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On Homesickness 
6th-May-2014 03:36 pm
It seems I only come back to LJ when I am in crisis; I wrote thispost this morning as I have had enough time and experience in London to recognize how out of place I feel most of the time, even though I have lived here for several years now. Just now I got a form rejection email from Oxfam, a place I have been a volunteer at for nearly 5 years - and I am seriously wondering if being a manager in their organization is just not going to happen, as I don't fit their idea of a manager somehow. The shop I applied for is a big one, the bookshop in Islington, and I can imagine they would want someone with tons of experience. But I applied for a much smaller shop and wasn't accepted for that either (though I did get an interview)...I must think about this carefully, as my book knowledge (which by now is extensive) is not something I want to just throw aside. But if Oxfam don't want me, who will?
21st-Jun-2014 12:36 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry this only just got posted - I hadn't received any notification, so I expect no other mods did either.
21st-Jun-2014 03:06 pm (UTC)
homesickness is a tricky thing :-/

I hope it will help, in some small measure, if I tell you the problem with you in London is London. It *is* a hard and unfriendly place, intensely cliqueish, and the locals are intensely provincial in their outlook. I hated working there for 7 months, and would never voluntarily live there again.

Are there any clubs or societies for your interests? SF fan clubs, chess, anything like that?
22nd-Jun-2014 05:15 am (UTC)
Hi, I read your other entry too, but thought I'd post here rather than in your personal journal.
You are not alone in your feelings about London. I've even known Brits from other parts of the country who moved there usually for work and then, years later, drifted back or elsewhere because they had had enough of it. On the other hand I have a close relative who grew up in a small village who loves it there precisely because of its coldness and anonymity. She's pretty much cut off from all her wider family and sees London as the ideal place to disappear. Mental health-wise she's a mess (by her own admission) and I've seen her get progressively worse in the 20 years she has been there, but I know she won't ever leave.

I was born and spent the early years of my life near to London, but then moved with my family to where my mother is from in the Lake District which, to be quite honest, is equally unfriendly and cliquish, just in a different way. It's a place that goes against the general rule in England that Northerners are more friendly than Southerners. Not to denigrate my home country citizens, but I'm not convinced British people are that welcoming to outsiders. Hopefully some US expats here will correct me with some heartwarming stories of how welcome they were made to feel!

Now I'm in the Midwest and the friendliness of people towards me has taken some getting used to, although I haven't made close friends on a par with those I left back in the UK, (health issues mean I can't get out much independently), it still astonishes me how open people are here to inviting new people into existing friendship groups (a rarity indeed back 'home'). My homesickness is virtually non-existent now and I've only been here for 3 years.

Here's a bit of irony for you: I was recently approached by someone asking me if I could socialize with his British wife because she is gets horribly homesick, despite living here for almost a decade and he thought having a fellow Brit to hang out with might take the edge off. I've met her before socially in a group situation and all she did was complain about life in the US, so I spent most of my time trying to avoid her. The kicker to this being that she is from London!

It sounds like you've had a rough time of things and the employment situation isn't helping any either. I hope you can find your own niche within the place. It doesn't have to be knitting, if that's not your thing! Are their any local libraries where you could utilize your book knowledge and perhaps you could do volunteer work if they didn't have any openings for employment?
1st-Jul-2014 12:53 pm (UTC)
London isn't the place I first got to know in 1988 when I visited for nearly a month; it's not even how it was when I got engaged here in 2006! And it is a difficult place to make friends. The Midwest sounds a lot more like home to me and ironically I can feel for the Londoner who feels she is stuck out there and probably hates the long winters, too.

I could volunteer at the library I suppose, I have no idea - I never see any volunteers there, really. I have been at the Oxfam I'm volunteering at now for two years and have learned all I can learn and am restless for something new - something beyond books.

I've never been to the Lake District but I'd suspect it would be like that, I wonder what areas of the UK are friendly? I've been to Glasgow a few times and like it, is there anywhere else?
22nd-Jun-2014 08:07 am (UTC)
I definitely felt 'who will want to hire me?' when applying for jobs and not getting anywhere and it can be very difficult to see past that. Do you want/need a paying job? Are you able to cast the net more widely in terms of job applications? And I know at least one other friend did not have a good experience working for Oxfam, so I don't think it's just you.

Can you consider leaving London or are really important things keeping you there?
1st-Jul-2014 12:47 pm (UTC)
I do need a paying job - I would love to cast my net more widely in looking for work as the Oxfam route seems to be something of a dead end. (As it turns out, the Islington job wasn't a possibility for me as the other applicants were already managing bookshops; and I'm sure these people are also applying for the others open now as well.)

What did your friend do? I am interested to know others' experiences in Oxfam!

The important thing keeping me in London is that my husband is here, but he is strongly thinking of moving elsewhere - just where I don't know, but outside of London, for sure...
1st-Jul-2014 09:01 pm (UTC)
I believe he managed or had another responsible role in an Oxfam shop (whether it was a bookstore or clothing shop, I don't know). He'd been my manager at another company and he is a lovely chap so I don't know where the problems lay.

Re jobs: do you feel strongly that you want to stay in retail/the book trade? Have you applied to any bookstores?

Re locations: my husband's from Cumbria (the depressed ex-industrial part, not the Lake District) and while it is a beautiful region, there are very few jobs and it is a long way from anywhere. People are nice, but can be insular (not that that doesn't happen in lots of areas).

We've ended up in Cambridge, which is really nice--small but a lot going on for its size and of course people from all over the world. It's also the only place we've lived that's been relatively unscathed by the recession--property prices aren't far behind London, unlike most of the rest of the country. If we ever move again, I'd want to go back to Edinburgh or Chorlton, south of Manchester.

Is your husband working? I remember he had some health issues so I wasn't sure if he'd gone back to work.

3rd-Jul-2014 08:00 am (UTC)
I have applied to bookstores but have yet to get an interview - both at Foyles and Waterstones. There are other places that I can apply to but (Daunt Books, mainly) I haven't yet. I've been working with books exclusively for two years and am feeling a bit burnt out by being in retail; I'd love to work in a library, but I'm not sure how to get started there.

My husband is working - it's been about 2 1/2 years since his mini-stroke and he's fine, though working only four days a week. His health is steady, thank goodness.

Since my husband is Scottish he's partial to moving up to Glasgow, he's from there originally (though he grew up in Uddingston and Bothwell).
22nd-Jun-2014 07:49 pm (UTC)
For some reason, charities and charity shops are really popular places to apply to for work, despite usually having crap nepotistic HR and not being great to work for. I'd take your retail experience from it and look elsewhere. Good luck.
1st-Jul-2014 12:57 pm (UTC)
The last time I was at an Oxfam interview it was with the area manager (expected) and an HR and I didn't know what to make of that. The recent jobs I've applied for have all had applicants within the system who were already Oxfam employees, and in such a small company (relatively speaking) I don't know how I could work my way up experience wise. I have been at my current Oxfam for two years now and feel like a clockwatcher now, and not part of anything...
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