Why not London?

How are you to answer a question you don’t know the answer to?

“Why London?”
“Why not London?!”

I always answered that question with another question. It was an easy retort and because people had no answer to it, the matter was settled. Over and done with. And I could continue on my merry way.

But now I’m moving back. By the end of the year, at Christmas, I am moving back and I will remain in Belgium for the foreseeable future. Actually, I hope to stay there for a very, very long time.

Why now? And why Belgium? Or, more importantly: why not London?

About four years ago today, I was attending business school back in Belgium. I was making new friends, learning new things and having the time of my life. Attending business school also meant that I was serious about self-development and becoming a professional at work. I didn’t really have any other plans beyond that.

But quite a few of my classmates did. Moving in with boyfriends. Getting married. The prospect of getting a house big enough for children down the line. And as I was watching these plans, these hopes for the future unfold, I was utterly terrified. I mean for the love of all that’s holy, we were only 22 for crying out loud?!

All of a sudden, I could see my life flash before my eyes. The next 50 years was spanning out in front of me and I just… I wasn’t ready. I really wasn’t ready. I could see myself finding some job and then find a place to live not too far away and then live my life as I’d always done it, except now with more responsibility attached to it. It wasn’t exciting. It wasn’t different. It was just… the rest of my life.

And so I got the opportunity to come to London. And I jumped at it. Because while I didn’t really know whether that was what I wanted, I sure as hell knew what I didn’t want. Coming to London was at least something different from that.

Truth be told, it was too different. I mean, it was great! It was probably one of the richest experiences I’ll have ever had by myself. But it was so different. People don’t say what they mean here – you need to learn to read between the lines. The food is pretty awful, let’s be honest. Culturally the after-work scene is not what I had hoped, mainly because I like to actually cover my ass while out in public. I also don’t enjoy spending every weekend completely hung over and then complaining about it on Monday. People have a weird relationship with money here: buying expensive luxury items on credit when you’re struggling to pay your regular bills is completely normal. Maybe I was raised differently, I don’t know, but it seems none of my friends back home ever do this – so it really seems like a cultural thing.

It was different. It was exciting for a long time. And I did it. Let me stress that right: did it. By myself. I figured things out. I found a place to live. I made it home together with a jumble of flatmates. I moved flats in less than a year and took on all the responsibilities with the bills. I quit my job. I was unemployed, yet still paying said bills. I found a new job. I took writing classes. I did a ton of shit and I learned how to count on myself. I’m not saying it was easy. I’m not saying I did it in heels or with a ton of grace – trust me, I stumbled more often than not and I had the bruises to show for it. But I did do it.

And now I’m done.

I was looking at the prospect of finding yet another flatmate and yet another job in London and… it’s nothing new. I’ve done it all before. It doesn’t excite me anymore. It doesn’t make me feel like this is something different. And that’s because, after 3,5 years, it’s just not anymore.

You know what is different? Moving back to Belgium, that’s what.

I’ve never been a professional there before. I’ve never lived alone in my own flat. I’ve never been available for impromptu dance sessions with my best friend. I’ve never been able to come home for a surprise family dinner. I’ve not seen my sister progress with her pregnancy beyond the occasional FaceTime. I’ve not been able to do a lot of things.

It doesn’t mean I regret coming here to London. Not a chance. I’ve loved it. The ups, the downs, the whole ride. Even the horrors of the tube, I’ve loved it. And I’m tremendously grateful I had the opportunity to do it all and have my friends & family’s support throughout my time here. But it’s different now.

I’m ready for the next 50 years. I’m ready for… the rest of my life.

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May ’15, courtesy of Jessica

 

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Friday struggles

 Happy Friyay!

Or, if you’re in any way like me: Happy-oh-my-gosh-the-sleep-deprivation-from-the-entire-week-has-now-really-come-back-to-bite-me-in-the-ass day! People who go out and party on Friday nights: nothin’ but respect for y’all. Honestly, I am exhausted. A whole week’s worth of tiredness catches up with me on Friday and when I get home tonight, I will draw a hot bath and then chill the f*ck out. Because that is all my brain will allow me to do. And that brings me to the stuff that keeps me upright on a Friday.

