I’ve not always been a London based beauty junkie. I grew up in a village, around an hour out of London. Then after going to Leicester University I immediately moved to London after graduating (well, technically I moved a couple of weeks before the graduation ceremony – but close enough). Having now lived in London for over eight years, in various areas and house set-ups I thought I might share a few pointers that might help anyone who is looking to move to London, or perhaps even just dreaming of it in future…
1. It’s an expensive city
Ok, this probably goes without saying but the whole ‘London prices’ thing is very much real. From rent, to buying a drink – everything pretty much has a bit of a London premium price on it. The plus side is that when you head out of London for a weekend or so, everything feels really cheap (I remember heading to Leeds for New Year after living in London for six months and insisting on buying all my friends a round of shots when I heard how cheap they were…I felt like P Diddy ordering a magnum of Cristal). Rent is extortionate, but strangely after you live here for a few years it all becomes relative – £900 (at least) for a tiny and likely fairly grotty studio flat excluding bills? Pre-London you might need to sit down and fan yourself, In-London and you start to think that’a a steal. Basically, what I’m saying is prepare yourself – maybe try and save a bit before the big move so you have an ’emergency’ fund to help out at the end of the month when it looks like nothing but dried pasta and tinned beans for dinner is on the cards until payday.
2. North or South – the divide is real
When I say divide, I certainly don’t mean like gang warfare or anything that extreme. But there will be a tendency to leave your heart on one side of the river or the other. For me, I can’t imagine living South – I’ve always lived North, with Chiswick being the closest I’ve ever ventured to going ‘to the other side’… still North, but close to the river… Both North and South have their perks and perils and one might be the place for you – it just depends what you want. The North has better transport links (generally speaking) and is more built up, the South can be cheaper and has more green space. I could go on…What you need to do to help decide where is right for you to start out… leads me nicely on to the next point…
3. Do your research
I don’t necessarily mean buy books and make notes (although I did actually buy a book about London neighbourhoods before I moved down) but google different places, try and get a feel for them. If possible, go and visit them – it’s the best way to see how you might feel living there. Try going there in the day and the night, see if you feel safe. Feeling safe is very important – live here there’s a pretty high chance you will be in your neighbourhood at night – so it’s worth putting out some feelers to see if it feels right for you or not, rather than finding out the hard way.
When looking for a place – use your social networks. Tweet & Facebook that you’re looking for a place. You might be able to find someone through friends that is looking to fill a room and know an area. Go and visit people you know in the city where you can and ask them questions. Ask me if you like – I’m more than happy to answer any questions!
4. Consider busses AND tubes
So the tube is the obvious choice to get around, but when you’re looking at a place to live consider the busses around it too. Sure, a bus might seem a bit daunting at first (it’s not on a fixed line, could end up who knows where… etc) but they also have their benefits. Firstly, if you do live in an area where maybe at night you don’t feel quite 100% walking home – you can take a bus to get you closer and minimise walking distance. Secondly, they’re one of the best ways to get to know the city – look out of the window instead of down at your phone and you will start to recognise places and make a little map in your head so you know where you are. Thirdly, they’re cheaper – a major plus point when I first moved to London.
Oh, and also worth having a back up idea of how much a taxi home from central would be… you never know when you might just need one. And download the Hailo or Get Taxi apps (Get Taxi being my personal favourite) – so handy.
5. It does feel a bit magic
You know that scene in Bridget Jones where she’s walking across the bridge post-sex with Daniel? Well, I pretty much always get that same feeling (minus the sex with sleazy boss part) every time I walk across any of the bridges. Whatever the day, whatever the weather – there’s nothing like the river view to really make you pinch yourself that you live in one of the coolest cities in the world.
6. But at the same time, can be really crappy
As much as I wish living in London was ALL about point 5. it has it’s moments where it doesn’t feel quite so magic. The city can be a bit grimy, you do need to watch your bag on the tube/phone in the street. As with any big city, it has it’s risks and you do need to be a little more careful than perhaps you would be in a smaller town or village. People can be very grumpy (you don’t make eye contact on public transport – silent London rule)…But I promise – it’s worth it!
7. Housemates can be a nightmare
OR they can be one of the best things to happen to you… (so it’s not all doom and gloom). It really can go both ways if you’re living with a random selection of people. When I moved to London, I didn’t move with friends – I moved in with strangers. I was so keen to move down I was ready to do so whatever the situation – I didn’t want to wait for a friend to get a job or whatever. I lived in the same place in Holloway for nearly three years, with various different housemate line-ups involved. I can safely say that I had my share of nightmares, but I also met some of my best friends. It can be REALLY hard to judge the character or behaviour of a person on first meeting – so living with random housemates is very much a leap of faith. Just go into it knowing what you want in a house, and try not to let small stuff bother you. Remember your room is your own little sanctuary – and they can’t get you for what you’re thinking. Even if you do end up with nightmare housemates – it will all be ok in the end, promise. Where possible, try and ensure there’s some flexibility in your rental contract – some landlords allow substitutions, so if things get really bad and you just need to move out you can – as long as you find someone to take over the room. This can be good for peace of mind if you know it gets really bad…you can escape. Even living with friends can be challenging at times – but all those nightmare housemate stories do make for great pub fodder in hindsight..
8. London is what you make it
It’s an amazing city and you could be doing something amazing every night of the week if you want to – going to museums, drinks at some new bar, Boris bike to a new area, dinner in the latest Soho pop up, taking a walk around one of the various parks… the list could go on. OR you could go home and get into bed and have a cup of tea and an early night. I’m certainly not saying what is the right thing to do – but the city will be as fun and amazing as you want to make it. But you do need to be a bit proactive and go out there and experience it as it won’t really just come to you.
9. You will probably become ‘one of those people’ who thinks life ceases outside the M25
Maybe only in irony, but when you go to your home town or are faced with the choice of a weekend with family outside of London or a weekend of London… it will become a (very) tough call. You might find yourself saying things like ‘What, the shops close at 6pm? What’s that all about?’ or ‘In London it/they/I…’. I’m not saying this is a good thing, but there’s something about London life that consumes you and can (for some) put blinkers on you to the rest of the UK – for non-London folk, this can be a mixture of amusing and annoying. Might not happen to everyone – but just a heads up, it can happen to even the best intentioned London-dwellers!
10. You will probably want to leave at some point (despite point 9)
Early on, you might just decide London isn’t right for you. Fair enough, it certainly isn’t for everyone. I nearly left after a year – randomly choosing Nottingham as a possible destination to move to?! Who knows why! But I didn’t I stuck it out, and now seven years down the line I love it as much as that first day. But, the one difference I can see now is that whilst if you asked me two/three years ago if I could ever see myself leaving London I would have hand on heart said no way. Now, whilst I am nowhere near ready to leave any time soon – I can see it happening. Sure, there’s the whole ‘Tired of London, Tired of Life’ thing… but frankly I think that the desire to live outside of the city happens to the vast majority. I know moving out of the city won’t happen for a few years, but I can see it happening whilst before there was no way I could see it ever being the case. But beyond the big move, there will also be weekends where you just feel you need to get out – be it a trip home, weekend away or full holiday. Leaving will be refreshing – and coming back will feel good. It’s when coming back to London after a break away doesn’t feel so great that you start to maybe look beyond the big smoke as your forever home…