A summer ago we walked through Italy, Ralf with the phone to his ear. A negotiation for work. Was this the moment when we would get more clarity? After all speculations whether or not we would move abroad. England, America? Secretly we had already talked about it a lot, because within his work there would probably come a time that this would happen: the step to Global. Anyway, it caused me to give myself unconsciously the time to prepare myself mentally for that moment. That the redeeming word would come out: “We are going to move abroad.” And it happened, he got the job in London.
From then on, everything went all very fast. We sold our house in the Netherlands and got ready to cross the channel with our entire household effects. I can still remember the moment that Lara and I said goodbye at the Dutch airport. Ralf had already traveled from a congress in Milan to London. We would meet again at Heathrow Airport. With a lump in my throat and a last look over my shoulder I passed the gates. Bye lovely Netherlands. It felt so strange, so definitive. Even though I knew that we wouldn’t move to the other side of the world and would probably visit the Netherlands regularly.
The first month of our stay in London felt like a holiday in England. We stayed in a serviced accommodation in the middle of South Kensington surrounded by parks, trendy bars, luxury boutiques and beautiful restaurants. Secretly we deliberately chose to spend the first period in South Kensington, because we knew we wouldn’t live there in the end. But really wanted to experience that ultimate London vibe. And so we did.
Sometimes I found it difficult to understand that London would become our new hometown. I certainly didn’t felt foreign to be part of a big city, because I’ve always lived in a city. Despite the fact that London is a lot bigger. But perhaps it was more the thought that we would have to rebuild everything in another country. Finding a new home, nursery, school, doctor, dentist, social contacts. You delve into a different healthcare system and insurances and have to manage everything again. And what about work? London is considerably expensive, what is financially most practical when you have children? Those kind of questions were quickly central.
We had a month to find a suitable home for ourselves. During a familiarization visit in August last year, Ralf and I got the time to explore some neighborhoods in London. Because we wanted to live close to Ralf’s work, we mostly orientated on the West part of the city. It soon became clear that we wanted to live in Chiswick. A very child-friendly neighborhood with sufficient facilities, good schools and lots of greenery. And so we could easily filter our hunt to find a nice property in London.
In the end, after a few visits, we immediately fell in love with a beautiful authentic house. Surrounded by trees, in the middle of Chiswick with the High Road around the corner, a long street full of shops, pubs and restaurants. The house that we found is a real cottage, dated from 1600. A monument that I never thought I would ever live in. And talking about ‘living experience‘, this might be the ultimate one when you’re living in England. What I think at least.
We soon moved in and our new home felt very familiar. The atmosphere, beautiful ornaments and the combination with our own furniture eventually made it to a nice place where we could felt at home for the coming period. Not only for Ralf and I, but also for our daughter Lara. Who moved to the other side of the sea with her parents at the age of two-and-a-half. As she would describe it by herself.
We have never really worried about Lara, after a previous move in the Netherlands this would be her second. Although it’s a much bigger step, but given her age, that won’t probably make any difference for her. I’m glad that she is still so young and can pick everything up gradually, like it’s the most normal thing in the world.
Because she also went to nursery in the Netherlands and we didn’t want her to fall behind in her social development, we decided to place her directly at a nursery in our neighborhood. Moreover, we also wanted her to acquire the second language as soon as possible. Only a few hours a week, but good enough to start with.
Lara is a social child and likes to make new friends. In all her enthusiasm she makes easy contact. It’s so cute to see how she often uses both languages on those moments. A mix between Dutch and English, which is easy for us to understand. But not always for the English children and sometimes that could causes confusion. But in the end children always know how to save themselves, weither it’s with words or with hands and feet.
We generate more social contacts here in England as well. And that’s also important, since we had to leave all our loved ones in the Netherlands. Fortunately we can still see each other when they are visiting us or when we make a trip to the Netherlands. But the nice moments and activities that you regularly do together with friends and family you naturally want to continue that. And therefor you have to met new people when you’re living abroad.For many we’re now also known here as the hospitable couple who loves good food. We reguraly visit a restaurant, food market or local eatery together or organise dinners at our home. Something that would probably never change.
But despite that it’s not always easy to live abroad and I really miss my friends and family when I feel a bit sad sometimes. Fortunately, I’m not the only one in Chiswick (and London) who is in such a similar situation, so it’s nice that you can share you’re experiences together.
In the end, we’re all settled down and do certainly feel at home. I’m also grateful that our daughter is allowed to experience this at a young age and that she will be raised bilingual. And the though that she will turn four in January, she’s growing so fast. In England it means that she will start Primary School in September next year. Till then she will join a new nursery class for fifteen hours a week. Something she is really excited about.
A year ago I started this blog, with the main goal to share our London life. Not only through my eyes but also from my daughter, Lara. In the end it helped me also to get on with my creativity in a certain way by using text, images and a bit of styling. Let’s say that it was a nice and helpful outlet for me. But also good to combine with the daily routine and most important, fun for both while we we are exploring the streets of London and beyond.
For now I will continue with the Urban Notulist, because I really like to work on it and after a great first year in London we haven’t even seen the half of it. Looking forward to start the next one and to see what it will bring us. Stay tuned!