On Being British – thoughts on where to go next


March 12, 2023

I just got back from Spring Break, in fact, I’m sitting down to write this post after unpacking everything, doing a big grocery shop, and cleaning my apartment after being away for a little bit. I can’t even explain how much I was looking forward to Spring Break; partly because it was a time to relax but mostly because I went back to London and got to see my family!

On this blog I talk a lot about where home is and all those other big feels and emotional topics (what can I say, I’m a deep person!) And one of the things I think about a lot in my own life is where my home actually is; is it in London where I was born and where all my family lives, in Dubai where I partly grew up and go back to most often, or DC where I’m currently living? I’ve unpacked and repacked this whole question so many times on this blog but in today’s post I wanted to reflect on my experience going back to London for Spring Break.

For a couple of years now I don’t think I’ve been back to London for more than a couple of days at a time or when I have, I’ve been working remotely in American hours. The reason I bring this up is to say that for a few years now I’ve not had a chance to just soak up the city and do my favorite things there, I’ve been either there for 12 ish ours on my way to somewhere else (while fighting the jetlag and the lack of sleep from the red eye) or I’ve been there for a couple of weeks but working remotely in American hours (so forcing myself to make the most of going out in British hours and then working late into the night in American hours – basically being too exhausted to do much). And while I’m so happy that I’ve had opportunities to go back from time to time, I feel like I hadn’t experienced the ~magic~ of being in London for a little while until this past week.

I always feel so lucky that I grew up in London. It’s such a special city – I just feel like there’s so much to see and do and experience there. It might sound cliche but I feel like it’s a city with a soul, buzzing and alive with so many different people, no wonder it’s the backdrop to so many movies, books, and TV shows. And even though there are many things that aren’t perfect about London and that I personally make fun of, I feel as though that’s part of the charm of it – it’s a city with an identity.

I feel as though growing up in the UK, there’s a distinct cultural understanding that I haven’t found anywhere else in the world. Even if I’ve been away for a while, I find that when I step foot in London I feel like the mannerisms around me, the personalities, and the phrases I hear people saying are so familiar to me – it feels like I’m being engulfed with a sense of “home.” Sometimes when I’ve had a long week out here in DC, I’ll put on a “distinctly British” show, maybe it’s a Harry Potter movie, and episode of Downton Abbey, or frankly any movie with Hugh Grant in it, but there’s something about those distinctly British depictions and humor that just makes me feel so comforted.

On a day when I’m feeling sad, I’ve found that the things that I think about and the moments that I want to go back to are long summer days or cozy winter nights in London with my family. When watching my “distinctly British” comfort shows, I’ll feel a little pang of sadness that I’m not there but the characters in the show are. Because no matter how amazing my life is out here in DC, and it really is amazing, DC will never be the backdrop that London is. I feel like no other city has so much history, charm, and quirks. In no other city will you wander around a corner and stumble across something completely out of the blue, find independent stores that have been there for centuries, and get completely and utterly drenched in the rain.

After living in DC for a bit I thought I had come to an understanding of where I wanted to end up in the future; I thought it would be nice to stay here for a little while, check out some other American cities and work there, and maybe potentially move back to London at some point. But going back for Spring Break and getting to experience London properly for the first time in a while had me second guessing myself. It’s left me with a lot of questions to ponder over.

It’s hard to untangle my love for the city with all the memories that I’ve had here. How do I know if I want to move back to London because I love the city so much or because it’s the backdrop to a lot of my favorite memories. Could it be that I just love the city so much because of all the great memories I’ve had there and is that an okay reason to want to move back? If that’s the case, wouldn’t I need to give myself a full chance at living somewhere else like DC to make those memories which will then get tangled up with the city and give me those same feelings that I have for London? Too many big questions for my little head!!

I feel like I’d been trying to untangle those two things in making my decision about where to move to next; I’d been trying to separate the backdrop of the city from the memories and experiences I’d had there, just thinking about the backdrop as the only factor in deciding where to go. But should that be the case? Should I just stop overcomplicating the question and just go to the place which I like the most? And could it be that the place which I enjoy the most is really just the place where I’ve not spent the most amount of time recently – hey, the grass is always greener on the other side right? Maybe if I did live in London, I’d find myself yearning for DC again!

One thing I do know is that I’m at least staying in DC for a few years longer, I do like this city and I want to give myself the opportunity to build even more memories and associations here. I feel like I should give it a chance to be the backdrop to lots of new experiences. Also, I know that I’m currently living in the college bubble, so I’m not always fully experiencing everything the city has to offer. Maybe in a couple more years time I’ll get a pulse on what DC’s identity is and will learn to love it. I didn’t come all this way just to immediately go back to what I’m used to, even though it’s nice to know I’ll always have something comforting to cling to.

All I can say with certainty for now is that I’m very much looking forward to spending a couple of weeks in London this summer and that’s the motivation that will get me through the rest of the semester and finals!

See you next week,

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