Friday, 16 August 2013

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing… Cheylene Thongkham

We have the pleasure of introducing Cheylene Thongkham tweeting @wanderbliss as our guest blogger today. Here, expat, Whitney, shares her tips for adapting to city life…

At The Tower of London: Image via wanderbliss

Growing up, I had a pet chicken named Bubba. I think that pretty much says it all. For me, becoming an expat wasn’t just about adapting to a new culture; it involved a complete lifestyle change. Having lived somewhere between rural and suburban America for almost my whole life, I suddenly found myself in the middle of central London at 23. In an instant I had swapped a comfy freeway commute for a cramped journey on the Tube, and a roomy 3-bedroom home for a ramshackle room in a shabby post-war duplex.

Homesick didn’t even begin to describe my first few months in London. It wasn’t that I found England or British culture difficult to adapt to, it was that I was just not accustomed to living in such an urban setting. Initially, everything felt like a struggle. I was worn out from all the walking, worn down by all the commotion of the city, and frustrated with having to rely on public transport.

Finally, after several months and more than a few tears, things started to turn around. While I can’t say that I’m a full-blown London city slicker, there are a few things that I managed to do to make my transition into city living easier.

The city: Image via wanderbliss

Vent, Problem-Solve, then Celebrate
I am a firm believer in engaging in a healthy amount of venting. It feels good to get complaints off your chest, just make sure you don’t get carried away. Vent to your partner, your friends, or your parents in person, on the phone, or via the Internet. It will make you feel better.

Once that’s out of the way, put on your thinking cap and examine the issue at hand. Can you live with it? If not, how can you improve your situation? For example, in the US I would buy huge cases of bottled water as I needed and drink them at home. Because I didn’t have a car, I began buying the 1 litre bottles when I moved to England. This quickly became a burden as these bottles were heavy and I needed one almost everyday day. After a few weeks of frustration, my boyfriend and I solved the issue by purchasing a refillable water jug with replaceable filters. Now all we have to do is pour in water from the tap and order new filters online when we need them.

That example may seem trivial, but I think expats learn to enjoy the small victories in life. Little improvements here and there really add up quickly. Some fixes are less obvious than others, and many of them have to take place over time. The main thing is to focus on making improvements as well as the positive aspects of your newly adopted country. 

New Forest: Image via wanderbliss

Get out of town . . . for a weekend
London may be a dense urban metropolis filled with millions of people, but it’s almost completely surrounded by beautiful countryside. When I’m tired of the sound of ambulance sirens blaring down the street and the feeling getting crushed on the tube, I head out of town. My favorite spots are Epping Forest and New Forest - both under 90 minutes from central London.

Epping Forest: Image via wanderbliss

Bring the outdoors in
If urban life seems a bit too cold and clinical, bring the outdoors in. I spent the better part of 20 years living in agricultural communities, so there’s something about greenery that makes me happy. To add some warmth and life to our current flat, my boyfriend and I spent next to nothing on a few potted herbs at the grocery store. Our little garden has grown since then, and I’m happy to say that I now have more than enough mint leaves to make a few mojitos.

About the author

Cheylene Thongkham is a California native by way of Germany. Working as a technical writer and editor by day, she spends her evenings blogging about her life as an American expat in London - challenges and all - on her site

When she’s not in London, Cheylene travels the world and records her experiences at

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