is getting to know all the bits of London I’d previously only heard of in books and films, on the news, or in history classes, songs, and nursery rhymes. Names I’d heard in passing that always seemed so far away they might as well be fictional.

It’s still amazing to me that I might be watching a film or reading a book, come across something and be able to think, ‘Oh, I’ve been there’, or ‘I saw that last week’. That doesn’t happen much when you’re from New Zealand, unless you’re a keen mountain climber and are watching Lord of the Rings. The fact that I can read don’t-take-away-the-Tower-of-London-poppies articles in the paper and then walk fifteen minutes from my house and see them in real life is unreal to me – Or that I just happened to come across a Banksy piece around the corner from the ICP office where I work.

My Monopoly Board Is At My Doorstep

It’s so much fun, seeing things I’ve only ever experienced in 2D. Brick Lane isn’t just a book anymore, but where I get delicious Pad Thai every Sunday, as well as the odd late-night bagel. Tottenham Court Road is an actual road I can walk down, rather than the place Harry, Ron, and Hermione apparate to when escaping the Death Eaters. Putney, Hackney Downs, and Bow aren’t just places the fire brigade poured in from ‘with courage high and hearts a-glow’ in a poem my mum used to recite to me. And since being here, I’ve seen three of my favourite comedians in person. One of them just walked past me in Soho. These are people I had previously only watched on YouTube in my cold, damp student flat in Wellington.

So for me, that’s the best part of living in London. The two-dimensional Monopoly board city I once knew has sprung to life before my eyes and is turning into more and more wonderful memories and experiences the longer I live here. And I’m looking forward to many more.


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