#Help – An American enduring lockdown in London

There are probably a number of Coronavirus diaries floating around the internet. But right now, I need to share my personal lockdown experiences with those who have still hung around (and may stumble across my blog).

I call myself an American expat in London. That term, expat, is subjective, but I’m using it to describe myself.

I moved to London from the Bronx officially in November of 2018. Cut to 2020, the Coronavirus has landed.

International travel and typical interactions (running to the store for snacks without facing a line, or riding the tube without a care) are a thing of the past. Nothing is normal and everyone could be a carrier.

Well, that’s how things have been playing out in London. Until today, when Boris made the announcement that more common spaces and trips to other households would return to a new normal. It feels so arbitrary if I’m being honest. I want things to go back to normal but are things really safe? What can we really expect to happen and will I find myself back at the office in no time flat? Is it bad of me to say I enjoy working at home (mostly).

As an American in London during these times, I find it particularly interesting. Not only am I going through lockdown, further removed from friends and family in NYC, but I’m also witnessing the Black Lives Matter protests around George Floyd’s murder. It’s startling. It’s jarring. And I find myself questioning everything about race and what is and shouldn’t be – much more than I typically question race.

Conversations of race were a point of conversation at work for a few days during the pandemic but not so much anymore. I ask myself if I should be annoyed by this or hopeful that work is being done behind the scenes. I’d like to believe the latter but I never really know what’s happening.

Sometimes I don’t even know what people are thinking and I spiral into thoughts that second guess what I think is happening, and what should be happening, and what others say should be happening. It’s a vicious cycle.

But I digress, untangling some of my feelings about race is a separate blog. This is about being in lockdown in London.

What is it like? I imagine it’s similar to being in lockdown in NYC. People choose whether or not to wear masks out in public and gloves aren’t mandatory. People are told to line up outside of supermarkets, standing 2 meters apart, but not everyone follows those rules. They sometimes pretend they don’t see lines and have the audacity to try to skip ahead of people. Legit had a guy try to skip me after I waited roughly 30 minutes to get into Boots (a local chain pharmacy).

Others seem to blatantly disregard the rules, not trying to keep any distance on the sidewalks, or sit out in parks chatting with their friends in the sun. I saw people tanning outside my apartment in the small patch of grass near my cul de sac and friends having a communal rooftop gathering across the way. Was I jealous? Maybe. I was definitely annoyed that I have been following the rules while others just do what they please.

But at this point, it doesn’t matter anymore, as Boris made it so people could go outside for more than their one time a day exercise. They can also meet up with six people outside as long as they mind social distancing guidelines. And starting July 4th, all hell will break loose.

However this time to sit in and reflect in lockdown has felt so weird and nonexistent. I don’t know what to reflect on, what to look forward to and what hope I should have. I also haven’t had any time to reflect. I’ve been so busy at work that I’m too tired to assess what I’m feeling. And let’s face it, if you’re forced to be indoors, who wants to feel forced into confronting feelings of inadequacy (or whatever you have floating in your mind).

But don’t get me wrong, I still have hope. Hope to meet up with people. Hope to go back to NYC. Hope to travel to far away places again. But I’ve also felt stagnant. Lost without a real sense of what’s next but clinging to the idea that there is something ahead (and I do know that in my heart there’s something ahead).

I think a lot of people have been feeling that way in London (and around the world), stuck. Not sure of what to make of their futures and the future of their family. Some have felt that planning life is over while others have felt inspired to do, make, launch. I can’t put my finger on the London vibe but if I had to call it, I’d say nonchalance. Everyone here seems blase and just ready to have their lives restored. That quiet British way of saying, “World, we’re right and we’re fine because we’re British.”

I’ve also felt connected and disconnected. Everyone has been forced to interact online which is great for me. It’s like everyone in my family or friend group is living abroad. But at the same time, I feel like people in NYC are doing their own thing, separate from me. That’s ok but it’s weird how you can feel a little disconnected.

But that’s enough for now. Lockdown in London has been a lot. Things are changing however so I hope to see more positive things come from this.

It’s been a while (again)

It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post. Not because I haven’t wanted to but because I’ve been lazy.

I could make excuses but I wont.

