Moving to the UK: Tips for Immersion

Today’s guest post is by Jasmine

Get set, deal with cultural differences, and tackle homesickness

As a globetrotting Swede, I realized early that Sweden was too small, and that I had to go explore the world. Upon graduating from high school, I packed up my stuff, waved good bye to my family, and set off on my first great escapade. A few adventures later my view was now set on UK and London. As a young 20-something, I had decided it was time to grow up a little bit and start studying, and what better place to that than in London? It was fairly close to home, they speak English and I didn’t need any visas or complicated paperwork. It was a done deal!

Being my typical carefree self, I didn’t worry too much about the move. I was sure it would all work itself out – and it did – but I could probably have saved myself a great deal of stress by preparing a little better before going. For example, I could’ve researched what area I wanted to live in, organized for temporary accommodations while looking for a home, and prepared bank statements.

What I learned is:

  1. It takes much longer than you think to find a suitable flat. Find something short-term on spareroom.com or http://zaparoom.co.uk/
  2. The English standard of housing is almost laughable compared to Swedish. How was I ever going to find a flat that didn’t completely disgust me but that was in my budget?! 
  3. Organizing a phone contract without credit history is impossible. The result, buy a phone and a top up deal, that’s still what I use today. 5 years later!
  4. Setting up a bank account without a home address is impossible, and to show your home address you need a letter in your name sent to that address (more on that to follow)
  5. Wow, British people are polite!
  6. I quite enjoy a cup of tea – who would’ve thought?!

It was a couple of eyeopening weeks to say the least, and thankfully I did manage to find a great flat in the end, as well as, open a bank account and sort out a phone! For anyone else that is moving to UK, the best way to get set up with a bank account quickly is to get your bank in your home country to send a letter with your bank statements to the address where you’ll spend your first few nights. This could be a friend’s place, a hotel or an Airbnb flat. It’s best to give them a heads up that they will receive a letter addressed to you. And, voila, you have a letter in your name at a UK address.

As I was settling in it quickly became apparent that there are quite a few cultural differences between the UK and Sweden. Firstly, there are pubs on every corner and a very strong pub culture in the UK. Be it lunch, afternoon or dinner time, you’ll always find a crowd in the pub and it doesn’t really matter what day it is, every day is a pint day. Secondly, English people are incredibly friendly and helpful. They greet you with a “Hi Love, Thanks Love”, start conversations anywhere, apologize for the tiniest of touches, hold the door open for you (this was a big one for me) and sit next to you on the bus. These are things that a Swedes would never do.

It still amazes me to this day that Swedes look at me like I’m a complete weirdo if I compliment someone I don’t know on hair or clothes, for example. It’s like, “I don’t know you. Why are you talking to me?” Whereas for me it’s now, “Well, I’m just being friendly and I really love your coat!”

However, when people know each other in Sweden, they are very friendly and helpful and it is an incredibly “neighborly” atmosphere. Everyone knows everyone, and wouldn’t bat an eyelash, if you knocked on their door asking for a cup of sugar, a drill, or even if your kid could hang out there where you run an errand. I’ve lived in the same flat in London for 5 years, and I still don’t know the name of my neighbors. Don’t get me wrong, I would say hi and briefly chat if I saw them, but I don’t know them as I used to know my Swedish neighbors. Also, in smaller Swedish towns, people would leave the front door unlocked during the day. They’d even go into a gas station to pay for their gas with the car running, because the attitude in a small “everyone-knows-everyone” town is much more relaxed.

So in terms of behavior and attitude, there are great differences and there a plenty more when you look at food, shops, taxes etc. But, that’s a whole blog post on its own.

Back to my experience… As the week went by and I struggled to find a place to live, my mood got despondent and I started to question my decision to move. Was I doing the right thing? Was it supposed to be this hard? Oh, I just wish I had my family here, and then everything would be much easier. What was happening to me? My normal, positive and happy-go-lucky me had vanished. I realized I was feeling homesick. Being homesick when you’ve move to a new place is completely normal.

Here are my top tips to combat that feeling (trust me, it will get better):

1.Keep busy

By having loads to do, time will fly and you’ll be too busy to be upset or miss home. Get involved in after- school activities if you’re attending university. Sign up for evening classes, join the gym, or promise yourself you’ll try one new thing every day for two weeks. 

2.Make new friends

Go out and make new friends! Most people around you – such as your classmates or work colleagues – are most likely also looking to expand their friend group. You just have to get social, invite them over for a dinner, drink, or tea. Go to events, join a meetup group, and get connected with likeminded people. There are great “Make Friends” events in London every week, that will force you to get to know new people while taking part in fun activities all around the city.

3.Find a friend from your home country

This is a good one. Go through your Facebook friends list. The likelihood of finding someone you know also being in the same city is higher than you think. If not, there’s always the chance of “a friend of a friend.” Most countries also have special websites or events for people coming from that particular country, which is an easy way to get to know people. By having a good friend from your own country, you get the opportunity discuss your experience of the city/country, and keep up with your mother tongue. Nothing makes a new place feel more like home!

4.Explore your new city

Set out to really get to know your new city, immerse yourself in the culture, the food, and the sights. Start with the tourist attractions, and then work your way to smaller more local spots. Find your favorite neighborhood café, shop, hairdresser etc. and the place will slowly feel like home.

5. Create routines

To start a new life somewhere, you need to create new routines. What does a normal day in your new city look like? By creating a routine you give yourself purpose, comfort, and security. If you know what will happen, and you do the same thing repeatedly, habits will soon take over. 

6. Make your home feel like home

Decorate your new flat in a way that makes it feel like home for you. Bringing a few comforting things that reminds you of home will definitely help.

7. Keep away from Skype

Maybe not completely, but do try limit the amount you spend on Skype with friends and family. Get out and spend time with your new friends and explore your new city. Skype and your family will always be there when you need them, but spending the entire evening on Skype with your mom will not cure homesickness.

8. Plan a trip with someone from back home

This way you get to spend time with someone familiar that you love, but not necessarily in a place where you’d normally hang out. Exploring your new home with a friend or a completely different place gives you enough of a “home dose” without you actually going home and getting even more homesick.

9. Introduce your culture and traditions to your new flatmates/friends

Don’t worry about immersing yourself in your own culture and traditions. But, as you do, why not share them with your newfound friends or flatmates? Most people love discovering new cultures. They would be more than happy to celebrate midsummer with you, or try your homemade meatballs – trust me, I know!

10. Don’t worry

Last, but not least, don’t worry! It will get easier. The more time you spend away from home, the more people you get to know. The more familiar you become with your new home, the less you will feel homesick. Your old home is not going away, and after some time you’ll realize that. Of course, you will still miss your family and friends from time to time, but you’re having such a great time that the homesickness is not the focus of your attention anymore. Living life, growing and exploring is what you’ll be focusing on doing.

That’s my story and my top 10 tips for curing homesickness. I’m currently on my 6th year as a Londoner, and I’m not planning on going back to Sweden anytime soon. I hope this post will help anyone thinking of moving to London or anyone that’s struggling. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all been fine!

Author Bio: Jasmine is a mid-twenty girl with a passion for traveling and living in new places. After a few experiences of living in countries where she could’t speak the language she ended up in London, UK. She used her experience of moving to create a flat-sharing platform that aims to help people moving to London with everything related to their living situation. Find more tips on http://zaparoomblog.com/ or find your perfect flatmate via http://zaparoom.co.uk/

One thought on “Moving to the UK: Tips for Immersion

Let us know what you think