Just Touched Down in Londontown: Carving out a home

By Margaret Waterman, Staff Writer
@mh_waterman

Downtown London's skyline, near where I work and where I live./ PHOTO BY Margaret Waterman

Downtown London’s skyline, near where I work and live./ PHOTO BY Margaret Waterman

When I stepped off the plane at Heathrow Sunday night on our way home from Amsterdam, I breathed a sigh of relief: “We’re home.”

This got me thinking, almost at once: is London really home? At what moment does the line between “tourist” and “resident” blur? Is it when you no longer need to refer to the subway map? Is it when you get used to everybody’s accents? Is it when you start taking your city for granted?

Luckily, I’m not the sort of person the latter can happen to. I still wander around South Kensington, craning my neck to take in every little detail like it’s not all going to be there when I get back. While none of it feels new anymore, it’s still breathtaking in its own right. To this day, I’m in awe that some of it belongs to me — at least for a little while.

I’ve been here for 82 days and I’m still having new experiences all the time. Whether it’s visiting a new place, meeting someone new or learning a new British custom, I’m constantly taking in new information.

Still, I feel like I really do have an established place here — I’ve got my day-to-day routine, my ever-changing schedule and my own little network of people. My job helps with this, of course. Every day, I’m in my office from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. doing tasks, interacting with people, watching projects begin and end. I’ve got go-to lunch places and little jokes with coworkers.

And yet, I’m not convinced that it’s my right to say that London is my home.

Concord is home, for sure — Boston, too. Soon, I’ll move back to Massachusetts and then New York City and carry on my normal life back in the states. However, it wouldn’t be right to classify London as a “pit stop.”

What makes London so homey is not that it’s beautiful or comfortable or even “Americanized” — it’s the people and my life here. It’s having a job in downtown London that I commute to and from every single day. It’s that the people at the coffee shop next door know my order and my coworkers know how I take my tea. It’s that I love my friends here and feel extremely lucky to be with them, both in London and in our travels. It’s that I know where and when to go.

My friends and I don’t talk about our semester’s impending expiration date (which is less than a month away). We don’t want to “go back to reality.”

Isn’t this what this is, though? Sure, we have a privileged life here in London, living in beautiful South Kensington and traveling every weekend, but it’s come to be our own little niche of the city.

For these four months, this is and has been our reality, and I’ll be sad to see it go. Until the end of April, I’m going to keep enjoying it.

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