Meet Kate Kozhevnikova, a Russian expatwoman living in England's capital, London
31 August 2015| Last updated on 26 October 2017
I’m living in:
I live in London, UK
A bit about me:
I’m a Russian expat living in London, UK. While most interviews seem to be about moving away from London, mine is about coming to the big city. The first time I visited London, I did not like it. It was noisy, busy and stressful. I come from a small city in Russia and never intended to trade the comfort of a smaller place for the stresses of a big city. But my life circumstances have made it quite the opposite and here I am, that commuter, struggling to push my way on to an overcrowded tube and complaining about the weather.
How long have you lived there?
I’ve lived in London for the past 3 years.
Why did you move?
After graduating I got a stable job with the local government back home, but I was not fully satisfied with it and after a series of personal events I decided to pursue my long-time dream of undertaking a Master’s degree abroad. Some universities in the UK were definitely at the top of my list, but not London. Everything about the place just seemed to be too much: too many people, too expensive, a lack of affordable housing for students and there are way too many distractions. On the other hand, London has some of the best universities in the world and after being accepted to attend one of them, I decided to take that risk. And three years on, I’m still here. I completed my course, secured a job and stayed on to conquer the world city of endless opportunities.
Why I like living here:
London is a city with many different layers. And with its complexity it can never really restrain you by your social category, especially if you are an expat. With your “interesting” accent and unknown background, you are out of the social grading system. That is why getting jobs, going places and doing things most of the time is not selected based on your social and financial status. Many would argue the contrary, but that is the experience I have had.
It turns out, my London “hobby” is moving houses, so I get to experience as many neighbourhoods and get a feel for different parts of the city. Exploring the area as a resident is really exciting. You can just walk into a local shabby looking pub and discover it’s the best pub in the area, and where locals meet up to enjoy some food and music.I like the accessibility of travel in London. There are 5 airports to take you to any place your heart desires. I travel regularly for my job and for leisure, and it has been a great advantage having these international air hubs within easy reach.
Most people in London rent tiny apartments or rooms in shared houses. I’m renting a one bedroom apartment with my partner and it’s a cozy little place that I adore. With so many parks, cafes, restaurants, pubs and other things on your door step, we don’t really spend much time at home.
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What do you enjoy doing with your time?
Taking long walks around the city is one of my favourite things I try to do every week. Just getting lost among the myriads of Victorian houses, brand new buildings, old boozers and trendy cafes can tell you so many stories. Everything is changing so rapidly. Going to different parts of London after a year or two can make you surprised to see how so many things have changed in such a short period of time. I’m also a keen yogi and in London you have the opportunity to have the most amazing experiences, like yoga on top of the Shard (overlooking the London skyline 87 storeys up), morning yoga on a rooftop in a cool artsy neighbourhood followed by homemade dinner or free yoga sessions in the local park.
What top tips do you have for anyone considering a move?
Prepare well for your move, the choice of your prospective neighbourhood in such a big city as London is crucial especially if you have children and are looking for good schools. Be open-minded and accept the fact that London is a home for 100+ nations from around the world and if you are kind and tolerant, you’ll feel like you are a part of big welcoming community.
What do you wish you’d known before you moved?
I think I can only recall small things, like I wish I’d have known that getting around London without a smart phone is close to impossible. I relied purely on my social skills, so I was constantly lost in the first few days after my plane landed. Also, I should have prepared myself for the constantly changing weather and the drinking culture. I was quite surprised that a pit stop by a pub on a Friday afternoon is not a rarity and could easily be followed-up by a 2-hour work meeting.
What’s the best thing about being an expat?
I don’t feel under the same pressure to do things my peers do, likewise I don’t feel stuck in a status quo, and am always seeking to achieve great results through hard work and dedication. Also, it still amazes me how many people are interested in my culture and traditions. London is such a multicultural place that makes it possible to meet and make friends with people from all across the globe. That is definitely something I would not have experienced if I had stayed at home.
How do you keep a little bit of home with you as an expat?
I keep in touch with my friends and family via video calls. They give me a full update on what’s happening in the country. That awareness of what’s happening back home, really makes me feel like I’m still part of the country in some ways. Also, I like to make traditional Russian food and share it with my international friends.
Anything else you’d like to share with us about your expat experience?
Leaving your family and friends behind is the hardest thing about being an expat. But it could be a truly amazing experience offering many possibilities and changes to your personality, habits and tastes. Throughout my time living abroad I’ve proudly overcome many fears and doubts. It gives you the feeling that the world is a much smaller and simpler place. My move might not have been so radical and exotic, but it definitely took me out of my comfort zone and forced me to become a more independent and open-minded person.