  • I distinguish between Friday Lotte and Monday Lotte. See, Friday Lotte is very tired. She’s exhausted, actually. She tried going to bed even earlier during the week, but constantly tossing and turning and waking up in the middle of the night on many consecutive nights has negated that effort. And Friday Lotte wants nothing more but a few more hours of blissful sleep. Alas! Just because it’s Friday, it doesn’t mean there is no more work to be done!
    But here’s where Friday Lotte shows her cunning: see, there are things on her to-do-list at work that… Well… Can wait until Monday, right? Especially when it’s getting to be close to like, 3 or 4pm on a Friday: any emails that still come in can easily be picked up by Monday Lotte. She’s got tons of energy! Why bother poor old Friday Lotte with that? That’s just cruel and unusual punishment, I daresay! Sure, Monday Lotte really can’t stand Friday Lotte for being such a slacker. But it’s Friday and I don’t care yo. Wake me up when it’s time to go home.
  • Another weird thing I do – and it tends to happen more often on Fridays, though any sleep-deprived day will do – is… Forget what I am doing. Like seriously: it will be early morning and I’m in the bathroom. I’ve just washed my face and the toothbrush is right there. All I need to do is see the difference between my face wash tube and my toothpaste tube. And yet… Sometimes I fail. And I notice that “this toothpaste tastes odd yo?!”. Always a sad moment. A sad lapse in judgment. Thankfully, I have started getting better at this one.
    However, lately a new development has been creeping up. It goes something like this: I’ll be brushing my teeth – with actual toothpaste, thank goodness! – in the bathroom. And then… Somehow I’m doing the rinse-and-spit-bit in the kitchen sink? Like I’ll be leaning over the kitchen sink going “wait, this looks like it’s aluminum, instead of a nice white sink in the bathroom? How on earth did I get here?! When did my body decide to start walking around the flat?!” It’s not a massive issue to be honest, but disorienting as f*ck, let me tell ya. Those precious minutes between starting in the bathroom and ending up in the kitchen are GONE. I may have solved world peace in those minutes and I wouldn’t be able to take credit for it – I just wouldn’t even remember doing it. Which is so sad really.