Did life get in the way? Has work been super busy? Has Coronavirus turned the world on its head? Has the mind been boggled by current events around Black lives matter? They’ve all been a part of my life but it’s still no excuse.

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3 Smart Ways To Find Work Abroad

You’ve moved abroad to the country you’ve been dying to live in for weeks, months, years! Not on a work visa but somehow you’ve made your way to XX country of your dreams with a legal right to work and start living your life. But where do you turn to find work abroad? What can you do to ensure that you give yourself as much of a head start as possible to line up interviews and secure the job (and the bag) that will help inspire and financially support your move?

Working abroad can be easy but finding the right place can be hard.

As an American who has moved to London on the spouse visa, I’m sharing three smart ways I’ve used to line up interviews and secure a job within a short period of time. They may seem obvious but it’s always worth remembering. Keep reading if you want to know how you can make finding work a bit less stressful!

1. Say It Loud

Think James Brown.

Have you heard the saying closed mouths never get fed? This applies when looking for work. Whatever your industry or skill set, make it known on your social networks that you’re moving, looking for work and up for any recommendations. That means sharing this news on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram. You may even want to throw in one or two relevant hashtags that as that might help your post get spotted by someone who is looking to hire.

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It may seem like a shot in the dark but so is sending your resume to some random hiring manager or creating a profile on a work portal. You’ll be surprised who your friends or acquaintances may know and how generous they might feel in regards to helping you out.

It can never hurt to ask or just put a general ask out into the air. Why? Because the worst response you can get is no.

2. Scan Linkedin

Everyone scans Linkedin so you might think that this is so obvious. But the way you can really use Linkedin for the better when looking for work abraod is by using keywords. They are key!

So what I mean is if you’re a creative director or designer looking for work in the UK, don’t just type in creative director to find job opportunities. Search for other keywords or responsibilities that you want to find in your new role. Try design or creative to see what may pop up. When you’re in a new country and don’t know the lay of the land or all the companies that exist, Linkedin is truly a gem.

And make sure you use the parameters such as location, experience level, etc. Just with online dating, you want to be specific but you don’t want to be so specific that you don’t have any options.

In general, Linkedin is a great resource these days for real job leads across industries. If you’re not on it, maybe rethink that. Also make sure your profile is updated and you’ve added a photo, work experience, skills and if you can, get some recommendations from past employers and employees!

3. Join Groups on Facebook

Some of the best places to find a job abroad is Facebook. Specifically, Facebook Groups. I’ve joined plenty of Groups in the past to make friends but I’ve also joined groups that are specific to my industry but also specific to my location. I can’t tell you how many job postings I’ve seen in an industry specific group I’m in from individuals looking to build out their teams.

I’ve seen jobs posted to work at Google, Etsy, Pinterest, Uber and more. And not just job listings, people who asked for candidate recommendations and would be happy to refer those individuals to the hiring team.

I think that those Groups are very valuable so it’s important to join a few. But first, make sure that the Groups are legitimate. There are some on Facebook that are really just forums for people to advertise their business or sell you something so just vet them and if you think they aren’t for you, leave!

 

Those are my three ideas to get you started on your job hunt abroad. They are simple but you’ll be surprised about the kinds of offers and opportunities you’ll come across.

 

The Inadequate Expat

In an effort to be more transparent, I wanted to post about a subject I’ve been journaling about for the last few weeks, being inadequate.

If you’ve followed me on Instagram, I’m guessing my subtext (or perhaps lack there of ) shows quite clearly that I’ve been wavering on my abilities to be the best. Not the best there ever was or will be (though I’m not opposed to it), but being the best me by excelling, whatever that means. It’s been hard. Really hard. Not because of my Capricorn like traits (if you believe in that sort of stuff) but because of all the changes happening in my life. The biggest of them all, becoming an American expat in the UK.

The people that know me know that I’ve been pushing for my dream of moving to London for years. I wanted to be an expat as early as 2012 but I didn’t truly make a move until 2016. From that point, my life trajectory was in a state of flux. Traveling back and forth from NYC to the UK, developing a new relationship, trying on new careers, developing different skills; all of this was done while I was busy trying to make my dreams come true. Through a random happening of events and following my ambition, it did come true. Not in a way I expected yet still the most magical of happenings.

