I MOVED to the UK in June 2009. I was drawn to London as I wanted to travel and see Europe whilst working at the same time — luckily working in the tourism and hospitality industry is the perfect platform for this. I am the Social Catering Sales Manager at Hyatt Regency London — The Churchill. My job involves looking after all of the social events at the hotel from weddings, bar mitzvahs, birthdays, diplomatic events, and Christmas parties. I am the client’s planner/manager from the initial show round, through to being there on the day of their special event. It means some less the sociable hours and weekend work but I love what I do.
I originally came here on a two year working holiday visa. I come from a very close knit family and I had not travelled far from Australia before, with the exception of a two week holiday to Thailand. My family and friends all had bets on whether or not I would last three months. I still can’t believe it myself, but I have been here for four years now. I think my parents and family are beginning to wonder when or if I will ever go home. I guess as the saying goes time flies when you’re having fun.
I remember thinking when I moved that as a Sydney girl, London wouldn’t be that big and scary, especially as Sydney is very cosmopolitan. To my complete surprise it was three times the size and much more cosmopolitan and multicultural then I could have imagined. A highlight has been the exposure to the different cultures and people that I have been able to plan events for; from Muslim, to Asian, to Jewish weddings/events and the different religions and symbolism I have learnt and been a part of. Being able to share in peoples celebrations and getting to build a special rapport with them, is simply quite amazing.
There is a difference in the scale and size of the hospitality and tourism market between Australia and the UK, as well as the customer cultures both internal and external and the overall demand and supply in the market. I also think that the work ethic and work culture is completely different; Australians are a lot more laid back, and it’s a lot bigger and more competitive market in London. I would tell Australians in this industry to be prepared for higher client expectations and longer working hours. You have to work hard to get the business. Hopefully however the fast paced, dynamic and competitive nature of the London market will be a stepping-stone to help enable me to work in other countries around the world.
If anything, the UK has beaten my expectations. I was always really excited to come abroad to live, work and travel, and the last four years have been an amazing roller coaster ride both personally and professionally. I have really grown up here and come to learn so much about myself. I came over with no job, no family, no friends and nowhere to live, and now I feel really at home. The advice I would give to anyone coming over is to be prepared to put yourself out of your comfort zone. Don’t arrive and move into an Aussie/Kiwi flat share, mix it up and that way you’ll meet lots more people.
The most obvious thing that I don’t always like about the UK is the weather and I know that many English friends and colleagues will agree with me! For example, leaving for work and travelling back home in the dark during the winter can be quite tough. However on the flip side when the sun is out, I’m like most of the English and hit the nearest common with my book, some drinks and my bikini.
There are so many spots across London that I love — it’s hard to choose. I guess I would have to say Camden and Portobello Markets, but most of all I love South London where I live. There are so many great bars and restaurants that my friends and I go to. One new little discovery is a place called the Jam Tree just off Clapham Common. They have a secret back room that you have to open up a bookcase to get in to and the food and service is really great too.
I do miss Australian weather, the beaches and my family and friends. Not to mention Caramello Koalas, Twisties and Tim Tams! I try to go home at least once a year to get my Australian dose, although each time it is harder to leave the family. However, when I touch down in the UK again, I always get that same excitement I had when I first arrived four years ago. I guess it’s a sign that I’m not ready to leave here yet.