London: First Impressions

Welcome to London Saint Pancras Station...
As the French attendant at the Gare du Nord checked our bags, she said with a raised eyebrow, “You have too much baggage, it’s two pieces per person.”

“Oh really?” I said in my most incredulous French. I had a backpack, a computer bag, two crammed pieces of luggage, and a tote filled with baguette sandwiches and pastries. It would have cost me half a year’s earnings to get that sort of baggage on RyanAir, but this was a train. Weight wasn’t as much of an issue I thought. “Well we’re moving to London so we had no choice.”

“OK, well, I’ll let you go this time, but you’ve been warned for next time,” she said.

I smiled that sort of satisfied smile that you see in movies when the hero or heroine is about to walk off into the sunset, happily ever after. “There won’t be a next time,” I said, and we walked through customs, onto the Eurostar, and all was right with the world.

Well, everything made it, even if illegally...

Of course London began to prove its worth the moment we stepped off the train at Saint Pancras Station. Carts were available, making the illegal amount of luggage much easier to transport. Win. Wifi was free in the station. Win. The Uber driver spoke English and had no problem telling us where to meet. Win.

My expectations for getting things done had plummeted to the basement in Paris, but London was changing that. All of the sudden, “c’est pas possible” – that’s not possible – isn’t a mantra I expect to live by anymore. I may even be overcompensating a bit by expecting everything to be instant and easy, like the microwaveable mac n cheese that got my through college.

Now nearly three weeks an expatriate in the UK, I feel like everything is possible. Despite tiny, minor setbacks, phones and bank accounts are up and running. It took me nearly three months to open a French account in 2008. The agent just sent a PDF of our apartment contract. I have shopped for groceries on Sunday in the afternoon. I have met my university’s HR rep and fell in love with how efficient she is. I even had my meeting for a National Insurance number already. Everything is coming up roses.

Of course, I’m sure the honeymoon will end at some point. I’ll start to begrudge the crush of the Tube or the insistence on small or large glasses of wine. Do we really need sizes? Work will soon begin, inevitably leading to more complaints. City life is never without its drawbacks, and of course this whole Brexit mess is just one more unexpected thorn I my side.

But for the moment, the sun is shining, I’m settling into a new life, and the exchange rate is excellent. And after all, isn’t that what’s really important?