Sunday, August 8, 2010

The trouble with expat living...

... is that eventually, you're not a tourist any longer. You become a resident.

My friend Mindy has been here in London since May; she works in my company's New York office, but was seconded here for the summer. She has been taking full advantage of her time here, and frankly I am extremely jealous. Not of her travels - I'm very satisfied with my travel itinerary this summer and actually wish for a bit more home-time - but more her freedom to run about London and experience everything at her own pace and on a whim. For what happens when you've lived in a place for 2+ years is that you naturally start to make ties to the place around you. So you start to make friends, make plans with those friends, have obligations and commitments, and then suddenly you find yourself scheduling time in your diary FOR YOURSELF to do WHAT YOU WANT. I was looking at the calendar and saw that the next weekend when I had some free time to go bumming around Liberty was September 13th. Sheesh. And it all came barreling home when I only had 2.25 hours today to go to Tate Britain to see the Henry Moore exhibit - and I couldn't put it off because today was the last day, and I hadn't had time to see it since it opened in February!

Of course it is an enviable position to be in, but one of the draws of expat life is that you're in a new place and constantly discovering new cool places and marveling at all of the little wonders you encounter just strolling through various neighborhoods. So when all of a sudden you're really settled in, you tend to stop doing those very agreeable activities you used to do when you were new to a city because, well, you're not!

So I've decided that this fall, after our vacation and the personal commitments already on the books, I'm going to reserve some "me" time doing things in London that I simply haven't had time to do all summer. Perhaps I will stroll through Primrose Hill park, and have a cappucino at one of the small cafes on King Henry's Road. Maybe I'll visit my old friend Marylebone High Street for a bit of window shopping. Maybe I'll finally treat myself to an afternoon in the Geffyre Museum in Shoreditch! Maybe I'll just go to a part of London I haven't explored and just soak it up.

I have to remember that London is my oyster (and I have my trusty Oystercard!) and that I really need to make the most of it.


  1. Love the post... not there yet myself. I just recently realized I needed to accept being a resident and all the stupid stuff that goes along with it.

  2. I'm jealous. I have occasionally wished that we did this London thing before we had children. I've used my Oyster card maybe a dozen times in 4 years? Seriously. It is quite sad. I seldom leave my area, what with school dropoffs/pickups and stroller logistics. I want to do some stuff this fall, even some London Walks, but I'm also desperately need to get back in shape. So I guess I will just tour when friends come to town. The sliver lining is that since kids can plug you into a social scene I have some close friends, one of whom will not let me leave London without some good British experiences. But I never did get to knock around freely.

  3. Yeah, it's an odd realization. I found myself going from wishing I had more people to spend time with to wishing I had more time for myself. It feels like an existential crisis. And AH, I'm sure that it would be worth the schlep to take the kids into town for a day (well, maybe a few hours). Tate is especially good; they have activity kits for kids so they can draw and be creative and also be entertained. Also - any walking is good walking so tie up your sneakers and get out there! You can do it!

  4. Love this - such an interesting perspective. I adore your idea of scheduling some alone time for yourself - personally I think it is one of the most important things in life! Time to just BE. Yummy.