London increasingly dominates UK headlines these days, from the tedious Heathrow third runway saga to ongoing Tube strikes. It’s arguably mightier than ever; a once exclusively British capital, now a world city and a true city-state in waiting, akin to Singapore sprinting away from laggard Malaysia. But concerns are growing over whether it’s a good place to live.
There is no doubt that London has been enormously successful in recent years, even getting past the 2008 financial crisis with aplomb (while the rest of the nation suffered). The UK capital hosted the 2012 Olympic Games, and celebrated both the Diamond Jubilee and the Royal Wedding:
But despite this, many residents are not happy, it seems, and are packing their bags (and are telling the world they are packing their bags):
Do you currently live in London and share some of the concerns cited? Are you hoping to move to London, perhaps, or have you left already? Interested in your views!
Finding the right job can be tough, especially in these crazily uncertain times. The best approach, in my experience at least, is to build relationships with people to uncover opportunities – what the experts have traditionally called “networking”, but in practice means simply being matey with the right connections. This is what most professionals do when they are not working, i.e. 75% of the time.
But what if you don’t know anyone, for example when starting out? You could “blag” your way in (full marks are often awarded to the bold in life), or you could try the next best thing: a jobs website. Word of warning: not all opportunities are as they appear, as is often the case with recruitment, so stay wary:
- Escape the City – a website sprung from the loins of London’s financial district, Escape the City offers, as the name suggests, exciting opportunities for professionals away from the corporate treadmill. While there are openings with NGOs and startups all over the world, a question remains in my mind after a quick scan: can anyone truly “escape the city” through becoming a Marketing Director or Commercial Analyst?
- Jobbatical – Born in startup-mad Estonia, Jobbatical focuses on listing career break opportunities around the world, away from the day job (job + sabbatical). An intriguing idea, since applicants can combine work with memorable experiences in new countries. And who wants to sit on a beach for 2 weeks anyway?
- Global Nomadic Jobs – Global Nomadic now lists paid jobs, in addition to exciting volunteer experiences and internship placements. There is a tag cloud with “social media” displayed as the biggest term, so I’m guessing that’s what users are mostly interested in!
- Idealist – A website advertising opportunities to people who want to do good in the world, Idealist is currently listing some 13,000 jobs around the world, mostly youth and education-related.
- And lastly, Asia Hired. Run by a mate of mine, hence its inclusion. Robin, I’ll have that beer, thanks.
Have I missed any?
LDR sounds like a municipal transport system, doesn’t it? I was told that it stood for Long Distance Relationship – something that can be every bit as draining as a rammed commuter service.
Many of us who choose to work overseas will also have to choose between work and relationships. This is tough. Actually, it’s bloody awful. But that’s how it is.
In some cases, the LDR will be allowed to trundle on in stop-start fashion, like the crowded train into work (will end the transport analogies now). So here are very simple ways of keeping a very complicated dream alive:
- Keep talking. Two-way communication is vital. Fortunately there are apps that can keep the conversation going, from WhatsApp to software designed with couples in mind, but I’d suggest voice calls. Txt msgs r not rmntic.
- Encourage visits. It has to work both ways. Once a year (probably) isn’t enough. Pay for the air ticket if you have to – after all, you’re the one buggering off to pastures new.
- Entertain yourself to, ahem, release the pressure. You can probably work out what I mean. But do avoid dalliances with others, however tempting. It’s wildly common, in my experience, and a recipe for disaster. There is an exception: if you have secured your partner’s consent (see 1). And yes, I do know people who have gone down that path…
- A good way of remaining a good boy or girl is to hang out with mates you can trust. Socialise with the right people therefore.
- Never forget important dates – birthday, Valentines, seasonal celebrations and the like. Forgetting a big day can be a heart-stopping moment.
- Keep yourself occupied. It will take your mind off the stress of keeping the LDR going. Build that business, climb that mountain, knit that scarf.
But ultimately, do LDRs actually work? What do the experts think?
Working abroad is an adventure. It can sometimes get overwhelming, threatening the expat’s psychological health. Here are simple suggestions for maintaining positive mental wellbeing:
- Take a break in your adopted country. Everyone needs a bolt-hole (the metaphorical garden shed), and many cities have well-known retreats – Moganshan, for example, is an established getaway for Shanghai urbanites.
- If that doesn’t work, retreat to your home country. This is the ultimate sanctuary. Take as long as you need – work out of your home office if you can.
- Many of us, of course, can’t do either. So, seek refuge in the city by pampering yourself. This could be fine dining, spa treatment or a luxury overnight stay (as strange as it seems).
- Join a spiritual or support group. Church is not just for church-goers; go there and sit in calm, reflective silence.
- Wherever you are, take a step back and reflect on the big picture. This fundamentally alters your perspective. Instead of dwelling on gritty travails and setbacks, think about how far you’ve come. Expat life is a brave move, so congratulate yourself.
- Seek professional counsel. Some problems will not go away and could perhaps worsen. While you might have great friends, they are not necessarily experts when it comes to mental health issues.
- The last option, I’d argue, is to quit altogether if things get too rough. Many of us are encouraged to leave one’s comfort zone; stay out of it for too long and there can be repercussions.
Finding friends in a foreign environment can be tough. Here are 7 top tips:
- Begin at work. Your new colleagues will probably be the only local you know, and certainly trust in the first instance. They will be warm and welcoming – so respond to this. If they invite you out for lunch or a drink, join them. It’s your golden opportunity to cement friendships inside the office, and through them you will have new friend-making opportunities.
- Join an expat group. As above, they will be welcoming too. Every expats will be in the same position. Go along to an activity or two, and see what happens.
- Find a hobby. “Hobbies” might seem a quaint term these days, but they still have appeal. Whether it’s yoga or shooting, a hobby can introduce you to like-minded people.
- Similar to the above, language classes are logically a great way to meet other glomads. With a new language under your belt, you will also make more progress in your adopted country.
- Go digital. Open a social media account and share your experiences with others. Through social media you will discover new people.
- Be wary of local customs and practices if you are looking to make local friends. One wrong move, however inconsequential it might seem, can ruin a relationship for good.
- If all else fails, go to the bar and drink (a tip that can be applied to many situations). Many foreigners like bars. The downside with this approach, however, is that shallow relationships are born.