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In early March, London was acknowledged as the second most international city in the world (just being pipped to the post by New York). More than 37% of the capital’s residents were born on foreign soil so it is no wonder that every day we hear dozens of languages spoken and reap the rewards of our increasingly globalised community.

So, many Londoners have gone through the life-altering, and potentially extremely stressful experience of an international move already. Moving abroad confronts us with new social norms, new types of food and, more often than not, a new language. We spoke to Maria, a young Swedish woman who first came to England five years ago, to learn more about the issues that she faced and what advice she could give to other international movers.

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Kate: I know that you have moved across borders more than once already, when was your first international move?

Maria: I came to England to study in 2009 which meant moving from Sweden to Oxford, my first time leaving home and living in a separate country from the rest of my family. I stayed for a semester as part of a study abroad program, returning to my University to finish out the year. But I had caught the British bug and returned in 2010; since then I have spent the majority of my time in London, although I do return to Sweden to visit my parents often.

Kate: Did you struggle with knowing what to take with you?

Maria: It helped that most of my first residences came fully-furnished, so I was not transporting anything extremely bulky. I did make a few trips with my mother for my second move to England, in 2010; I kept forgetting items that I wanted and moving all of your winter clothes can be a struggle.

Kate: It’s hard enough to know what coats to bring out of storage without storage being across Europe!

Maria: It does make for a nice excuse to buy new clothes. Laughs. It can make you feel quite different from your British classmates, though. I had two huge suitcases full of all my clothes, books and more and everyone else just had one small one. Over time they moved more into their rooms by making trips home but at the start I was ashamed of having so much with me.

Kate: How did you bring everything over with you? Did you use an international removal company?

Maria: At the time I was not really aware of my options, I thought that an international move would be astronomically expensive and that I would do a better job of protecting my belongings. Since then I moved in England with removal companies who do domestic as well as European moves who have blown me away with their professionalism, courtesy and reasonable pricing. I bought more luggage space on a plane and then had to haul this unwieldy baggage on and off trains, out of taxis… it was a nightmare!

Kate: So would you do it differently this time?

Maria: Everyone has something different that matters most to them, price, convenience, security. At the time I just wanted it to be easy and thought that the best way would be if I was always the one with my items, but they were probably more at risk that way. Next time I will research my options much more thoroughly. If I have to take furniture with me, I would definitely book with a trusted international removal company. It’s always wise to put faith in the professionals; international movers have much more experience at this than I do. Laughs.

Kate: Already planning the next big move? Maria laughs. Where would be your ideal place to live?

Maria: I think I would like to live in Switzerland, it seems so romantic. You can ski in the winter and swim in the summer and there is always so much nature around. London is a relatively green city but it is not quite the same.

Kate: You seem very confident about such a big life decision, many people consider a move to another country (particularly one with a different national language) to be very daunting. What concerns did you have when you first moved?

Maria: It was my first time leaving my parents and my first time living in a country without Swedish as its first language. I remember being worried about whether I had the necessary independence to live on my own. I was scared that I might not make friends, but I suppose everyone going off to University faces that fear. Mine was only heightened by the knowledge that I was going to such a big city, in a place with so many opportunities and so many faces it can be easy to get lost in the crowd.

Kate: Was your experience anything like you had feared?

Maria: Oh no! Of course, it all worked out fine; you always find people who you get along with. That I was living in a big city just meant that there were more people who shared my quirks. I did have to learn a lot about living on my own but necessity is the mother of invention (as the Brits say).

Kate: How do you think young people who are nervous about their moves to England can prepare so that they are less afraid?

Maria: It helps to know a little about the culture before you go. Most of what you find online are exaggerated stereotypes and cliches but they are a start. Humour in Sweden is relatively similar to that in England but I think Londoners in particular have a very dry wit. They are very good at keeping a straight face when being sarcastic.

If ever you feel homesick it can be good to find a community of your culture. If you are moving for University it is very likely that there will a society you can join or a Facebook group. The internet has made it that much easier to find someone who might otherwise slip past you. And do not forget to bring some comforts from home with you, skimping on unnecessary items can just make your new place feel less like home.

Kate: You mentioned the British stereotype of a very sarcastic sense of humour. Did you find that most of your preconceptions were proved true? What was it like living with people from other countries?

Maria: Naturally there is a lot more to a person than just their nationality but I think people’s upbringings can be determined quite heavily by their country of origin. It can make it hard for people from very different backgrounds to live together as you may have quite diverse assumptions. It was shocking to me how much some of my roommates considered personal belongings to be public ownership. It was not one-sided, what was theirs was mine too, but I had never come across that concept before – this very communal living.

Kate: Are you glad for your decision to come to England in the first place?

Maria: Yes! Meeting so many different people from all around the world has made me much more tolerant and aware of the wider community I belong to. I am also more independent as my parents are so much more than a bus ride or train ride away. I think that has made me closer with them, though, as I appreciate all that they have done and do for me that much more.

London is a remarkable city, and a significant part of who I am now. I am very grateful to live here.

Kate: I think everyone can sympathise with that. Any last words of advice?

Maria: To all those new Londoners: do not take the tube in morning rush hour! Go earlier in the morning before the mayhem and find a nice spot to eat breakfast before work. It is a much calmer way to start the day.

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Have you moved to London from Europe recently, or are you looking for advice on moving to a new country? Share your stories and ask us questions here. Remember, buzzmove accepts only the best removal companies so no matter how far you are travelling, your belongings will be as safe as can be.

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