With all that magic however, there are changes abound that make being and feeling your most confident self at all times, pretty difficult.

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To believe in yourself whole heartedly, at every moment of every day can be challenging.

One moment I’m telling myself that I’m awesome, a positive affirmation trick that can help you fake it until you make it. And the next, the doubt comes crawling in. Something I did was not quite up to snuff. I forgot an important date. I’m not keeping in touch with friends and family back at home enough. It can all be challenging. It’s a challenge that I want and have accepted. But it’s still doesn’t make any less difficult.

I’m always someone that looks at the bright side but becoming a full fledged expat is hard. It’s not just the paperwork but the process of finding your normal all whilst maintaining and building new relationships. This doesn’t include getting used to the nuances in how people communicate or the way basic things function (what is council tax and why do I pay for my train according to the time I travel?).  It can feel overwhelming, to the point where you wonder if you ever measure up. To anything.

What do I do when I feel in a funk, like I’m miserably failing or someone who just can’t cut it? As noted, I try the positive affirmation route. I’ll write down words to explain how awesome I am (privately of course). I’ll journal about issues that seem to be clouding my brain, slowly working through why I feel that way and how I may be making a mountain out of a mole hill. I’ll take a break and go to the bathroom to look at myself in the mirror and say what’s bothering me to my face (I’m not crazy, it can help). I talk to someone who can hear me out and listen to their perspective. There are many ways but those few are ones that help the most.

Despite this, being an expat is a wonderful thing. The doubt surges through you every now and again but in life, most people can expect to experience doubt or question themselves no matter their situation (be it in a familiar place and job or in a new country). What’s important to remember is that you’re not inadequate. Things take time. Making friends take time. Getting into a new work rhythm takes time. Find your new life takes time. You may think there’s only so much time you get before you need to be “perfect” but there really isn’t. Keep pushing and soon, you’ll find that you aren’t inadequate and that you’re doing just fine.

Have you ever had these feelings? Was it as an expat or as a regular old human trying to adult? How do you cope? Let me know in the comments.

Communications Breakdown As An Expat

The idea of talking to someone is easy enough. You start with the standard “where are you from” or “what do you do.” You pick up on social cues and interactions, joining in a conversation where the group is talking about something you’re familiar with or directing the topic to something adjacent in which you have more knowledge.

For instance, someone begins discussing artists who tackle dark themes and you shift the convo toward a dark humor play you saw. I’m familiar with the ways of socializing, even when I’m not particularly social. But lately I feel my communication skills have left me. Why? I’m an expat.

Granted I’m an English speaking expat in an English speaking country but American english is quite different than the Queen’s English. And the people in the UK, they can be quick to tell you that they aren’t following you or you don’t make sense. I’m not speaking in riddles or, you’d think I could grasp the idea of keeping a conversation flowing but sometimes, being honest, Brits can be a bit aggressive, unwilling to truly hear you out.haha

Currently I’m living as a married American expat in the UK. London specifically. Things aren’t that different from what I’m familiar with, haven grown up in the Bronx and worked in NYC. People go to work, they talk about the weather, they complain, they discuss TV and relationships but the changes in dialogue, they are a lot. CH CH CHANGES.

In most conversations it’s made glaringly obvious that I have an Amercian-ness about me. I’m not ashamed of this. Actually, I think this makes me cooler in a country full of people speaking like Stewie from The Family Guy (I kid, SERIOUSLY). But sometimes, I feel my accent or way of developing speech has UK peeps and Europeans at a lost.

For starters, most people are used to writing words with a u (i.e colour and honour), why is that a thing. But there’s also just the way I phrase things.

Let’s say there are a group of people talking about the benefits of hazelnut chocolate and then here comes me, entering the conversation; I am easily misunderstood. You’re thinking how but I assure you I am. I’ll say something like “Oh wow, I totally heard that about chocolate. It can be a way to make you stronger.” To which someone replies “No, that’s not it. The chocolate with hazelnut makes you stronger, not just chocolate.” I wouldn’t think I’d need to clarify I was also talking about hazelnut chocolate if that is what the general topic was. Me saying chocolate would imply hazelnut no? This then requires me to explain further which makes it seem like I’m not on the ball or aware at all. To me, it can be tiring trying to explain myself or reminding myself to be hyper specific. People are ready to tell you no, you’re not right.