  • The war in my head is also a weird thing, but probably recognisable to many. Like this morning: my alarm goes off, yet I can feel my eyelids being glued shut. Somehow I manage to turn off my alarm – half blind – and then it’s this shit:
    “Come on Lotte, one more day! You can do this! It’s Friday for crying out loud! Just get out of bed, get to work early and then you can leave early too! Such a win-win situation, don’t make this harder on yourself, ok? Please? Come on… No, don’t turn around. I really wish you wouldn’t fluff the pillow under your head like that. No, come one, it’s extra comfy this way – and it makes it extra hard to pull away too! F*ck you’re such a masochist. Can you maybe not go back into the dream you were having?!
    Yes, I know it was weird. Like a very weird dream. It made zero sense at all. You were at the house from the woman who used to babysit you when you were 3 years old, and her daughters were there and you were telling people about your banana oat cookies. Your banana oat cookies of all things?! Like it was a religion of some sort. Something people needed to “believe in”. Say what?! But the group who was surrounding you like you were some kind of guru, they didn’t want to believe you. So your sister got involved to get your family members there, because they were already converted to your banana oat cookies and your dad was talking about how the banana oat cookies “were special and made such a difference and…”  – DAMNIT stop going back to dreaming! You need to WAKE UP! Oh you are such an idiot! You have been in this bed for 40 minutes. 40 MINUTES since your alarm went off! There’s no way of getting to work early now. No early day for you, no sir. Masochist. That is what you are. Why on earth did you decide to get a mattress from John Lewis? Memory foam, like really, was that necessary? And a down mattress topper. You have made this into the perfect prison. Your bed is heaven and you are a fool. A lazy, sleepy fool.
    [pause]
    Aaaallright. That’s it. Getting up now. You amazing. You go girl. You a friggin’ QUEEN.”
  • Enjoying the quiet on public transport and doing literally nothing, is one of my favourites on Friday. Normally, on my morning commute, I’ll be checking emails, reading the newspaper or a book, listening to music or a podcast, watching Late Night shows with Stephen Colbert on Youtube… Tons of stuff, like seriously. My route takes me pretty much overground instead of underground, so I tend to never lose my 4G. And with 10 gigs a month to enjoy, I am connected at all times!
    And then Friday hits. And my mind goes blank. It’s just struggling to hold on to dear life and making it to work – which I am now officially late for, due to the weird dreaming and the fluffing up of the pillow and yeah… I knew that was going to happen, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying more time in my bed unfortunately.
    So here I am, running to catch the Overground train to Highbury and Islington – if I miss this one, I will be even more late than what can be considered “just a few minutes late” – and I’m pushing my legs to do things I really have no way of justifying – my poor, listless body. So exhausted and now pushed to do more than just walk around like a zombie? Mean mean mean.
    Anyways, I’m on the Overground now and I am simply enjoying the stare. No music. No reading material. No nothing. And because it’s London, nobody tends to be talking in the morning. It’s odd when someone over the age of 5 is making any sounds. Just being on the phone is frowned upon by all (silent) passengers. The morning is for your inside voice only, preferably even no voice at all. I am telling you: it is bliss. Just purely letting my mind STOP. I love it. Just quiet. That’s what a Friday morning calls for.
    One morning, my flatmate was on the bus with a woman whose kid was talking. I’m not even sure the kid was talking loudly, it was just talking, you know? Such a no-go. But then the mom apparently started shushing the child, explaining in a whisper that “this was a quiet bus, so hush and don’t talk until we get off, okay?”. That’s good parenting, let me tell ya.

So that’s it. A quick recap of my Friday struggles. I mean, I’m probably just weird. But something tells me…

I am not the only one – amiright?

US Politics = Mean Girls

Good evening and welcome back to today’s episode of “Analogies I never thought I would ever have to make”!

I don’t know about you, but I have been watching American politics unfold for a while now. I was shocked when a certain someone got elected, profoundly hurt by his earlier comments that relate to not-so-kittenish features on women and his general horrible demeanor to massively important issues like climate change, LGBT rights etc. The day he got elected, I was genuinely worried about the effects it would have on modern day society. I still am, to be honest.

But I have also found something else. Something I did not quite expect. It’s called humor, folks. Lots and lots of cynical humor. My favourite tv hosts have to be Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah – genuinely, these gentlemen are going through the rollercoaster that is this presidency and it’s absolutely 100% hilarious. I urge you to watch some of their videos online, as the last 3 weeks have brought some of the best television to life, I think.

And it’s also got my own imagination running wild. In particular, I have been struck by how much this presidency reminds me of Mean Girls. You remember Mean Girls? It was this amazing chickflick about 10 years ago, when I was living the teenage life and basically that flick was what everyone was talking about. It was so funny and riddled with one-liners that, to this day, I have found to be very insightful.

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  1. The limit does not exist. Remember that one? I sure see it every day now. There’s no limit to outright lying, putting preposterous people in important positions they’re wholly unsuitable for and general craziness all over the place. Just look at the lovely Mar-a-Lago fiasco where the clown was talking about important and highly classified issues in front of his entire guest list?! I mean… Crazy. And let’s not forget the muslim ban he tried to instate. Thankfully checks & balances are a genuine thing, or goodness knows what would have happened. To be continued – obviously.
  2. “Boo you whore!” might not be exactly what he’s saying, but let’s all agree that it’s pretty darn close, right?  Demeaning phrases are thrown at people and whole institutions for no other purpose than to hurt and downplay his own insecurities. It’s sad to think who or what will be next on his hitlist, but you can’t help but already feel sympathy for the unfortunate target. Nobody deserves that kind of treatment, especially not from someone who’s supposed to fulfill a kind of “role model” function. Errhhm. Yeah, not happening.
  3. “That’s why his hair is so big, it’s because it’s full of secrets.”. I mean, I’m talking about a man here, so I’ve changed the “her” to “his”. But otherwise I’m pretty sure it totally applies here. The latest scandal with one of his advisers having to resign after barely 24 days on the job…? You wonder what’s going on and whose orders that man was working on? Did he just find himself off the reservation or was he pushed off of it by the clown at the top? It’s all a big mystery so far – like his tax returns – and hopefully time will tell…

