My London Project


I’m going to share even more about my life.. ! Yay!

There are many times while writing this blog that I have wished I had started writing earlier. I wish I had documentation on my first explorations of London when everything was new and overwhelming. It would be nice to go back even further, to when I was living in Japan and travelling in Asia. I wish I had a diary of that weird and wonderful time in my life.20160720_Primrose_hill_sunset_0471In that spirit, I have started a series on my life in London for posterity. In the next month or so I am going to share how I’m living and the ups and downs of big city life, because even though right now it is the normal and every day, I know one day I will look back wistfully, at least I hope I will.

I started with my visa story and hope to have a few more posts for you in the coming month on:

  • A day in the life
  • How I’m living
  • work work work work work work….
  • Why I love living here
  • My London Tour: Where I will take you if you come to visit
  • anything else I can think of..

Is there anything else you want to read? Let me know and I’ll add it to the mix..

I’ll leave you with some pics I took on Primrose Hill one night after work last week. Summer has finally come to London and I can’t get enough of the parks and outdoors.20160720_Primrose_hill_sunset_0464



Such a beautiful skyline..

Thanks for joining me, Andie xxx



My London: Visa Journey

20160710_visa_extension_pics_0410Like every Kiwi who has lived in London over two years, we have a bit of a story to tell about how we managed to stay. In fact, you can almost guarantee when meeting expats over here, conversation will invariably come around to visa arrangements. It’s something that bubbles away in the back of all of our minds whether we have a renewal date looming, or have just come through the battle fields of visa application.

As my current visa is due to expire very soon (in August), it’s something that has been on my mind a little more often lately. My visa story is very much intertwined with my relationship. It’s based on my relationship that I have been able to stay in England for as long as I have. I talked a bit here about how Ben and I have followed each other around the world, and had some enforced periods apart due to visa and travel.

To catch you up: I went to Japan to teach English after university. Ben followed me after 6 months or so and stayed for a year. As his visa was coming to an end we were thinking about the next steps, I knew I didn’t want to stop travelling. I was filled with wanderlust after seeing what I had of Asia, I knew I couldn’t go home yet. Europe was calling.

I grew up listening to my mum and her friends recounting stories of their travels in and around Europe in the early 80’s. Tales of seedy men in Morocco, smuggling jeans into Russia, early Contiki tours and Kiwi hubs in South West London with intrepid travellers posting on notice boards looking for travel buddies.  I wanted to experience it all.

As Ben has a British passport, it was a no brainer for us to head to England next. So Ben headed off to set us up and I followed, in what turned out to be months after due to a family wedding in NZ.

As my mum, and countless other antipodeans before me and after me, I came to England on a two year working holiday visa. Two years went by in a flash and we quickly decided we didn’t want to leave when my visa was up. So we started exploring options to stay. This is where the really helpful network of Kiwi friends came in. Someone always knew of someone who had done it before and could get us lots of advice.

In the end the best option for me was to apply for an ‘unmarried spouse visa’. This means I could stay in the UK as a family member of a British settled person, i.e. Ben.

We put together mountains of paperwork…


                                                                 …and I do mean mountains!

  •  You had to prove that you were in a genuine relationship.


  • That we had lived together for the two years prior to apply for the visa.
  • That you meet the financial requirement, which for us was £18,600
  • And that you meet an English Language requirement. However coming from NZ meant I was exempt for providing evidence on that point.

20160710_visa_extension_pics_0445But for everything else we needed solid proof.

We spent about three months preparing for the visa, gathering documents from NZ and ordering things here. As everything has gone paperless it can be a bit of a hassle to get original payslips and bills and in many cases we were charged for them.

As we were doing it for the first time we had an immigration lawyer check over our application to see that we hadn’t missed anything or made any silly errors. I was really glad we did this for peace of mind as it is not something we had done before and …. it costs a whole lot of money to re-apply

We bundled it all up….20160710_visa_extension_pics_0454Then trekked down to the Home Office in Croydon for our appointment on Valentine’s Day. Woo! Romantic! We had decided to make our application in person as we had travel plans over the summer that I didn’t want to risk missing because our passports weren’t back. So that meant, we would find out whether we were successful on the day.

We arrived in Croydon overly early as we were nervous and thought we would have a coffee or something to calm ourselves once we got down there. Unfortunately Croydon is not a place you want to spend too much time in, we found a dingey mall, not yet open and a Costa Coffee shop on the main road. So we sat with our coffees looking out over grey buildings and greyer drizzly skies and started to wonder why we were making this application in the first place…

When the time came for our appointment we passed through airport style security at the entrance and then queued to sign in. The whole process was a lot of being called up, queueing and then waiting. We signed in, handed in paperwork, my biometrics were taken and then it was time for the decision.

