Before Emily in Paris, I was Emily in London. While the show itself plays up stereotypes pretty hard, there is a lot about the show that resonates with me. Yes, it makes Americans look remarkably perky and optimistic but to be fair, in comparison to most of the rest of the world, we are very bright-eyed and bushy tailed (especially in our youth). Yes, it makes the French look unwelcoming and snobbish but when you start a new job (or even your old job in a new office) in a new country, you’re bound to ruffle a few feathers just by nature of existing.
Living abroad, you’re torn between this huge feeling of awe that you’re in this historic city, that you’re walking sites from movies and books on your walk to work, and this feeling of loneliness in not knowing a soul and having no one to share this awe with. Except Instagram, of course. When I arrived in London, I was greeted by one of those drivers holding a sign with my name on it. Granted, the poor guy had been standing there for at least an hour as I’d made my way through immigration and baggage claim. It was early evening and while I had been to London once before, I hadn’t driven to/from the airport: I’d spent about 3 hours lost in the airport looking for my friend and then took the tube which is at least 1.5 hours. So I assumed driving into London would take at least half the time. It did not. I can’t tell you why it took so long but I do know that it was still light out when we started off (and it was May so not the time of endless summer evenings) and it was close to 10pm by the time I got to my corporate flat, conveniently next to a pub on a Thursday (but not nearly as charming as the one on Emily in Paris).
And much like Emily in Paris, floors in London do not start on 1, they start on 0 and then 1 and then 2. I was on the 1st floor–which meant I had to lug my life up a flight of stairs, with the kind help of the driver who had double-parked outside and whose wife had obviously been calling him every 10 minutes for the previous hour. Straddled over my bags and trying to work out the skeleton key (and failing), I finally just asked the driver to leave, that I would be fine. I thrust some money at him, hoping it was a generous tip and he scurried off. Finally, I was able to get the door open and go inside where I took a few deep breaths and sought the wifi. It took me far too long to figure out the wifi password which was clearly printed on the front of the envelope that had the key in it but naturally, I went through all the paperwork, emergency chocolate and local wifi networks before I was finally able to send my family an email saying I was safe. And with that, I went to sleep.
You would think that after that, all was well but no. I woke up to someone banging on the door the next morning, saying they were maintenance. I was about to become a stereotyped headline: “Naive American Girl Murdered After Letting a Stranger Inside on First Day Living Abroad”. I considered just ignoring it but then it occurred to me that if it was maintenance, they would just come in with a key themselves and there I’d be in bed clearly ignoring them. They had to do something related to the wifi (again with the wifi!) and CCTV. I mean, I watched the guy work to make sure it seemed legit but for all I know, he installed a secret camera and hijacked my internet activity. Who knows!?
Obviously I am still alive despite these mishaps but there were plenty of times where I felt lonely and friendless in a foreign city (many brownies were consumed as a result). However, I eventually found my stride and had my own late nights of karaoke and wine for years to come. So when you find yourself in a new situation and overwhelmed, do as the British do: keep calm and carry on.