There’s one line in particular from Mean Girls I wanted to include, but that one I’ll have to adapt for sure. See, I distinctly remember there being a strict dresscode for all of the mean girls in the movie. And it seems that clownface has taken this to heart as well, most notably for himself: “On Wednesdays, we wear bathrobes.” Like, amiright? 

It’s crazy to think it’s not even been 4 weeks since he’s taken office and already the whole world has had to do a double-take. You’d think the presidency would be exhausting for, well, the president. But I’m not even a citizen and I’m exhausted beyond belief! So far, I’ve not really been able to protest much, but I have recently enjoyed the offer of the New York Times to subscribe for a full year at 50% off. Some say it’s the “failing nytimes”, others would say its readership is growing in sheer protest… Whatever feels right for you to get your voice heard, don’t be shy. Just go ahead and do it. (But don’t lose all common sense and do somethingstupid, only to go blaming it on me next. I’m not liable for you behavin’ like an idiot. Just making sure you know that.)

Anyways, that’s it from me right now, but if you want some laughs for yourself, check out some of the videos below – they don’t disappoint!

Sympathy for the devil

I’m not sure what I should call it. It’s not merely an interest, I would say. Nor an obsession – seems a little heavy. A passion also feels wrong somehow. But it’s definitely something that’s been on my mind: the world wars.

Of late, I think of the wars, the impact they’ve had, the people involved, the decisions made, the ramifications that still reverberate to this very day. And the possibility of it happening again. Maybe it’s Trump. Maybe it’s Brexit. But to me, I feel a stirring in the world. Something’s changed. Something’s different. It’s like we’re on the brink of something and it’s put me on edge.

Whatever it is, it’s made me look into both real accounts and fictionalised stories, detailing these wars. My latest venture into the foray of European and American misery has been The Man in the High Castle, which just had season 2 drop in its entirety on Amazon Prime. I’d seen the first season last year, thought it was “nice”, figured I’d go for season 2 when it came out, but kind of left it at that.

This weekend, I re-viewed the first season, to get myself back into this horror world where the Nazis and the Japanese agressors won instead of the Allied forces. Season 1 is… Scary, sure, but mostly very far removed from our own reality. The evil guys very much feel like the evil guys. And the resistance are easy to sympathise with, imagining they are “us”, the viewers. Which is exactly why I used to think this was a “nice” show in the past. It was all very clear cut and dry. No excessive thinking required.

But now… Season 2 has changed things. The agressors have been humanised. There’s a bigger picture. I don’t know when it happened, but gradually throughout these past 48 hours I have started to root for the man who gassed a woman and her two kids early on in season 1 without a real cause. And the man at the head of the SS in the American Reich has become someone I look up to, someone I admire for his strength and even his values. Naturally, it’s partly the actors delivering on outstanding material that makes it easy to sympathise with the devils. But it’s also the humanisation of monsters. In a way, you could say, every monster has a soul. Somewhere. Hidden deep inside, underneath layers and layers of filth, struggling to survive. But survive it always does. And that’s a scary thought: because are monsters still monsters when we know they have souls?

And that raises another interesting question: is it right of us to easily vilify anyone we feel acts as a monster? Do they not also have a soul? A good side? A side worthy of a chance, no matter how slim it is, at a better life? At the end of season 1, one of the characters makes a decision based on that very belief: thinking that no matter what someone else has done, they deserve a shot. She bets on hope. She bets on people. She bets on a better future, no matter how unlikely it is. And for argument’s sake, the show has proved her right to do so. Her actions reverberate into season 2 and, in the end, help save millions of lives.

