A quarter Russian, a quarter German, a quarter Ukrainian and another quarter Armenian - Erika Rekke lived in Latvia for many years, and then decided: she was - I was not, I want to move to the city of my dreams. And I ended up in London! How to move to the capital of the United Kingdom, start life from scratch, give birth to a child and obtain citizenship, told us a Russian at heart, a subject of Her Majesty Elizabeth II. And given the fact that air traffic with the UK will resume on August 1, this story gains additional relevance.
London is a capital of Great Britain … Many Russian-speaking schoolchildren have read or written this phrase at one time or another. Memorizing "topics" in English lessons, I knew that one day I would definitely visit London.
On November 11, 2008, I flew to London on an evening flight. I'm wearing a warm jacket, jeans, a turtleneck sweater and high boots. From the luggage there is only one suitcase, in which there are 3 blouses, another jeans, trousers, a cosmetic bag, manicure accessories, a hairdryer, a hair iron - then it seemed necessary to me, because it rains so often here (by the way, this is not true), and 5 kg smoked meat and sausages that my mother passed on to her son-in-law were not so tasty in England.
Hands shake and legs give way. Dizzy.
No, I'm not afraid to fly, I'm afraid of what awaits me … I flew to London! No, not for the first time, and no, not on a visit.
I flew here to live. I flew into a new life, as it was more and more difficult to exist at home in Latvia …
The husband had been living in London for a month, desperately trying to find a job. We moved in with my husband's cousin and her boyfriend. Sharing a house, a sharing house is very popular here, especially among young couples without children, as renting a house is quite expensive. There are houses in which 8-12 people live. We called them "Dom-2".
On the third day of my stay in London, a job jumped out in advertisements, which they took without experience. The day before the interview, we went there so that I knew how to get there, because I did not know how to use the metro. Interview … Oh, booogi!
- Do you speak English?
- Yes, I do, - I answer confidently. But after the third question I realized that I didn’t say a damn thing and I don’t know, I couldn’t even remember my address.
Surprisingly, they took me! But after working there for only 2 hours, I said that I couldn't take it any longer. It was a cafe with terrible conditions. Then the minimum wage was paid - £ 6.20 per hour. I was scared to go home - what would my relatives say? There was a princess here! Now the most important thing is to find a job, at least to catch hold of something.
I was out of work for 3 weeks. Husband - 3 months. She cried a lot, ate little. She lost 5 kilograms.
The money we had taken with us ran out in a week and a couple of days. No, we didn’t skip them, there were just few of them. I will never stop thanking our relatives for all the help. A month and a half later, we had the most humble New Year and my first birthday in London was the 23rd.
In the spring, my mother and best friends came to visit us, who moved here 3 months later. A year later, my brother also came to us, and then for 3 years we rented an apartment with my brother in half.
Most often, in families, one salary goes to monthly compulsory expenses, and the second remains for personal needs. So it was with us.
True, nowadays it is customary here to divide all expenses and bills in half. Of course, it depends on where and with whom you work and what your salary is. At the time, we had about £ 3000 a month for the two of us. Which, of course, is not much. Without knowing the language, it was very difficult to find a job with the best income.
The first year was not easy. You start life from scratch, in a foreign country. Yes, this is not the worst thing that people go through, but a good school of life. Someone at this age still lives with their parents and does not know troubles. Sometimes it was difficult, sometimes it was very difficult. But I never once wanted to go back, and we never regretted the decision to leave. Almost 12 years have passed since then.
During this time, we moved 6 times. And that's okay. My friend and her husband have moved 14 times in 11 years. Sometimes you yourself may not like the apartment, sometimes the landlord (landlord) may want to sell it or raise the rent, for example. The first contract is concluded for a year, and then it can be renewed for a longer period or moved. Most often, real estate agencies are involved in renting apartments.
To rent a house, you need to go through a credit check, are you solvent, pay a deposit and another payment a month in advance. If you open websites with agencies, it may seem that the choice is huge, but in fact it is very difficult to find good housing at a reasonable price, such apartments and houses are rented out instantly.
