As the capital city of the UK and England, London seldom fails to live up to expectations. London seems to have it all, from tranquil parks and towering buildings to some of the best restaurants in the world and a chic but colourful nightlife. As an expat, the change can sometimes be overwhelming, so it helps to be prepared. Here are 5 things you should know before moving to London.
1. Cost of Living in London
The cost of living is much higher in the cities while the surrounding countryside and provinces are comparatively cheaper.The cost of living in London will depend on a variety of factors including an individual’s choice of accommodation, required utilities, number of kids, health status, preferred mode of transportation and overall lifestyle. The biggest reason why London is so expensive is the price of accommodation but this varies greatly within the city – the rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center would be approximately GBP 1,500 per month while a one-bedroom apartment outside of the city center would be about GBP 920 per month. The cost of entertainment, dining out and shopping is also higher in London but this too will vary depending on the location. For instance, the price of a pint of lager in Kensington is more than double that of Birkenhead. A main dish at a restaurant is also higher and can vary from GBP 8 to GBP 25 but the prices at high street shopping retailers are consistent with those around the country. According to the Evening Standard, a person would need to earn a minimum of GBP 38,000 annually in order to afford to rent and live in an apartment in London.
London has a temperate climate but rainfall, in the form of a drizzle, can be a constant throughout the year – even in summer. It does take a while to get used to seeing overcast skies on a daily basis but even when it drizzles, the city remains warm as the buildings trap the heat in an “urban heat island”.
3. Driving in London
London has an excellent public transport system and so you can manage without a car for at least the first 6 months while you settle in. You can use your US license for the first year in the country but after that you will need to apply for a temporary license. Instead of buying a car, it is advisable to simply lease one as and when you require it as this would work out a lot cheaper. You can join a car club which will allow you to reserve and access a car at any time of the day or night using your own smart-enabled membership card. If you plan on getting a car, speak to your company about a car allowance as most companies in the UK provide it.
4. Job Search Expectations
Finding a job in London is notoriously difficult but there are several ways to increase one’s chances of getting full-time employment. A good first step would be to initiate contact with expat groups as well as individuals for firsthand information and advice. While some job sites and recruitment agencies do not work with expats as a rule, there are many that do, so it’s just a matter of finding the right ones. A work permit and a Tier 1 or Tier 2 visa is necessary in order to work in London. A Tier 1 visa is for “high-value migrants” and covers entrepreneurs while a tier 2 visa is meant for “skilled workers”. If you have not had much luck finding a job in London, you may need to accept a position for which you are over qualified, as a temporary measure.
5. After-hours Socializing with Colleagues
When working in London, socializing after work on a Friday night is pretty standard. Even if you do not drink, you should take the time and effort to socialize with your colleagues as this presents the ideal opportunity for networking and it helps to forge a better bond with them. As an expat, you may find it a little tough to manage your time during your first few months in London, and so it would be understandable if you skipped a couple of social gatherings. However, once you’ve settled in a bit, this is something you should definitely make time for.