I remember thinking, a year ago, that The Man in the High Castle was a piece of dystopian fiction. Most people might still view it as such, even after the realisation that some of the shows’ worst nightmares are human beings with people they love and who they want to protect. But I, for one, will definitely no longer see it as dystopian. Because no matter how bad it gets in the Pacific States or the American Reich, no matter the hatred and fear some of the characters have to endure, there’s at least one woman who continues to believe in her fellow men. I fail to see anything dystopian in that. I find that belief of hers to be very utopian indeed. And we could use some of that in our own lives, I’d say.

Wouldn’t you agree?

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I’ll have a coffee, thanks.

It’s real, guys. Like, some of you already know, but now I am ready to tell the world. My name has been signed on the dotted line at the end of a nice-lookin’ contract. And I am starting work again as early as this coming Tuesday! I am ridiculously excited and overjoyed at the prospect. But before I go into further detail, I want to let you in on the rollercoaster that has been September for me.

Early September things were very exciting. I’d just gotten back from a lovely trip in Belgium, where I was able to fully relax and enjoy some time with my family. Once in London though, the jobhunt was back on! More so, I had a promising lead with an agency. I had built a marketing plan for one of their clients and went to their offices to present it. While nervous, they pretty much loved my presentation and thought me highly skilled. So much so, in fact, that they called me the very same day to offer me a job!

You can imagine me being ridiculously happy, right? I mean… I was beyond happy. Here I was, after being home on the couch for well over 2 months already (technically the first month I was still paid, but “feeling useless” starts as early as the second week of being home, trust me on that) and suddenly there was the light at the end of the tunnel I had been searching for so feverishly! I definitely whooped and, of course, told everyone that my search was over! Congratulated by all of my friends and family, I just had to wait to receive the contract and sign on the dotted line.

Now here is where it gets tricky. I’m not a total whiz when it comes to contracts. I mean, I’ve never seen a “bad one”, so I’m not exactly sure how to identify them. My mom though, who’s been an HR manager for… Longer than I’ve been alive? Not sure. I know she started as a teacher in a very distant past, but I can’t ever remember her being anything other than an HR manager. The last 15 years even a very successful one – somehow we were able to survive on her one pay check for over 12 years with 3 kids… I mean, my dad can be very creative and smart with handling budgets, but still I’m sure her being great at her job had to be part of that equation. So naturally, that means I immediately forwarded my mom the new contract so she could review it and point out anything strange.

And then… There were a lot of strange things. Each strange thing was, in effect, legal and on its own not that harmful. But all together, I mean… It was iffy. And the more I thought about it, the more I questioned it with the company, the more I asked advice from people who know a thing or two about what’s acceptable, my stomach just roiled. This wasn’t a good opportunity. I might learn loads, but under what stress would I be living if I couldn’t even take a sick day, because they were unpaid? Opting out of the Working Time Regulations of 1998 – apparently a standard practice here in the UK with agency work – made me feel very uncomfortable. Because while I’d be all right working as much as the job required me to, that does mean that sometimes you dismiss your body ’til the point where your body says “no”. But then you can’t take sick days? Say what now?!

There was other stuff too, about training I’d have to pay back etc., that just made me come down from that high fluffy cloud I was on to this sad pit of reality. From overjoyed to miserable in three days flat. I don’t recommend it. It’s not something I would want anyone to go through. And yet… In a way it was also a good thing? This is weird, because at the time it was really dreadful to go through. But it taught me something: just because you’re happy at getting an opportunity, it doesn’t mean you need to be blindsided by saying “yes” to crappy conditions. Just because I was starting to become desperate for employment, it didn’t mean I had to simply ask “How high?” when they’d commanded me to jump. I could choose not to jump. And so… I didn’t.

