On the 4th of March 2008 we landed in Heathrow after a pleasant flight with British Airways. We had a big suitcase each and made our way on the tube to North London. It was a long journey.
Before setting our move to London in stone we planned a little break to explore the city together in December. The idea was to have a feel if London could actually become our home. We stayed with friends and had a good time. London was easy to navigate and it felt right for us.
For the first week we had arranged to stay at my auntie’s place. Her husband was away in some golf trip with his friends. It turned out he did not even know that we were staying there. Still to this date I don’t know why he couldn’t know about it.
We were not very close but I had stayed at my cousin’s (her daughter that lives just a few houses away on the same street) place before many years ago and it was really nice to stay there. Even though we had microwaved meals all the time, they were Marks & Spencer’s meals so cannot complain much.
We dropped our bags and went for a little trip in London. As exhaustion kicked in we returned looking forward to a good night’s sleep. Turned out that we were actually going to sleep on the floor in the living room. No mattress. Just carpet and sleeping bags.
I never wrote about this first week in London in much detail as at the time I did not want to worry our families.
It was so tough. Dealing with all the uncertainties, looking for a place to stay and for work and not feeling comfortable where we were staying.
To add to the fact that we were sleeping on the floor we were having to wake up around 7am as there was no way my little cousin’s routine of breakfast and TV before school was going to be disrupted for a week.
Very soon we realised that finding work would have to wait and so we focused only in finding a place to stay. Not even realising how big of a task finding accommodation in London really was (and still is).
That week would not really be that bad if only we could shower whenever we wanted or needed. But no. My auntie made it clear that weekly showers were a thing. So showers had to be negotiated. Also needed to happen in a certain way not to waste water and to leave the bathroom exactly as we found it. I considered getting a haircut to just being able to wash my hair. My boyfriend did that.
We managed to open bank accounts on the first couple of days which was really good as you need one to get a salary. Unless you work cash in hand (which is not ideal).
The days were spent out of the house figuring out what to do next. We would stay out as many hours as possible as at home we felt like we were always in the way.
As we were trying to keep expenses to a minimum most days we ended up having dinner at Burger King in Leicester Square. It actually became like a ritual for us. We would spend hours there talking after eating. Calls to our family back in Portugal were frequently made from there too. At some point we would go through the highs and lows of our day and that somehow helped us getting through that week.
On Gumtree we posted an ad saying we were looking for a room and replied to a few ads on there. Very quickly we got a message from a Portuguese guy that read our ad and was going to have a room available soon. The problem was that it was not available until later in the month and we were not in a position to wait. Still we went there to see the room and to meet him. All was good so we said we would move in as soon as possible.
Now we needed to find short-term accommodation as there was no way we could extend our stay. After many hours we found the perfect place in Kilburn where we could stay for a couple of weeks. We went to see the room and meet Natalie, the owner. Not long after we left we called her back saying we would to say we would take it.
It was such a massive relief to be able to move on soon and finally have a bed to sleep.