Loving London doesn’t prevent the occasional bouts of homesickness and culture shock
To any Aussie expat experiencing any kind of culture shock or longing for home, remember that you’re not alone. But don’t lose your patriotism, and don’t lose heart.
I would be lying if I said London wasn’t my favourite city in the world. Growing up I’ve had the opportunity to visit Rome, Milan, New York, Melbourne — but none of those places seemed to excite my soul in the same way.
I knew from a very young age that I needed a kind of adventure. For years I prepared for a university education in the United Kingdom, and on my flight from Brisbane to London it felt like all of my dreams were coming true.
This is why I was so surprised, and even bewildered, when I found myself two months later in my form room in England sobbing for no reason. I didn’t feel like I had a right to miss home because I chose to leave. My English friends (bless them) said that they were getting quite sick of my longing for Australia and told me to get over it.
Suddenly there were new ways of communicating with people, new social customs and different ways of telling jokes to be learnt. I was introduced to the concept of ‘banter’, which meant that I wasn’t allowed to get offended when somebody referred to me as a ‘convict’ or ‘peasant’.
Meanwhile, everybody I had ever known or loved were on the other side of the world. The biggest hurdle was coping without my family. I moved to the UK country alone, so if anything happened to me there was no ‘next of kin’ to call. This was something that I found particularly scary and my life became a balancing act of trying not to miss home, learning the ropes of English culture and focussing on academic and paid work.
I learnt to be more subtle, smile less at strangers and to walk with purpose. I became used to the gazillion strangers on the Tube and the fact that I wasn’t able to talk to any of them.
London sometimes felt like a monster. There were no smiling faces, I had to walk at a fast pace to keep up with the rest of the people and there were noises all around me. I remembered my walks on the Gold Coast – comfortable, at my own pace, and usually relatively quiet.
After seven months of living in Britain, however, I felt like I finally had my feet on the ground. London didn’t feel like a monster anymore. I no longer felt entirely lost or alone and learnt to laugh at the cultural differences. I wish I could have written this to my past self.
To anyone experiencing any kind of culture shock or homesickness, remember that you’re not alone. Don’t let anyone (least of all someone who has never moved countries) tell you that it’s an easy thing to do, or that you’re being weak by missing Australia. Don’t lose your patriotism, and don’t lose heart.
It’s an adventure.
Chloe Westley is from Brisbane, Queensland. She is a Philosophy student at the University of London, with an interest in Australian politics and history.