And it was the best thing I ever did. Because well over a week later, I heard back from another company – Cafédirect – that they’d wanted to see me for a second interview. The time between hearing back and that first interview was… Three weeks? At least. So I’d almost given up hope. But now here I was: back in the running and working on another marketing presentation. I presented a week later, I waited a few (nervous!) days and… The rest is almost history already.

Their offer was great, down to the fine print. And I’ll be joining their team on Tuesday. I won’t just be working, but I’ll be learning so much, I’ll be part of a team again and I’ll be coming home each day knowing that my efforts are helping struggling coffee farmers from all over the world. Because Cafédirect gives back up to 50% of its profits to the farmers, something which is well over the necessary requirement to be called “fair trade”. It’s going to be in the city of London as well – no more funny trips to lovely ole’ Luton for me. Instead of just happening to live in this city, I’m going to be an active member in it!

All in all, I couldn’t be more happy, because it feels like a new beginning. As most of you know, the past 12 months have been rough going for me. I was dumped. I faced the insecurity of a planned “re-structure” for months in the office. I survived my old boss, which – for the insiders reading this – was a feat in and of itself. I was then pushed into a position I didn’t want and also very much hated. Simultaneously I was forced to move out of my apartment, leaving great friends and memories behind. And all of it then lead me to the last few months, where unemployment reigned.
I mean… That’s rough. No matter how you try to present it.

So here I am. At the end of those pretty dismal 12 months. And while autumn is taking hold of this country once again, I feel like I am experiencing a new spring. Because I am now ready to start a new job for a company I believe in. (I never actually drank beer, or many alcoholic beverages anyways… Whereas I’m a lover of coffee!) Because I am living in a new flat with a great flatmate. Because I have friends who send me care packages or who come to visit, not London, but me and the only expectation is to chill out together. Because I have family who also send me care packages, who surprise me with trips to Belgium and Germany and who’ve been incredibly supportive through this whole ordeal. Because the past 12 months have taught me loads. I now know I can handle way more than I ever thought possible. And I also know that what they say is true: after rain, there will be sunshine again.

I am ready for a new spring. I hope you are too.

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A perfect day.

The last weekend of August I spent some time at home, in the cute little town I grew up in back in Belgium. And on Friday, at the end of the summer, I am happy to announce I experienced a perfect day.

As you all know, it’s been a tumultuous couple of months lately, with a lot of ups and downs – mostly downs, unfortunately. Which is why my weekend at home was so much sought after, as I had hoped it would give me my much needed reprieve. And my goodness, did it ever?

It was a hot day, swelteringly so. I’d spent the week in my apartment in London, working on a presentation for a company I’d like to get hired for. With the temperatures being what they had been, I was excited beyond belief when my mom and sister suggested “we go to the beach?” on Friday. I jumped at the chance and simply could. Not. Wait!

I’d packed my bikini to Belgium and soon we were off in the car in search of some relief from the blistering heat. Now, for those of you who don’t know Belgium all that well: there’s only about 40 kilometres of coast and it’s ridiculously busy, buildings and people everywhere, not exactly majorly “relaxing” if I’m honest. But, given the chance to jump into the sea, I told myself I didn’t care. Until… My mom suggested a different coast to visit.

Cadzand. About 15 kilometres further down the coast from Knokke-Heist – a famous beachside destination in Belgium – it’s a fairly lesser known beach, just across the border into the Netherlands. School in the Netherlands had already started again by Friday, so the amount of kids we encountered there was far less than we’d been expecting. Additionally, buildings and general “businesses” were… Not really present. Apparently there are laws in the Netherlands that prohibit too many building permits on the coastline, making it idyllic and peaceful beyond your wildest (Belgian) dreams!

The sea was cold. At first. But once the sun came out and my sister and I started happily swimming, I just had the best time! Swimming into the sea, letting ourselves drift back into land – all the while trying to keep our heads above water… The waves sometimes made it difficult, with lots of spluttering and coughing up sea water as a result, all the while laughing our asses off when the other one got a particularly nasty wave in the face! Pahaha, so much fun to be had at the beach!

