I lived in London for about a year in 2008. And while I keep excellent memories from my time there, I can’t help but feel like I’ve missed out on some things because I wasn’t prepared enough, and I was too naive to keep in mind that I would be leaving eventually.
If I had to repeat the whole ‘expat in London‘ experience, here are a few things I would do differently.
- Find more unique pubs. I wasn’t aware at that time that chain, generic pubs even existed and that they weren’t anywhere near authentic. I wish I had been more selective in my venue choices.
- Experience the afternoon tea. I know it’s expensive and terribly old-fashioned, but the afternoon tea is such a quaint trait of Britain and yet I haven’t been to one – the scones and cucumber sandwiches are calling me.
- Update! I did end up having afternoon tea, and it was fantastic!
- Take more photos. I took the city for granted and forgot to snap many things I now miss, especially insignificant sights in my neighborhood, but that warm my heart every time I think about them. I didn’t photograph by backyard, Camden Town station, double deckers – it didn’t even occur to me to do so because I had the feeling I would always be there. How wrong I was!
- Get out more. I was a bit reluctant to get out because I was usually by myself and thought it would be boring. I slowly realized it wasn’t the case but it was too late – time had gone by and I was on a race to tick every item off my ‘To-Do’ list. Maybe I was just trying too hard, too.
- Have lunch at Yo Sushi. Now that I finally entered the world of sushi-lovers (I know I’m 10 years late), I would love to go there, with the rotating plates and everything. Looks like something out of the Jetsons!
- I did come to my senses and paid a visit to Yo! Sushi last time I was in town.
- Spend less time shopping. How many hours have I wasted in Primark queuing for the fitting rooms and the cashier? Or counting how many Canadian bucks this sweater was? It was a lousy investment of money and time, two things I will never get back.
- Buy more souvenirs. I know it’s a bit contradictory with the previous goal but really, I wish I could have tangible souvenirs of my time in London, because my current collection of souvenirs consists of a mini phone box and museum tickets. My boyfriend even forgot to buy a UCL T-Shirt, where he was part of an exchange, although our home is pretty much sponsored by McGill University.
- Take advantage of the great railway system. I’m sure many Brits would beg to differ but as opposed to what we have in Canada, the railway system in Britain is actually pretty extensive (that’s a t, not a p) and efficient. Aside from an Edinburgh-London roundtrip, the few times I used the trains were to get to Marlow for work – that’s hardly called an experience. I wish I would’ve done something like Lauren and just hopped on the next train to somewhere, anywhere.
And last, but not least:
- Socialize. My biggest disappointment is undoubtedly that I didn’t make any friends. I haven’t met anyone. The closest contacts I had were my curry dealer at Curry 4U and the cashier at Sainsbury’s. That’s just how social my life was. I wish I would’ve worked, hung out, laughed, drank, lived with Londoners, people I would be in touch with for the years to come, people I would keep track of on Facebook and pollute their walls with ‘Hey, we should meet up soon, it’s been too long!’ messages. I don’t have any souvenirs of crazy late nights and laughs with the locals and every time I think about it, it makes me really sad. Maybe it was because I already had a partner and didn’t feel so lonely? Maybe it was because of the English reputation? I’m not sure. All I know is that next time, I will make the effort – and I’m sure I will be rewarded.
Do you have any travel regrets? is it possible not to have any? Are there things you would do differently?