An English gent in LA: my expat adventure

Posted: May 10, 2011 in Expat, Los Angeles, Writing

The TelegraphExpat Life

I am finding that emigrating is sort of like being sucked into a spiralling tornado: you’re not quite sure how everything is going to look when you arrive at the other end, wherever that may be.

When I lived in LA... James explores his new home

As anyone who has relocated to a different country knows, it is one of the most exhilarating and nauseating experiences you can put yourself through.

Start with the paperwork. As I explained to friends, just have a think about how many letters arrive through your letter box in an average month and then start to build a mental picture of all the mailing lists you need to end, contracts you have to cancel, accounts you need to transfer, utilities you need to tie up…

When I received my United States work visa in late January, after months of immigration hurdles to jump over, the start date of 21 March for my new job in Los Angeles seemed an age away.

Little did I appreciate at that point the level of administrative paperwork I would have to go through before I left. At times it felt like I was tying up all my finances and commitments in preparation for my own funeral, especially when I laid everything out in front of my mum so she had a record of everything should she ever need it while I’m abroad. And the truth is – there’s no guide for what you need to do when you leave the UK. In the absence of a handy ‘out of the country’ auto-responder on all enquiries as to your whereabouts, who are you supposed to tell that you’re no longer around?

Paperwork and Wizard-of-Oz-style continent-shifting aside, I’m already two weeks in and so far the move has been a reassuringly good one. One key thing I’ve learnt already is to just assume that everything will take a lot longer than you think it might, and cost a heck of an amount more than you think it should. Keeping that at the forefront of your mind means nothing will be too much of a challenge.

One of the upsides is the transition in rental offer. Everything I own that once squeezed into my tiny room in West London now occupies barely more than a corner of my rather sizeable flat by Griffith Park, rather like a Mini rattling around an empty freeway.

Another is that people endlessly find my accent quite the entertaining overture to a conversation about my reasons for being here, particularly when I say the words ‘photo’ or ‘arse’.

Another truth about emigration is that it opens your eyes to the possibilities of what your future will look like, and makes you think of all the variants you’ll use to finish the sentence you inevitably utter in years to come when speaking to friends and family: ‘when I lived in LA’.

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