But swimming in the sea, tanning on the beach while reading a good book… That wasn’t even all of it. There was exactly one restaurant on the beach. Just the one. And given that we were in Zeeland – famous for its mussels – I most heartily indulged into the ah-mazing seafood they served there. My goodness, it was yummy! And I was still in my bikini, all chilled out. Also the sun was shining gorgeously. I kid you not, but it felts as if the world was smiling at me. :-)

Even on the way back home: traffic was barely an issue. I mean: Friday evening on the last weekend of August? No hours of standing still in a hot car? What?! It’s like the universe realised it owed me one. After months of crappiness at work and then the added fever of jobhunting, finally, I was given a perfect day.

A perfect day with my sister and my mom. A perfect day of sunshine. A perfect day… At the beach.

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A perfect day.

What (not) to say to your unemployed friend: 5 do’s & don’ts

Good evening and welcome to today’s helpful advice on “What to say – or better yet: not to say – when your friend is unemployed”. Given that I have been on the job market for a couple of weeks now and have come to the stark realisation that my industry isn’t in the best of shapes – thank you Brexit – I thought it was time for me to write a post I never wanted to have the knowledge to write. Alas, we don’t always get what we want. Me sitting on the couch all day is a stellar case in point. But at least it provided me with some inspiration, yes? Right, so let’s dive right in:

1. DON’T

Ask how the job hunt is going?
Trust me, if your unemployed friend had good news to share about her incessant search for work, she would have definitely already told you. Most likely she would have hired a blimp with a massive “I’VE GOT A JOB!” printed on it to scour the sky in the area of where you live. There’d be no way you’d ever miss that news, trust me. And if there was any other update to share, like, say, she scored an interview? You will have been notified far in advance, so you could root for her when she went. Even bad updates about failed interviews will be shared – if she wants to. Just… Don’t ask for them, okay?

1. DO

Talk about what is going on with you!
Your friend is, most likely, living a pretty bleak existence right now. If she had the money to spare, she would probably pay you to talk to her about anything other than her own sad reality right now! So have at it, tell her what you’re doing these days, what you’re up to over the weekend, what your significant other is planning for your birthday… It can even be OK to talk about something great you’ve done at work. Just because she’s unemployed, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to share in her friend’s great achievements. If she has a problem listening to your success, then I can tell you right now: that’s not a true friend.

2. DON’T

Be jealous of “all the free time” you’d love to have!
I don’t care whether you’re my bitch or not, I’m about to smack. You. UP! Say that and it’s very likely your friend is doing her best not to punch you in the face right now. You’re being a brat. Because guess what? She’d give a-ny-thing not to be at home all the time. Spending time on the couch is fun for… About a week. Max two. After that it becomes boring and with every passing day, your friend is probably just feeling like more and more of a loser. So don’t be jealous. Don’t even pretend to be jealous. Otherwise any teeth you’ll be missing are of your own doing.

2. DO

Ask what she had for dinner last night?
Did she read a good book maybe? What about a movie? Like it or not, your friend has got a lot of free time right now. You can’t spend ev-er-y waking moment applying for jobs. So odds are your friend is able to Netflix away for a day and picked up on this amazing show she’d love to talk to you about. Take an interest in her life without having what can only be described as “laser focus” on her current work status. She’ll be happy to talk to you about anything and everything, just not her job hunt – capiche?

3. DON’T

Give advice.
This one is simple. Yes, she is applying for jobs online. Yes, she has updated her LinkedIn profile. Yes, she is sending out her resume to various recruitment agencies. Yes, she is personalising emails to people in the business. Yes, she is trying to use the full extent of her network. Yes. Yes. YES! Whatever advice you’ve got: 9 times out of 10, the answer is “Yes, I’ve done that” and you implying otherwise is not only condescending, but patronising and be-yond annoying. Don’t do it. Unless you’re in HR yourself and you actually have valid advice on your friend’s resume, cover letter, upcoming interview (or anything similar), then please keep your comments to yourself.