British people are sarcastic with hard edges. They don’t like upbeat optimism. That’s the stereotype anyway.

It could be that American’s are soft or call you out in a different way. All I know is my American-ness rears it’s head in certain social situations.

Most people can forget how rough it can be trying to build a connection while simultaneously remaining worried that someone will call you out for something that isn’t right but really, it is right or works just as well. What I mean is, it would be right in the US and still makes total sense here but because it isn’t usual, it’s odd. I’m not saying I want everyone to conform to my speech but perhaps we compromise? Maybe that’s too much to ask in a place all about Brexit. I joke again BUT not really, lol.

But think about it, you are a foreigner in a foreign place. You’re excited to be there and looking to make relationships. Your friends from home aren’t around but that’s the trade-off you made (one of many) to become an expat. Not everyone will be your best friend or even a friend but it does a person good to be able to have a conversation without always having to explain yourself. There are so many other challenges and hurdles to get used to and to have communication be a thing that makes you second guess yourself, girl please. We need all the confidence you can get at this point in life.

The moral of a story, being an expat is hard in some of the most simple of ways. I’m learning these things day by day. Do they get me down? For a brief moment. I go insane in the membrane, trying to figure out what makes me so wrong. But then I pick myself up, I remind myself of all the cliches (Rome wasn’t built in a day). I learn about new British phrases to implement, not conforming or changing in a way that isn’t me but building up a vocab that requires less explanation. Time will continue to smooth these little blips out but for now, I figured I share this expat woe with you all.

Is this something you deal with? Have you had expat communications breakdown in a place where you speak the native tongue? Let me know!

 

My 2019 Top Travel Destinations

I started my 2019 as an expat in London who went on a mini trip to Berlin Germany. One would think that you’d call that travel goals or at least, a healthy start for anyone who has resolved to travel more in 2019. To that I say you’re right, but my list of things to do this year, it’s oh so long.

As 2018 wrapped up, I saw lists curated on the best destinations to visit in 2019 and all I could think was “man, there are a lot of places out there.” How could I possibly find the time and money to do it all? The answer  is that there isn’t enough time but it doesn’t hurt to try. With that, I’m sharing a few of my travel destinations for 2019. This isn’t based on data or even places that I’ve completely experienced but for some reason (probably Instagram), I’m getting vibes that these places will see more tourism.

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Seen in Italy Magazine

Rome

Located in Italy is the beautiful city of Rome. I mean, there are lots of beautiful cities in Italy but Rome is the classic. It’s the one I recall when watching Mary Kate and Ashley jet off to another foreign place that was alive with cool outfits, adventure and somehow, a cute boy just waiting to fall in love with your feminine mystique.

In 2019, I foresee people aiming to live their best lives since 2018 was kind of meh for some. This means, indulging in yummy pastas, gelatos and wine, waistline be damned. But not really. You can walk all over the city to help restore a balance to your feasting and somehow, the pasta is less fattening there. Maybe I’m lying to myself but I have heard European food can be leaner than their American counterparts.

In Rome awaits, the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, a detour to the Vatican, amazing architecture and yes, food! Why wouldn’t this be a stop in 2019.

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Seen in Tap Air Portugal

Dakar

Visiting a cosmopolitan city in Africa is easier than you think. One place that will delight you is Dakar, Senegal. Lined with beaches, delicious food, culture and lots of sunny vibes, Dakar is one of those places that will offer a magical experience. It’s a little less popping than places like Morocco or South Africa is (I saw so many Instagrams and I myself went to Marrakesh) so I have a suspicion that more eyeballs will be on the hunt for some place like Dakar since it is unique.

Not only will you be blown away by the landscape but you’ll learn a lot too. There are lots of museums about the slave trade and though it may not be a fun subject, it is one of very great importance. I’m hoping I can find my way there this year.

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Seen in Travel Triangle

Bali

So if you were on Instagram at all last year, Bali was all over the shop. There were photos of influencers in tubs filled with rose petals or sitting in a pool eating what appeared to be a delicious spread of a floating breakfast. Now that’s luxury!