Prices vary depending on the area, renovation, furnished apartment or not, close to the metro station or not - many criteria affect the price. You can rent one bedroom flat (this is the name of an apartment in which there is one bedroom and a living room, most often it is a walk-through) and for £ 3000 a month, you can find it for £ 1000. Or you can rent a room for £ 600, while in a house with not the best conditions.
For 5 years we lived in an apartment in a new building, on the 6th floor, with a beautiful view from the window, for which they paid about 1100 pounds, including utilities. We liked the apartment, but the area, unfortunately, was not good. Not the safest, but the center is only 25 minutes by metro. By London standards, this is not enough.
London is like a separate state, not a city. According to rough estimates, the population is almost 9 million. Impressive after 22 years of living in Latvia with its two million inhabitants. I saw and know about 1/6 of the city. I love its crazy rhythm, noise, perpetual motion, way of life, and I am grateful to this city for everything that it gave me.
I made friends from almost all parts of the world. It is so interesting when, living in one big city, you can get in touch with the cultures of other countries. There is little China, little Italy, parts of France, India and other countries, and much more.
Here you can find a restaurant for every taste and request, and find products that we eat in Latvia and which people from Russia are used to. But if you suddenly want to buy something very English, then you can not only go for afternoon tea, but get in the car and go to Kent, which is just an hour and a half from London. There you feel like you are in real England.
How many castles with magnificent gardens there! One of my favorites is Hever Castle. This is the house where Anna Bollein spent her youth. How many stories and secrets these walls keep! You walk through the castle, which was once walked by King Henry VIII himself. I got goosebumps from all these thoughts.
You can also take a train at Kings Cross station, for example, which will take you to some town like Lincoln or Cambridge. And there you can enjoy the atmosphere and atmosphere, as if in a cinema.
I love to travel around the Kingdom and learn more and more stories. People there are calmer and more affable, and indeed, it is another myth that the British are prim and unfriendly. In fact, there are a lot of smiling people who like to exchange phrases with a neighbor standing in line, for example. Such casual conversations are called small talks. At first it was strange, and then you yourself become that way.
London is a city of huge parks, the capital of musicals, a mecca of pubs, shopping and museums.
The parks here are huge and beautiful, always impeccably groomed regardless of the season, there are mischievous squirrels running around, ready to eat nuts straight from their hands. Magnolia, sakura, wisteria, rhododendrons, hydrangeas - I can't even choose which plant I like more.
Already in mid-March, when the daffodils begin to bloom, the parks can be seen lively, and closer to summer it becomes very crowded.
In addition to tourists, there are many locals here - mothers with strollers, oldies for a walk, sweet couples or office workers who prefer to dine in the fresh air, comfortably sitting on the grass. On weekends, whole huge families or groups of people gather and have picnics.
There were days when, returning from work, I went out somewhere in the center to just take a walk in the park or meet with friends after work. And even with a small child and a huge stroller, she was not afraid to travel to parks by subway. I have never had such a thing that they did not help me with a stroller. This is definitely very nice.
And of course, it should be noted that London and England in general are about the love of football. After the weather, this is the second topic that people like to talk about or argue about.
My husband, like many Englishmen, goes to watch football in a pub. The word pub is short for public house. A place to go for a pint of beer or, for non-beer lovers, a delicious cider, a juicy burger, or a warmed-up chocolate brownie with ice cream. Mmm … yummy!
Almost all have entertainment in the form of darts, billiards and football broadcasts. No matter what day of the week, there are always people in the pub. Once my husband got into a conversation with an elderly Englishman, who told him an interesting thing. Often the same people can go to the pub, they can treat each other with drinks, cheer for a football team or play billiards, but at the same time they may not even know each other's name and, moreover, have no contact outside pub.
It's the same on the playground - you can talk to each other and not get to know each other. And no one will ask obsessive questions about what your child is already able, his weight, height and why he is still in diapers at 3 years old or with a dummy at 4. And in general, it is so easy about this in London.