3. DO

Talk about any job opportunities you’ve come across.
If you know what your friend is looking for and you’ve heard of a job opportunity that really matches her skill set, then of course, tell her about it!!! What are you waiting for?! Any kind of lead like that will be most welcomed! You’ll probably even win “Best Friend” Award of the Year if it pans out. If not, for sure you’ll receive an honourable mention. Either way, your help and thoughtfulness will be most appreciated. Even just knowing that you’re keeping an eye out for her means a lot. You go Glen Coco!

4. DON’T

Suggest any kind of outing.
Going to the movies. Going for dinner. Taking a spa day. Going on holiday. Going partying. The list can go on. Do you know what those suggestions all have in common? They cost money. Do you know what your friend doesn’t have at the minute? An income. Do you know what does still come in though? Bills. So no, your friend can’t go out clubbing with you to take the edge off. And dinner at that nice restaurant is going to have to wait. Anything that entails spending money is most likely going to be off-limits right now. So don’t even go there, because while you think you are taking her mind off things, you’re actually making her feel even more miserable. Trust me, she’s got enough to feel depressed about already. There’s no need for you to help with that.

4. DO

Surprise her with a bag full of food you are going to cook for her!
Or just spontaneously show up with a bunch of dvd’s and demand a movie night! Or maybe you feel like you’d like some company on a walk through the local park?! Any activity not costing money and designed to hang out – without strings attached – is absolutely amazing. Like a breath of fresh air, she’ll be pleased at how considerate you are. Being unemployed can leave your friend feeling isolated, because there’s so many activities she suddenly can’t participate in. By surprising her with your (free) company, she’ll get the benefit of your friendship without that pesky financial cost. Bliss! And also eternal gratitude.
Oh, and if you’re trying to circumvent the “cost” issue by offering to pay for her? Be careful with that one. A nice treat is fine and truly generous, but don’t overdo it or she’ll start feeling like a charity case. Even if she kind of is one right now, there’s no reason she should feel like one.

5. DON’T

Talk about your friend of a friend of your brother who’s in the same position as she is.
Great. What the fuck do I care? Is this helpful information? Is it going to make your friend feel better? Do you really think your friend is going to be pleased to hear that other people are also having a hard time with finding a job? I’m sure you think it’s going to make her feel less alone and therefore less of a failure, but you thought wrong. Instead, it’s just going to convince her that the market is absolutely horrendous and her next opportunity for a job might not be weeks, but months away. She probably already knew that, but you confirming it really adds on the pressure. Thanks for that.

5. DO

Say that you believe in her.
All she really needs from you is support. Belief that she can do this. She may not always believe it herself, so therefore your relentless encouragement is key. There will always be days when it seems hopeless and on those days it means the absolute world that her best friends are rooting for her. You may not be able to supply her with a job. You may not be able to give her advice. You may not be able to show up on her doorstep with a collection of chickflick movies. But you can show support by simply saying that you believe in her. You believe in her skills. You believe that, despite that this is a rough patch she is experiencing, she will get through it. Do that and you are already the best friend she could ever have. Word.

Voilà. And there you have it folks: some insight into what it’s like being unemployed and how to talk to someone who is – i.e. me. Of course, anyone who’s ever had an unemployed friend and now realises that they may have done some of the aforementioned “don’ts”: don’t worry. We, the unemployed friends, know you mean well. We’re not here to bite your head off and discount you as “unfeeling idiots”. On the contrary! We know that you’re trying to be a good friend, but you’re not entirely sure how that works in this new situation. And that isn’t anyone’s fault, it’s simply “uncharted territory” for your friendship. We I would never hold that against you.

Though, now that you understand my situation a bit more, I will no longer make apologies for any grunts, eye rolls, yawns or potential walk-outs you may encounter if you fail to comply with the above. Not to be mean, but you have been forewarned, so no calling me out on being “grumpy”. Because until you wear a robe more often than you wear jeans, you haven’t even begun to understand the meaning of the word.

XOXO

– Your couch potato