Are you planning to live in London? Find out what it’s like to live in the British capital, as well as useful tips and information in this article.
London has to be one of my favorite cities in the world. Growing up in Kuwait, I went to a school where most of my teachers were British. As a journalism student, watching news channels like the BBC was similar to homework.
My first visit to Londontown was when I went there in 2012 for a business trip. However, my dream came true when I moved to London with my family in 2015 and lived in the city for 4 years.
In this article, I share my first-hand experience and tips for living in London as an expat.
1. Find a house in London
It’s no secret that London has some of the most expensive real estate in the world, although the average house size is much smaller than in most developed countries.
When I arrived in the city, I quickly realized that many people actually choose to live in their own country, such as Surrey, Kent or Berkshire rather than live in London itself.
You would spend more on transportation, but this is usually offset by the larger space you can afford. Your decision depends on factors such as the length of your trip and the number of rooms you need.
My husband and I used to work in Zone 1 when we lived in London. We have chosen to focus on the neighborhoods of south-west London, in particular in zones 4 to 6.
We managed to find a nice 4 bedroom house in Sutton within our budget. This meant that our friends and family members could stay with us when they came to visit us.
Consider living just outside the city to save money. The high cost of real estate is certainly one of the disadvantages of living in London.
2. Getting to know the neighborhood
On your municipality’s website you will find information about recycling, waste collection, parking permits, etc. You can also use it to find out about local parks, libraries and events in your municipality.
Introduce yourself to your neighbors-especially those who live next door.
A box of cookies or a bottle of plonk can go a long way. You never know when you might need their help to take care of your plants or sign a package.
Neighborhoods usually have a “main street” which is the main road where most of the shops are located. Some allow traffic, while others are reserved for pedestrians.
Our house was a 15-minute walk from the main street and I visited it a lot to go to the bank, the hairdresser, the nail salon and the post office.
3. Travel To London
One of the advantages of living in London is that you really don’t need to own a car!
Public transport -buses, trams and the infamous London Underground called The Underground – is very reliable and affordable.
One of the first things to do after moving to London is to get an Oyster card and top up. You can also simply use a contactless bank card, but beware of card conflicts!
When you are not going back and forth, you can always ride a bike or go for a walk. Not only is it great for the environment, but it saves you thousands of pounds in car insurance, road tax, congestion charges and parking fees.
4. Find a job
While my husband left Egypt for the UK with his employer, my job search was not so easy.
When I finished unpacking and we all settled in, I created profiles on job boards like Monster and indeed, and updated my LinkedIn profile. I also contacted a few recruiters specialized in the career fields that interested me.
In the meantime, I’ve been trying to keep myself busy by joining the Parents’ Association at my daughter’s school and attending networking events.
I even started a travel blog when I was between jobs to promote family holidays in Egypt.
My advice would be to volunteer with a charity or join a community based on your interests. This way you can make friends, practice English if it is not your native language and even add local experience to your resume.
Another option is to work online and start earning a living at home.
5. Surviving In London
For someone like me, who has only lived in a warm climate, the weather in London was the biggest surprise.
I didn’t have any winter clothes or shoes suitable for living in London. I didn’t even have an umbrella and I had to borrow it from my mom!
But I must say that once I mastered the art of holding an umbrella, my daughter’s hand, my dog’s leash and my bag with both hands, I could leave my house with confidence, regardless of the weather.
Rain boots (rubber boots) are a must-have if you like hiking or gardening and don’t want to mess up your shoes. Raincoats can be used all year round and I noticed that women wear cooling tights in the summer and thicker tights when it’s cold.
You can experience the four seasons honestly in one day in order to be better prepared.
6. Get Care
The National Health Service (NHS) is a real godsend because health care services are free for anyone who is a lawful resident.
Once you arrive in the UK, visit the NHS website and find the nearest GP surgery.
When you register with your general practitioner, he will ask you to fill out a form with your medical history and you can tell him which medicines you are already taking so that he can give you a prescription.
If you apply to become an organ donor, you will receive a card to keep in your wallet.
There are also private hospitals and clinics, but they can be prohibitively expensive. Some employers offer private health insurance as one of their benefits. This can be useful if the waiting times for a specialist are long or if you want a second opinion before undergoing a procedure.
Free healthcare is one of the great advantages of living in London and the UK as a whole.
7. Holidays in London
Holidays in the UK revolve around Christmas and Easter. Most people have Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday and Easter Monday off, depending on what they do for a living.
There are three more holidays — the first and last Monday in May and the last Monday in August. Public transport may not be as normal and many shops or restaurants have fewer hours or close completely.
So for one of these holidays, be sure to fill up your recipes and stock up on all the essentials.
The school holidays are longer at Christmas and Easter and children can benefit from 2 to 3 weeks off. There are also half-term breaks that include 1 week of vacation during each school year.
8. Pet Friendly Hotels In London
I was so happy that we were able to bring our dog from Egypt because London is so pet-friendly. Most owners allow pets on their property. Dogs can take taxis, trains, buses and even the subway.
Many hotels, beaches, restaurants, cafes and pubs are dog-friendly. They can run in parks or swim in streams. There is also dog beer and dog ice cream for sale.
Be sure to keep them on a leash near ducks, swans, sheep and deer, as well as near children, playgrounds or parking lots.
You must clean up after your dog otherwise you could be fined on the spot! Another tip is to get pet insurance.
Not only are vet bills in London expensive, but you can be covered in the event of an accident, theft or loss. You can shop online or ask your local veterinarian for a recommendation.
9. Fun things to see and do
Working at a university in the heart of London, I was lucky to be surrounded by opportunities to discover the best of British history and culture.
You can attend a comedy night or a West End musical. You can go on a themed walk or a treasure hunt. If you are a fitness enthusiast, you can join a gym, go jogging or go to a fitness or dance class.
Living in London means that one day you could attend the Ascot races or a tennis match at Wimbledon and another day you could have a drink in a beer garden or grill on your friend’s barbecue.
There are many advantages and disadvantages to living in London, but the variety of things to see and do is one of the many advantages of living in this city.