Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My first 1.5 month as resident in the UK

Now a Londoner

Time flies; I have now officially been living in the United Kingdom for almost 1.5 month and don’t think that the penny has dropped yet. What I mean by that is that London feels kind of like Stockholm and any other big city in the world, albeit bigger than the capital of Sweden of course. I’m used to travelling a lot and using English as the communications language in my work every day, so it almost feels like I’m on an extended business trip. I have not yet realized the full implications of not living in my own home country anymore.

I finally found a place to live and “moved in” to a 2-bedroom apartment in Earls Court on October 1st. Well, actually my furniture didn’t arrive from Sweden until Wednesday the 3rd, and the apartment was not really ready to move into, but you can read more about that under “Cons” below. Here’s a list of random impressions of pros and cons of living in London:


1. Alessia, the Italian girl I met at the New York Salsa Congress earlier this fall, let me stay at her place near London Bridge for almost 1.5 week when I first arrived in London, while I was looking for flats. Both she and her flat mates, Turker and Joanna, were really friendly and hospitable, which gave me a nice first introduction to London.

2. On my very first night in London, Alessia invited me and another Italian salsera, Martina, along for dinner with Filippo, Luis and Yon in the boys’ top-floor apartment in Tower House with a roof terrace and marvellous view over London at walking distance from Aldgate East tube station.

3. Friendly salsa scene with lots of good dancers, some of them very handsome and charming too! :-) I now know where to go on what week-night.

4. Borough Market next to Southwark Cathedral on Saturdays – this is a well-stocked market-place with everything imaginable in one place; from fish, vegetables, huge pumpkins, and flowers, to wine from all over the world, all sorts of French and Stilton cheese, British jam and marmalades, all sorts of tea, sausages and salami... Next to Southwark Cathedral you can also get freshly made crêpes.

5. I like my new job. Symbian develops and licenses Symbian OS, the market-leading open operating system for smartphones. My colleagues are really friendly and welcoming and there are enough challenges to keep me motivated for a good while, I think.

6. Successful Symbian Smartphone Show at the ExCeL Centre and a great party.

7. London has many cool and trendy restaurants with really good food and I have already found a few that I imagine that I will return to many times:
  • Ping Pong on Eastcastle Street in SoHo near Oxford Circus – really good Asian fusion cuisine and fantastic cocktails.

    Luis, Filippo, Alessia, one of her former colleagues and friend at Alessia's birthday dinner at Ping Pong in October
  • Busaba Eathai, a Thai restaurant near Goodge Street in SoHo – excellent food, busy environment (not really the place if you want a romantic setting for two but perfect if you go with a group of friends) with friendly and service-minded staff.

    Mimmis, Luis & Martina at Busaba Ethai

  • Strada, a chain of Italian restaurants in England – good food at very decent prices in a nice, cosy setting.

  • Med Kitchen on Charing Cross Road, around the corner from Bar Salsa – fabulous pasta, however too heavy prior to dancing because you cannot help but eat all! ;-)
8. Wicked Halloween party at Tower House – lots of people, all really friendly and easy-going in truly international, cosmopolitan spirit; a mix of French, Italians, Spaniards, even a few Swedes, but I only met one Brit all night, and he was standing rather shyly in a corner of the roof terrace talking to no one before I walked up to him.

9. Nice walks along the river Thames – I like all the bridges and the way that the afternoon light and sunset glows on them.

Potters Fields Park
Tower Bridge

Cheyne Walk near Battersea Bridge
London Eye

10. The fact that most museums in England do not cost anything to enter. I went to the Tate Modern with colleagues to see an illusionist art exhibition and had a relaxing afternoon doing something I normally don't.

Spider statue outside Tate Modern - St. Paul's Cathedral in the background

11. The custom of British men (and for that matter women too) often calling you “love”, “hon’” (as in “honey”) or “darling” instead of “miss”, “Ma’am” or “Madam” – e.g. “Sorry, darling” when they bump into you or “Go ahead, love” when they step out of your way in the street. Wonderful! :-)


1. Foxtons, Foxtons, Foxtons! I’ve had nothing but issues related to the landlord and the lettings agency Foxtons since I moved in. Did you know that there is a "We hate Foxtons" web site?!

2. Breach of contract - repainting not completed until Monday this week despite Addendum to my tenancy agreement clearly stating that, “The landlord will repaint all walls of the flat in the same neutral colour prior to the commencement of the tenancy” (which was October 1st).

3. Delayed and below-standard cleaning when I moved in which meant I have had to take care of the following issues myself:

  • Removing mud and filth in the detergent compartment and filter of the washing-machine.
  • Removing years’ worth of dirt on all skirting boards, door frames and top of doors.
  • Cleaning curtains / roller blinds and air vents.
  • Cleaning of cupboards and removing old, torn posters and a broken laundry rack in the hallway cupboard and dirty shelf papers stuck with tape or blue tac in bedroom cupboards (what I call general "junk").
  • Cleaning dirty and greasy kitchen fan (fan also in need of new filter).
  • Removing remnants of old food splatter in the top of the inside of the microwave.

4. Due to the cleaning not having been done upon delivery of all my furniture and belongings from Sweden, my moving company was not able to complete its work and unpack. So not only did I have to perform the cleaning on my own, but also all the unpacking.

5. Broken boiler meaning I had no hot water or heating the first 11-13 days of my tenancy.

This is the London rental market for you – a disgrace!

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