When you arrive, perch on a beautiful sandy beach, climb a volcano or visit a temple. Some people love to have monkeys all over them but I say ditch that and just look at them from a far. This location has been on my list for two years now as somewhere I need to visit and that still hasn’t changed. Located in Indonesia, I’m dying to one day set off for warm rays, yummy food and a bit of adventure. I’m sure Bali will still deliver fierce photos on social media this year.

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Seen in Travel + Leisure

 

Palawan Islands

Just a few months ago this location sat at the top of my list for places to consider for my honeymoon. As soon as I “discovered it” however, I saw it appearing on way too many Instagram feeds for my liking. I wanted a remote, relaxing honeymoon adventure so I put it a bit further down on my contenders list but it’s still up there in regards to must visit. Why? The breathtaking views.

Sit on a white beach overlooking turquoise waters while sipping on a tasty drink. Go snorkeling and discover the flora and fauna below. Head off to a lagoon, an underground river or a cave to find hidden treasures. Or island hop and indulge in the local cuisine. This is truly a vacation to unwind, relax and dazzle your eyes! I definitely see more people heading here in the coming months.

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Montego Bay

Although I have Jamaican heritage, I’ve never been to any part of Jamaica. I have been to the Caribbean (DR) but not to any island. For shame, I know. But this year I suspect I might get there finally and so will others.

A tropical paradise, Montego Bay offers fun island vibes. Sip on my fav drink of pina coladas; eat jerk chicken, roti, curry goat, plantains, dumplings and all the goods; lay in the pristine sand reading a good book. There are a lot of ways to just exist in bliss on this island and I see many people in need of a remote holiday without spending tons of cash. Montego Bay in Jamaica is the answer.

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Seen in Visit Sedona

Sedona

A fan of hiking and spa days? Sedona will be your local place to head to in 2019. Taking in beautiful sunsets or sunrises, you can do yoga from a hill top or find a masseuse that will workout every bit of stress from your body.

What I like about Sedona and suspect others will enjoy this year is that it is low-key but surrounded by astounding beauty. Red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls and pine forests are around so the nature lover in you will have something to constantly take in while in the city. You’re also pretty close to the Grand Canyon so you can take in those views and eat some delicious food that is likely to have a Mexican influence. And if you love spirituality, I know this place will be for you. I see mental health and spirituality topping people’s lists this year so don’t be shocked to see them all in Sedona.

 

Those are my thoughts based on no scientific facts, just my hunch. Let me know if you agree!

The Disappearing Passport: Stranded in America

Is my title dramatic? Of course it is but I was going through a range of emotions and I felt like this captured it. Are there worse places to be stranded? Of course! I’m aware of the amount of privilege I’m swinging here but that’s sort of the point of this post. How I realized my American passport offered me so much privilege when it came to traveling (and life as a whole) and how crippled, deflated, and shocked I felt without it.

Travel isn’t everything but it does mean something when you’ve experienced it. Once you’ve gotten a taste for it, it’s hard to shake. Like a sweet chocolate chip cookie or ice cream addiction. It’s so good and you can’t help but go back for one more cookie or one more scoop.

I had to give up my passport as I awaited a spouse visa to join my husband in the UK. Since I’m from America, I had to mail my passport to a visa office in Sheffield, UK and wait for a verdict. This meant no international traveling of any sort until I received a decision. If I wanted to leave the country, I’d have to withdraw my visa application and reapply with more money and wait an unknown period of time that could last for up a minimum of 3 months. No thanks! So I spent the tail end of Summer and early Autumn trapped in NYC. Specifically, the Bronx.

Again, woe is me right? Trapped in a cultural city known as NYC with lots of things to do, see and loved ones at my doorstep. Yeah, I’m playing my tune on a tiny violin but I’m trying to make a point. The point that when without your passport, your world feels smaller. Although I could travel domestically, I felt like everything around me enclosed on me. Especially with all the anti immigrant rhetoric and presidential news, my world felt like options were reduced and I could only see but a few steps ahead.

