One year in London: How it started/how it's going.

One year in London: How it started/how it's going.

Shikha Kaiwar

We've officially been in London for one year! To keep me from blabbing on forever, I'll cover how it started and how it's going now.

How it started

Those close to me knew that I needed to get out of San Francisco. Like anyone else living their twenties, the city gave me my best and worst experiences, but it had drained me of creativity and purpose. So when we got the chance to move to London with Orlando's job, I jumped on it, even if it meant getting a very romantic domestic partnership at a random UPS store in Santa Fe, New Mexico (which according to the front desk guy/our notary, was the third one he signed for that week) and moving during full lockdown.

January 31, 2021. Nothing was open and wouldn't be for another four months. I knew it would be lonely. In a Notes post titled "London living," I jotted down observations over those first few months and decided that the sooner I assimilated ("streaky bacon" is bacon, hummus is "houmous," etc), the less tough it would be. I'd assumed that since we moved to an English speaking country and I am a byproduct of British colonialism x 2 (India and America), it wouldn't be too hard to adjust.

But of course, culture is much more than language. It's all the spoken and unspoken rules that come with it.

I was also fucking cold those first few months. My weak California ass had never lived in seasonal weather, especially not weather that dipped to -2° C (that's 28.4°F for my American readers. Yes I use Celsius now and yes I do think I'm cool for it). I'd been more than ready to leave the Bay Area but damn, could London give a girl a little sun now and then?!

These were just the boxes for our kitchen....

How it's going

A goal of moving had been to surround myself with creatives in and out of food. San Francisco was a bustling but expensive city that over the years had priced out the misfits. London is 13 times bigger than San Francisco and filled with generations buoyed by socialised medicine, affordable groceries, and one of the best public transportation systems in the world. If I didn't find my people, I'd truly be an idiot.

A beauty of moving to a place where you know so few people is that you say yes to everything. Desert island themed house party? I'll bring the sand. 8am Zoom writers' hours? See you there. Trip to Lisbon where we only know four people? Bought my flight.

Where saying yes in San Francisco felt pointless, saying yes here has felt exhilarating and hopeful.

Pastry and Writing
I spent my entire time in San Francisco living two identities—a left-brained 9-5 tech worker and a right-brained pastry chef and writer struggling to express myself. Since being in London, I have slowly been shifting towards the latter. I've become a lot more confident in introducing myself as who I really am, not who society thinks I should be. Don't get me wrong, a girl still gotta pay bills, but by surrounding myself with a community that values passion over mindless grinding, I now see a world in which I can actually do what I love for a living...starting with this newsletter! Thank you to the subscribers in getting me a tiny step closer, and for those who don't subscribe—we can still be friends, but consider a sub won't you?

A new way to be Indian
I've always either been Indian-American in India or Indian-America in America. Being here has brought on a new person—being Indian-American in Britain. There are people who look like me everywhere, and many of them have been here for generations. Every single Indian person I knew in the US was either an immigrant or first-generation like me, but not here. And when I shop at the Indian grocery store (which by the way, is a million times better than any Indian store in the Bay Area), the owner speaks to me Hindi; in my LIFETIME of being in the Bay Area, the Indian grocery store owners never did this.

There's an understanding here that we are from and in the diaspora but we haven't forgotten our roots. And it is awesome.
Hosting our first Diwali!

"It is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress." - James Clear, Atomic Habits

Living someplace new for a year is a long time but also no time at all. I'm not an expert at being in a Londoner, nor have I adjusted fully. But in all its fogginess and tiny ass fridges, I'm happy to be here.

And since a lot of you ask me what the biggest differences are between London and the Bay, I'll end on a small light hearted listicle of my observations. Debate and discuss in the comments or DM me on the gram!

  1. Dentists are way more aggressive. You'd think that due to the nature of British teeth, dentists aren't doing a good job. But not only did they give me a play by play of everything I do wrong with oral care, they zapped plaque outta there so forcefully that my mouth was sore for days afterwards. Maybe they thought I was a better candidate for intense teeth cleaning by being American?
  2. British dogs are the happiest dogs I've ever seen. They're rarely on leash and their recall is impeccable. They're also constantly covered in mud, so shout-out to the owners who must be giving them a bath every single day??
  3. It really doesn't rain that much. And it's actually quite sunny during the summer!

4. MFers love rhubarb. I'd probably eaten rhubarb twice in my life, but it pops up on nearly every single dessert menu here. I can't quite explain why it's so enormously British to eat rhubarb, but it is.

5. Foxes. While America has raccoons, London has foxes—bigger, cuter, and less scary...I think. I'm not going to go cross a fox to test that out. British TikTok has some good videos on fox encounters, so this is a thing.

Related posts: To read about my 2021 culinary wrap, go here.