We were sent to a cafeteria style waiting room with a ticket number and told to come up when we heard our number. I forget what number we had, but let’s call it 100. It took about an hour for the numbers to get close to 100… We started to pack our things and prepare to go up.. I was wired. I kept thinking worst case scenarios like, I was going to be denied and sent straight to Heathrow.

Then the numbers went past 100. 1021, 107, 115. My stomach started sinking… This could only mean bad news right? 121, 140. I started looking around at the others whose numbers had been skipped, were they over stayers? Were we all being deported today? 144, 153….

100!!!! I looked at Ben, well, this is it. We walked up to the decision desk and the officer handed me an A4 piece of paper and said we were successful. I had to ask her again as she delivered the news so casually I didn’t realise it had happened. After all the waiting I felt like I need the news to be delivered to a chorus of trumpets and fanfare.

We got it! 2.5 more years in London. We took these fuzzy pictures once we got home to commemorate. Yay wine! I definitely needed that.IMG_2237

This was all two and a half years ago now, so it’s time for me to get an extension.

This time we’re doing it ourselves, via the post. So my passport will be sent away for a few months. Fingers crossed it all goes well I’ll have another two and a half years to live in this amazing country.

What has your visa experience been like? Tell me about all the nerves and the paperwork… Soo much paperwork!

Home: It is the people. It is the people.

He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people
Maori proverb

You know when you learn a new word or phrase, and then all of a sudden it turns up everywhere?

Hutt River, Lower Hutt, New ZealandI recently came across this beautiful Maori proverb and since then, of course I have seen it everywhere since. It has already featured in this month’s #travellinkup. Pop over to Two Feet One World for another Kiwi’s take on home.

I have made a home in three countries so far and many different houses with different people and for me, what makes a place home is the connections I make and the little pieces I pick up along the way.

When I was preparing to leave New Zealand for the first time to live in Japan, I remember reading advice on how to combat homesickness. It said pack little things to remind you of home and make your new space feel familiar. Things like photos, special trinkets and even a pillow case. I took my second hand copy of Bridget Jones’s Diary and lots of pictures to put up on my wall. I got homesick a lot in my first year away in Japan and those things did help. Bridget never fails to make me laugh, all I have to do is read: 9st 1, alcohol units 2, cigarettes 0, calories 998 (excellent, v.g., perfect saint-style person) or the like I can’t help but crack a smile.

Fushimi Inari Temple- Kyoto JapanBut what helped more in that first year in a foreign country, was crossing the hall for dinners of miso fish and tofu with my fellow kiwi teacher, learning koto (a traditional Japanese harp instrument) and chatting over cake with a local housewife and spending weekends touring the prefecture I lived in with fellow foreign teachers. We would all congregate in a town for the night, cause general mayhem and party too hard, then crash for the night at the local teacher’s apartment. I knew I had to live in Japan first, I had to make my home where I was, by finding my people there.

I’ve made a lot of awesome memories throughout my travels, but what will always stick with me are those things that you never think to photograph. The normal daily life connections you make that make you feel at home. I remember the weekend nights watching The Voice and eating pimped out desserts in our Tottenham flat. My flatmate and I would buy ice cream and then add extra awesomeness to it like biscuits and cake. So good!

In my first flat in Wadestown, Wellington we would come together for Turbo Jam workouts in our only just large enough for four people lounge. In Lower Hutt it was Easter eggs + Greys Anatomy viewing with my sisters when I went home for Sunday dinner. Hangover curing breakfasts of fried herby potatoes, eggs and whatever else was available all over Yamagata prefecture, Japan. Most recently in Tufnell Park we’re walking down the road every Monday night to watch Game of Thrones and have freshly popped popcorn. Oh and having drunken sing-alongs to 90’s classics with our new flatmates. Long may they continue…

Home travel quoteThe little traditions are always changing, but the connections last.

My Facebook feed gives me political commentary from Northern Ireland, pregnancy updates from Canada and random life musings from Japan. I have a friend who blogs about crafting in Borneo and gorgeous architecture pictures pop up from a friend in Sydney. I get a once a year behind the scenes look at the Sydney Pride Parade which is always fabulous – I’m coming to watch in the flesh one year!  I wake up to picks of the ever growing animal menagerie in Upper Hutt and the award winning huskie and her lovely parents in Auckland pop up every once in a while. I catch up on #RICH living in Scotland and a Perth to Sydney cycle by someone who had barely ridden a bike before. A new baby in Toronto and girls nights in Melbourne. Sunsets from snowy mountains in Canazei, Italy and tourist-ing in Wellington.

20160325_Easter_In_Dover_Day2_0001I love these brief insights into everyone’s lives. Thank you to Facebook, Skype and good old snail mail for keeping the connections alive.

I often wish I could have all the awesome people in my life here with me in the UK but as the quote says, this is the price I pay for making connections as I have travelled. I’m glad we had the chance to make each other feel at home, wherever we were/are.