I also began to reflect and notice the amount of privilege I had. How I could easily travel around the world without having to apply for visas or get too much grief for applying. How I could just show up in Europe, flash my passport and pretty much get past the border without the third degree. It was simple and now I felt that that power was gone. That power to discover the world around me. I couldn’t leave NYC for Bali at the drop of a hat (though I would never do that because I require a little budget and a little planning). I wanted to learn about new cultures, see new sights and try new food. Again, I know I could do this in NYC but I wanted my privilege back, as odd as that sounds as a black female.

I never understood how complex (or how much more complex to be accurate) that life could be until after I started traveling. Learning about how different countries approached subjects like healthcare, democracy, homelessness, gender, etc. It was all so eye opening. But when I was grounded in the Bronx for about 3 months, I knew I had to settle in and just observe my surroundings with the hopes of being reunited with my passport. Observe I did. I saw what my neighbors considered a way of life and how people looked toward various moments of happiness. It was enlightening.

Cut to now. I have my passport and visa and I’m in the UK. I’m dying to book my next big trip (or small trip) and I’m so happy to have some autonomy restored.

 

My Worst Time At The Airport

I didn’t know what lovesick was but I think I figured it out.

I didn’t know what lovesick was but I think I figured it out… a little. I consider myself a robot, someone who is that awkward girl you don’t really hug but you’ll hug everyone else in the group and give me the smile. But when I was at the airport recently, I have to say that was one of the hardest things.

I was dropping my husband off as he had to catch his flight back to London. We were still waiting on my spouse visa to arrive and had a week to spend together after not physically seeing each other for 2 months. It was a wonderful week but then it was over. He had to return and although in my heart I had hoped my visa would have arrived by then and I could fly out with him, it wasn’t the case.

My visa was still in pending mode with no real update in sight. To say I had mild panic and anxiety running through my mind was an understatement. I was positive but it still seemed like something that didn’t have a real end. It just made me nervous. And seeing my husband check in at the airport to head home made it worse. Not only was he leaving, I didn’t have my passport and couldn’t see him unless I got a decision or he booked another trip to visit me.

On the day of his departure, we both were in semi-denial. He hadn’t packed his suitcase and the day before, I got emotional and started crying which made him in cry. I was stressed, sue me! lol Any way, we spent the majority of the day watching Netflix and then walked to Harlem for some fresh air and to grab some pizza. I honestly don’t remember what we talked about, it was probably nothing but the point was, we were trying to pretend there was no flight to catch.

Airports made me think anything was possible but this had taken that feeling away.

When we arrived at the airport, it had lost all it’s magic. The place seemed the same but a feeling of dread came over me. We walked over to the counter so my husband could check in and drop off his bag. The line moved at a decent pace but we stood there kind of silent, just looking at the scenery around us. Soon, we were at the front of line and an agent called us over. She was nice enough but then she asked if I was checking in. I had to say no but then the agent said something unexpected, she asked if I had my passport. She offered to give me a free seat on the flight since it was empty but since my passport was off being evaluated, I couldn’t take her up on her offer. Whether it was a real one or not, it was still saddening. To know how close I was to getting on a plane but losing the opportunity.

The agent told us we could hang around for about 45 minutes before my husband needed to go through security. 45 minutes, it seemed like a lot of time and none at all. We stood outside in the cold for a bit, to get away from all the people crowding the terminal. We talked about how I’d be there really soon and of things we would be able to do together once my visa came through. But then it became too cold so we walked back inside and stood near the security line, the point where ticket holders could progress and regular people had to stay back.

Everyone waiting by the barrier had a look of sadness on their face.

10 minutes of quiet chatter and hugging went by and then it was time. Time for him to go. I knew I would see him again but it still didn’t dull the pain of saying goodbye. He darted off into the security line and I followed the top of his head until I couldn’t see him anymore. Gutted (that’s what the British say, haha), I walked away and stood around in the airport like a zombie. I had no idea what to do. I looked at my phone in hopes of a text message but then, I just walked away. I found myself an Uber and rode home in silence.

That was one of my worst times at the airport but fast forward to today and I’m reunited in London. My visa has arrived and I’m happy and ready for more. Have you all had horrible trips to the airport? Why did it stink?