Sunday, August 30

Is it really raining in London? (A Guide)

Is it really raining in London?

Is it REALLY raining in London? A guide for expats and tourists.

There are several degrees of rain. Let me guide you with these simple questions:

Q1: Are you squinting?
A: Yes! --> This may be because of the sun. If there is a bright spot in the sky, it is not raining. Wait about an hour and check again.
B: No. --> It's just overcast. Pack your umbrella.

Q2: Are the raindrops big enough that you're considering putting your smartphone away?
A: Yes. :( --> Put up your umbrella. It's raining!
B: Nah, I can still text --> This is normal drizzly stuff. Carry on. 

Q3: Have the drops gotten so big you're now concerned about your phone's warranty?
A: Yes :( --> It's raining. Shove that device in your pocket. You may now become aware of several *other* people on the sidewalk. These are fellow pedestrians. They will not hurt you, but will appreciate that you're now cognizant of giving way.
B: Nah, I can still text --> This is normal rainy stuff. Carry on. Find your umbrella maybe.

Q4: Have restaurant patrons moved inside from the sidewalk tables?
A: No, but they did put up their umbrellas. Does that count? --> Yes. It's kinda drizzling.
B: Yes, chairs are empty. --> Yup. Raining. 

Q5: Do you see raindrops in the streetlights?
A: Yes. --> Like, big ones? Or are you just being a sissy tourist?
B: Big ones. --> Congratulations, it's really raining!

Q6: Can you hear the squish of the shoes of the person behind you? 
A: UGH YES IT'S AWFUL --> It has just rained. Good luck drying your shoes. 

So, the answer is Yes. You should always have a small umbrella or a rain jacket with you. Even if it isn't raining now, it will be raining soon.

Londoners have umbrellas ready!
Londoners ready with our umbrellas!

Saturday, August 22

"This is not my beautiful house"

It's 10:40pm. We have discovered a strange noise coming from the wall directly above the headboard.

Or rather, we have been subjected to (for the last hour or so) a very mechanical, low buzz every five to ten minutes.

And it's one of those little things that, if this were our home in KC, we would just roll our eyes and say, "Oh, that's X. Who's going to [do that quirky fix that we don't realize is actually kinda weird and shows we should really just repair X]?"

And then I realized part of what makes this move so uneasy at times: that feeling of "This is not my house." I haven't unpacked. I haven't moved in. Sure, I'm comfortable in this space, but it's not MY space (or Britton's, either). We step over suitcases, squeeze awkwardly past coffee tables, try to remember where this spatula-that-isn't-ours gets put away.

Anyway, we have two weeks left in this flat (hope to have details that I can share very soon about our next living situation!) and it's not like this is a dealbreaker by any means. But I am ready to have a home where I feel like it's worth it to learn all the quirks.

(I, er I mean We've deduced that the noise is coming from the air conditioning unit, but we don't know what the problem is. Have flipped off the fuse and it stopped, and luckily we're in freakin' London so, unlike KC, we won't die in our home when the air is off all night. In fact, we'll be quite comfortable!)

Ellen versus the mysteriously noisy air conditioner

(Earworm, for those of you who recognized the title:)

Friday, August 21

Acclimating: Step 2

Things I have already adapted to (I think):

  • Drinking tea! (With milk!) And this type of super-fast water-boiling kettle-thing! 
  • "It's a swipe-and-sign card. Yes, I have a pen."
  • Getting lost every time I leave the house. (Every. Single. Time.)
  • Buildings with at least 4 stories everywhere.
  • Strange spellings of different wourds.
  • Lots and lots and lots and lots of FREE, AMAZING museums and parks
  • Vocabulary — pop in, flat, keen, rather, tube/bus station (not stop)
  • Very polite signs:

Things I will most likely get used to soon:

  • Walking 15,000+ steps each day
  • Not knowing which accent a person will have
  • Expecting the question "small or large" when ordering a glass of wine
  • Fellow pedestrians being ambiguous about which direction they'll yield (if at all). 
  • Lack of sunlight/abundance of clouds
  • Vocabulary — trousers (not pants), rashers (not sausages or pork chops), give way (not yield), let (not lease or rent), ground floor and first floor (instead of first floor, second floor)
  • Very (VERY) skinny jeans

Things I will most likely get used to after a few more months:
  • London prices. (Maybe.)

Things I might never get used to:
  • All of the cigarette smoke. Everywhere.
  • Someone walking two steps behind me at all times.
  • Vocabulary — biscuits, gravy.

Tuesday, August 18

It's been one week

It's been
one week since we landed here
threw our bags in the flat and grabbed a cold beer
Five days since he laughed at me saying
"Get outta bed you have to do more than sleep here"
Three days since the afternoon
I met a new friend and hit rush hour on the tube
Yesterday steps equaled 14k
but it'll still be two days 'til I'm over the jet lag.

Monday, August 17


Today is Monday, that day stereotypically loathed by people and orange cats alike. This Monday happens to mark one week since we moved.

When we first announced we would move to London, we had about 10 weeks before the move. That prompted several pairs of skeptical, raised eyebrows, which admittedly was kind of fun. ("You don't think we can sell all of our things and pack up our lives in 10 weeks? Watch me!")

I noticed another reaction though, once we were under the one-week mark. Once we weren't explaining in numbers of days or weeks, but just answering, "Monday." One word, not several, to describe when our life would change in a big, big way. The physical reaction of the questioner now included the eyes and mouth, sometimes a whole-head movement. Not just the eyebrows anymore!

The same is somewhat true when asked when we had arrived in London. A simple, "Tuesday" (you land a day later traveling from the US to UK) carries a sense of very-recent-ness, versus tomorrow when we can say, "a week ago" or next week when it'll be two weeks. The excitement immediately before and after Aug. 10-11 is something I hope we can recall later. It all did go very quickly, but in hindsight what we accomplished, especially in the week leading up to our departure (with the help of so many people) really was impressive. And unique.

And all of this excitement and amazement around our new digs will eventually dissipate and we'll be left to live typical lives in London. In the coming months we'll slowly realize we've become curmudgeon-y about tube wait times, tired of all the rain and I'm sure some other thing that Londoners complain about.

Until then I'm happy to be amazed and hope to find patience — and to remember that this IS a unique moment in time —while I repeatedly get lost, choose the wrong tube line, and probably get lost a second time.