A very dear friend of mine is soon flying away from NZ to live in London for a few years, and though I’m deeply sad to see her go (especially as I’ve only recently returned) I’ve pulled together a few spots in London for Homesick Kiwis. For as much as the beginning of an overseas stay feels like an exciting adventure, I know only too well how hard homesickness is when it comes. And sadly, it will come.
Usually within the first year, after the honeymoon period is over, when you realise that you’re not heading home any time soon. That you won’t get greeted ‘gidday’ at the local shops – you’ll be lucky to be greeted anything – and when the sight of the murky Thames doesn’t fill the beach-shaped-hole in your head. When that happens I recommend these places in London.
1/ Kiwi Coffee!
Yes, I know there’s a long-standing argument out there between the London based Antipodeans, about whether the best cafes in London are Kiwi or Aussie owned. Truth be told when you want decent coffee you can’t go wrong with either but when you want the ‘old’ food of home, then I suggest go Kiwi. There are many stratas in the Kiwi Cafe experience – you could go high end to Peter Gordon’s Kopapa or you could go more truly cafe-ish with Bullet Cafe (at Snow + Rock) Covent Garden, or my favourite – Sacred.
There’s six outlets of Sacred throughout London, and the best thing about it? They serve lolly cake.
2/ A magnificent room with a view, and a familiar accent
Where better to get the sounds of home than at the magnificent Penthouse atop New Zealand House. Whatever you do try to wangle your way to an event here as it’s magnificent. Quite a surprise really when you head to the drab building set just back from Trafalgar Square, that looks like a relic from the Cold War. But oh my, the view from the 18th floor is to die for.
3/ New Zealand Business Women’s Network
Yes, you need to be a Kiwi woman in business but it doesn’t matter what your business is, as such. I first joined up as a blogger who wasn’t really making much revenue, and I met women there who had small sideline ventures as cushion makers and jewellery artists. You don’t have to be head of the BNZ London branch! This is a brilliant group set up by the indomitable Bronwen Horton during the economic crisis in London in 2009. It has quickly grown to well over several hundred women and the vibe at their gatherings is fantastic. I used to love going up to London to meet with them, fill up on that incredible can-do Kiwi women-spirit and drink in the fabulous Kiwi accent. Check out their diary NZ Business Women events and membership here.
4. NZ Wine
For the best Kiwi tipple check out the New Zealand Wine Cellar which has just opened in Brixton. Melanie Brown has been supplying Londoners with the best of Kiwi wines for over ten years and has just birthed the brand new retail space. I wish I was there to see it. Go there and report back!
It will certainly surprise my family, but I’ll finish this list with the famous rugby ground. I even surprised myself at how ‘at home’ I felt when I went to watch a rugby game at England’s home of Rugby. It was something about all those years of being woken in the middle of the night to drink milky tea and watch the All Blacks on TV slog it out on Twickenham’s sodden patch, that felt so familiar and so much like home. Of course the ultimate Kiwi experience in London would be to go to Twickenham when the All Blacks were playing – something I didn’t do unfortunately. But hearing the haka on that paddock would be something else.
I know there are many other places that I’ve missed off the list – I found I had a weird fondness for the spot in Hyde Park (Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner) where the Kiwi memorial is and I used to get a kick out of finding NZ produce in Lidl (branches throughout England) I know weird!
What would you add to my list?