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  • Writer's pictureMagdalena Chauca

Sometimes it's best to keep certain places as a holiday destination...

Okay, some blog posts sitting in my drafts and it's about time I cleaned 'em up. So let's start with the main big update - 1.5 years in the UK and we've worked out we're just not going to be able to do it long-term.

Upon moving to London after our stint in Peru, we had a lovely time tourist-ing around and experiencing all that a city of 9 million has to offer. Which, considering its size, we had thought Supermarkets might at least stay open a little later on Sundays... but, I digress. After two months of fun, things started to take a bit of a turn. Honestly, we started noticing many more negative factors that I simply hadn't even thought about as a possibility. The customer service is - and I'm going to be frank here - rude and very often lazy. I've had a number of positive customer-service encounters that I can count on one hand compared to the numerous bewildering, unbelievable or in some cases, concerning, interactions. After experiencing London's rental market, rising cost of living and abysmal minimum wage, I can't really blame them. I suspect part of the reason for the bad mood there is economic hardship and post-covid stress. I wish I could say that we loved London the same way I had when I went there 5 years ago, but sadly, I can't. There are aspects to the city I will always appreciate and I'll continue to enjoy visiting to experience from time-to-time, but I can't say I think of it as an extremely "liveable" city for the average Joe or Joanne.

After moving from London to Edinburgh last July, we had a change of pace and priorities which went really well for a few months. We saw the fringe festival, had friends and family visit, joined a hiking club and enjoyed many drams of whiskey. But there were of course some typical-for-the-UK issues that were sure to follow us up. The two-bed flat we rented definitely had inadequate ventilation, some mould and was left to us in an unacceptable state when we moved in. In our first-and-only London flat, we had a similar issue with the building ventilation unit not being up to regulation level, and this explained a lot of health issues that we've experienced since moving to the UK. The way so many UK houses have been built seems to makes them a breeding ground for damp and dust.

Don't even get me started on the bureaucracy involved with getting anything set up anywhere in the UK. I've heard some lament that it can be just as bad in Italy, Spain, or Greece - but at least they have their wine, food and sun to make up for dealing with any of that!

In terms of sun and weather, it doesn't really matter if you're in England or Scotland as far as I'm concerned. The weather is always going to be tough for a Kiwi who has spent 25 years of their life seeing the sun past 5pm, no matter what the time of year is. There have been an apparently record number of rainstorms in the UK this year and you learn one thing from that; you can't move to the UK relying on pleasant weather for any part of the year. London is too hot in the Summer and too cold and dark in the winter. Scotland has 2 weeks of a real summer and the rest might as well be written off as a misty and windy, often miserably sun-absent affair. Although the ambiance does provide a kind of beauty that can be admired if only visiting for a brief holiday.

Returning to some of the health affects - after switching hemispheres, I quite honestly thought I had developed long-Covid. There was a period of six to nine months where I was ill constantly, contracting a cold that lasted a minimum of a week every three weeks. I was so consistently tired that getting out of bed felt more like dragging my unwilling rag-doll of a body to participate in the land of the living. I had to say no to a number of temporary work opportunities. Finding and working a full-time job amongst all of it was just not possible. Cut to daylight saving finally ending and the sun's glorious rays returning, and I had somewhat of an epiphany. I wasn't just getting moody from the sicknesses I was now prone to catching - I was experiencing seasonal depression. I had heard of SAD before, I just had not known quite how severe it could be, or that it could make physical sickness feel 10x worse. The second winter we spent in the UK was definitely more manageable, even though it was in Scotland... but it wasn't what I'd call enjoyable by any stretch of the imagination. I think one of the things that might've made it bearable, was spending a month back home in the warmth of New Zealand's summer over Christmas and New Year!

I'm not saying all this simply to bash the United Kingdom. I'm sure there are perfectly good reasons to make a life here. Also, if this is where you were born, it seems more likely to me that the sun and weather patterns would be less of a problem and more of a fact of life! Some of the best people I know have come from this country - with unique ways of looking at the world and dealing with issues thrown their way. And that might be because of the resilience they have from growing up in what can be a bit of a harsh island at times! But I know people who have moved here from Italy, Colombia, Spain, and obviously, New Zealand. They all have had health issues develop and grow worse while being in this country. They all find the long and dark winters a real struggle to push through, and they all plan to move to much sunnier places as soon as their work or living situation allows. So I guess, what I'm trying to say is, before considering a move to the UK from a sunnier place - take stock. What you had planned to be a move and multi-year settlement might shift on account of a few run-ins, but try and enjoy the ride. Remember changing your mind is perfectly acceptable, and deciding that some places are better-off enjoyed as a tourist is also allowed. Plenty of people simply enjoy visiting rather than moving to where I'm from - and that's fine with me!

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