Here, no one cares what you are wearing, what color your hair is, whether you have a manicure.
The first time was very unusual. Our “what people will say / think”, which was firmly entrenched in my head, did not let go. But over the years, more and more shoes without heels appeared, the nails became shorter, and it turns out that you can go to the store for groceries without makeup. And no one will think anything.
So, I have been living in London for almost 12 years. It's a lot? Probably not enough, when there is still a whole life ahead, but at the same time a lot, if you remember how much has happened during this time.
For 12 years, I managed to work in a cafe in the business district of London Canary Wharf, work in a huge shopping center, which is located next to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, built for the 2012 Olympics, complete Event Management courses, work in a jewelry company, sell earrings for images of the protagonist of a James Bond film, work at jewelry exhibitions, have a daughter, become British, get an education in business management, visit 15 countries, some of them 3 or even 6 times. At the same time, of course, every summer we fly to Riga, where our parents are.
This is one of the very big advantages of living in London - the ability to travel to any city, to any country. Speech, of course, about dock time. Bargain fares are often available, and by working Monday through Friday, with 21 vacation days a year, you can travel much more often than you think. This is how city breaks are very popular - trips for 2-3 nights. I really loved such trips. The opportunity to take a break from the routine, get a lot of impressions and emotions, but at the same time not spend a lot of money, like on a full-fledged vacation, for example.
Maybe I missed something, but that's enough to realize that I like living in England.
Of course, with the arrival of a child, traveling is more difficult, but still possible. And here, of course, it all depends on how big your family budget is.
In general, it is more difficult to make a decision about a child here than in Latvia, for example. Firstly, we have no grandparents here, and not everyone has relatives. Secondly, the decree has been here for only 9 months. The British start families much later than we do. Most often after 35, but then in 5-7 years they already have 3 children.
There are women who go to work as soon as the maternity leave ends. And this means when the baby is about 8 months old. But I didn't want to. When my daughter was just born, I knew that I wanted to be with her until she was three years old.
And it just didn't make sense for me to go to work, since I would only work to pay for the kindergarten. The cost of an average garden in London is about £ 50-65 per day, and if it is a well-rated or Montessori garden, then the monthly payment will be in the region of £ 1500-1800, or even more. Add to that £ 200 a month for a metro pass … well … in my case, the salary would not even be enough.
At that time, I worked in the office of a jewelry company, was a wholesale sales manager. Sounds pretty decent, but the salary is small. I was paid £ 11 an hour. A standard working day is 8 hours. So it turns out that after taxes, less than £ 1500 remains. After the end of the decree, I did not go to work. I entered the exchange for six months, where they pay about £ 300 a month. And then there is a child allowance of £ 82, which, in principle, is enough for the needs of the child.
In the UK, every child over the age of three is eligible for government funding of 15 free hours per week in daycare. Provided that both parents work, you can get 30 hours - 5 days for 6 hours, this includes lunches. If the child goes to the garden from 8 am to 6 pm, the difference, of course, must be paid extra. Therefore, many are waiting for three years. This is definitely a huge help.
Babysitters are popular among Russian speakers. Sometimes kindergartens are a little scary - children often sit on the floor, they have no cots, no change of shoes, and no one will check whether your child is wearing a hat or whether his jacket is buttoned.
English children go without hats and in thin jackets even in winter. But ours can be seen from afar - down jacket, hat, gloves.
It was important for me that my daughter went to the garden, for socialization, for the language. Before that, we spoke with her only in Russian, many did not advise entering a second language, since then children very often choose to speak only in English. In the garden, they teach songs, numbers, letters and prepare children for school.
At the full 4 years old, the child goes to the reception, this is the name of the zero grade at school. In full 5 - in the first grade. After the paid kindergartens, this is downright relief, since the schools are free.
