London London Life

So, you want to move to London…

January 13, 2015
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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…

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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…

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15 Comments

  • Reply Jessica Rose January 13, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    I agree with lots of the points you made. I’ve lived in London now for about 12 years……Your job, how much money you earn and who you know…can make a big difference to your standard of living in London. Not everyone has a glam job working on a magazine or in television and if you don’t it can seem like you’re looking at life through a shop window (only your the one standing in the street!!) If you’re not living in London, it’s very easy to develop a *rose tinted impression. Oh and unless you live in zone two forget about the bus getting into Central London…otherwise you’ll be on the bus all day!!

    http://vodkaandarose.blogspot.co.uk

  • Reply Emma January 13, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    I’ve visited London a few times now for long weekends away (which I really enjoy) but I couldn’t imagine living there. I’m from Liverpool so I’m used to living in a city but the scale of London is something else.-it’s just so busy all the time! I must say that being a friendly Northener, I also find it really strange how people often look at you like you’re mad if you dare speak to *shock horror* a stranger! Here it’s perfectly normal to start a conversation with someone on public transport or in a shop but down South it seems that different rules apply. Plus of course, as you say, it is definitely more expensive. My mum lived in London for a few years for work purposes before coming back when she realised she hated it for the same reasons, plus getting her ankle broken being shoved off a tube train in the crowds and being mugged in a tube station. Don’t get me wrong, I love how there’s so much to see and do as a tourist but I could never live there. I guess a lot depends on personal preference but you’re right, there are a lot of people who live there for a few years then want out. Em x
    http://themusingsofem.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Reply Ouhlala Lewis! January 14, 2015 at 12:06 am

    That’s SO funny how you’ve just enounced all of my first-ten-days-in-London remarks haha ! ( you could also say that here compared to Paris for instance, strikes are a REAL nightmare)

  • Reply Josiee January 14, 2015 at 9:02 am

    What a great post, you’ve really summed up how it is to live in London! I’ve lived South of the river for almost 5 years now, and have experienced pretty much all of the above!

    Josie XOXO
    Fashion Mumblr

  • Reply Elodie January 14, 2015 at 9:10 am

    I’ve been living in London for four years now and I wish I had someone telling me all this back when I first moved here. I’ve mostly lived in Chiswick the whole time, even when I was studying in Kings Cross, but I’m now getting ready to move to Clapham… SOUTH OF THE RIVER, I KNOW!!! Adding an “S” to my post code makes me feel like I’m moving to a brand new city so YES, the divide IS real!

    – Elodie x

    http://www.elle-yeah.com

  • Reply Kelly January 14, 2015 at 10:19 am

    Great post! Some good, sensible advice.
    I did think about moving to London – but after weighing up the options and being honest with myself, decided against, I’m only a 45 minute commute from Central so it’s not all bad. And my house was a lot cheaper to buy than anywhere to rent in London.
    It’s an amazing place, and there is so much to explore and do at any given time, love visiting friends and spending time there.

  • Reply Laura January 14, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Love this post, really helpful. I’m thinking about moving to London from Sydney in 2016. These posts are really great :)

  • Reply Laura January 14, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Love this post, super helpful. I’m thinking of moving to London from Sydney in 2016. These kinds of posts are great :)

  • Reply gio January 14, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Great post! Me and a friend are thinking of moving to London later in the year, so this is very helpful and timely. Thank you!

  • Reply tjasha January 14, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    Great post! After reading this I would still like to move to London…
    I’m not from the UK, but I really wish I would live there. London is my dream city and after spending my holidays there last year I’m even more in love with London. I know that spending there just a couple of days isn’t the same as living there, but in my time there I tried to get to know the lifestyle of living in London and I really liked it. So my goal in the future is to live in London or at least somewhere in the UK. Fingers crossed for my plans! 😀

  • Reply Mira January 14, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    Haha that post is so on point! Sums up London perfectly, really enjoyed reading :) Also, ‘eye contact with strangers on the tube’ is, indeed, the most awkward thing ever, but why, oh why, it keeps happening to me!? 😀 xx

    http://booksandmacarons.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Reply Sara Levy January 15, 2015 at 8:55 am

    Lived in London last year. I love the city, there’s always something to do, but I grew very tired of it. It’s fun all those cultures put together, but at the same time there’s no sense of familiarity or “home”. I feel like London is not a city where you can settle down.

    Jungle Fever

  • Reply Laurie February 10, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    To this day, I still can’t believe friends don’t use the buses as often as I think everyone should. When my parents came to visit me from New York, they commented on how amazing the transport system here is and especially those double decker lovely buses. It’s like being a tourist in your own city everyday, with WiFi! :) Thanks for the great post on things to consider before moving over, I wish I had something like this to reference to 8 years ago…x <3

  • Reply Brooke May 19, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    Wonderful tips! There are things I’ve never thought about and you definitely open my eyes for a lot of them! Thanks for sharing them here!

  • Reply Lynne Newma December 15, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    uch a helpful post! I work in the sphere of house removals in London (http://manwithvanbattersea.com/) and I know really much about all the difficulties that people are experiencing when trying to move here! It is really nice of you to share your experience because moving to London is definitely harder, especially for people who come from foreign countries! I will gladly share your post with clients who need additional information about the city! Very nice post! Thanks!

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