In addition to the financial side, many girls from post-Soviet countries, after listening to stories about English medicine, were simply afraid to give birth here and even raise a child. After all, if he suddenly gets sick, then he will be treated only with paracetamol. In fact, there is some truth, here it is really often advised to just drink paracetamol, be it a temperature of 39, 5, or a hand hurts, or a toothache.
Fortunately, we have not come across negative experiences in the medical field. I was not afraid to give birth either, I liked everything - service, attitude, place. The only thing that shocked me was that they were discharged after 6-8 hours. How?! Why so fast ?! And then she herself could not wait for us to be discharged. But already on the second day, a midwife comes to you, who will examine the child and try to answer all the questions that have arisen. True, to my question about swollen legs, I received the answer: “Maybe the sneakers were rubbed?”.
Often Google helped me more than the local doctors. Medicine is free, but we have to admit that it leaves much to be desired. Therefore, every year, when we come to Latvia, we arrange a march through the doctors' offices.
Oh yes, my name is Erica Recke. I am a quarter Russian, a quarter German, a quarter Ukrainian and another quarter Armenian, but at the same time I am a citizen of Latvia. For a complete set, it was not enough for me to become British.
A child born into a family where at least one of the parents has lived and worked in the UK for 5 years automatically becomes a citizen. After reading various horror stories that, they say, the child "belongs" to the Kingdom and Her Majesty, we decided that one of us must be British too.
The process of passing for naturalization will not seem difficult for those who have really lived here for 5 years. It consists of two parts: a language proficiency test and a test called Life in the UK. 24 questions from various spheres and moments of the history of the United Kingdom. There may be questions about Scotland, about Her Majesty, about Wales, about the wives of the famous King Henry VIII, about Northern Ireland and even, for example, what date is Valentine's Day.
The cost of this test is £ 50, for the language test you need to pay £ 150. And another £ 1330 for filing an application. Then another £ 85 for the passport itself. My citizenship has cost us more than the car we drive. But it was worth it!
This is how I became British. True, my Russian accent and appearance clearly indicate that I am anyone but English. I speak Latvian with a Russian accent, and even speaking Russian, I also have an accent - Baltic. Trouble with this accent!
I speak English well, this year I graduated from college, where I studied for 2 years, having mastered business management. It was very interesting to study. It is not difficult to enter and master the studies. If you have lived in the UK for 5 years, you can apply for a student loan. I plan to go one more year.
My tuition cost £ 6,000 a year. And I also took a maintenance loan (student loan for personal needs), which is £ 12,000 per year. It was a great opportunity to get an education, have an extra income and be with a child. I studied 4 nights a week, from 6-9. My husband came home from work, I ran away to study. So 2 years passed. Really flew by!
I don’t need to give back these 36 thousand pounds, which I “hung” on myself, because I don’t work. As soon as my income starts to exceed £ 26,000 per year, money will be automatically withdrawn from me. But that's okay, the monthly amount is about £ 60- £ 100, again depending on the salary. Can I earn £ 26k per year? Yes! And I really want it!
For example, I have a friend who is an accountant, she earns £ 33,000 a year, and another £ 45,000. Many of our East European girls work in the beauty industry. And, if you are a good master, then you can safely earn from £ 3000 per month and above.
Many visiting men work in construction, earning between £ 12- £ 16 an hour. Restaurant managers can earn anywhere from £ 25 to £ 40,000, depending on experience and education. Of course, financiers, IT specialists and engineers make good money! In general, there is something to strive for! In the future I plan to go to university for another year. And also this year we are in kindergarten for the first time, in September my daughter Olivia will go to school.
There is one famous phrase by the English writer Samuel Johnson: "If you are tired of London, you are tired of life."
No, we are not tired of London, although it can sometimes be pretty exhausting, but a little less than a year ago we decided to move out of town. In favor of the school for Olivia, in favor of safety, in favor of friends who live here, in this cozy town, in favor of buying her own home, which I would like to buy in a quieter place.
We are still close to London, if you wish, you can take a train that will take you to the center of this bustling city in just 45 minutes. I am grateful to this city for the best years of my life!