**This is a updated version of my previous post on Moving to London with added/updated info**
“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.” – Lemony Snicket
Myself and himself moved to London in the summer of 2012. At the time, in Ireland, people where leaving left right and centre. It didn’t seem as scary as it probably should have. We quit our jobs, packed up our apartment, loaded it into a van, caged and drugged the cats with Valium and off we went. 5 years later, we couldn’t be happier about our decision.
Here’s what we learned along the way.
Hopefully it can shed some light for you if you’re thinking of making the move.
The Calm before the storm….
Before we moved to London officially, we took a week and went to sort out our new accommodation. We didn’t have anyone we could stay with while doing this. If you have someone you can stay with, take advantage!! It’s way cheaper. Airbnb wasn’t around when we came here so check this option to and book this over hotels to save some pennies. In that week we viewed between 20 and 30 places. We had a general area we wanted to be in (Greenwich) and a price range on rent (Less than £1200 per month). We contacted a few agencies and advised them of what we wanted. With agents, we were able to book multiple viewings with one person at a time.
Some places we saw were horrendous; to the point where I was ready to throw in the towel. Some places where so lovely, I wanted to move in that day. In London, on one end of the street you can have manors and mansions; on the other end you have council flats and run down slums. There is no specific bad places and no specific nice places. The outside of a property will NOT clue you in as to whats on the inside. We found out very quick not to judge a book by its cover when it came to house hunting. Do not agree to anywhere without seeing it first! Some agents will even offer a Skype viewing if you really can’t be there in person.
Location, Location, Location…
Decide whether you want to be North, South, East or West. Remember, if your commute is under an hour, you’re winning!! Don’t worry if the tube station is not 2 seconds away from your front door. London is so well-connected, you are never far from anywhere. Plus, the closer you are to the tube, the more they can charge!
We found our place in that week, we where determined…. only focusing on house hunting and knew we couldn’t go home empty-handed. With time, patience and an open mind, finding your little corner of the city is very doable! Bare in mind furnished flats in Dublin come with EVERYTHING (from our experience) In London, furnished means bed, wardrobe, couch, not necessarily pots, pans, ironing boards etc… Ask specifically what is included, just so you can be prepared. Deposits in London are 6 weeks rent minimum, not 1 month like in Dublin. As we also did not live in the UK prior to this they also asked us for guarantors (My folks were happy to do this). If you have employment already though it is easier to get around this. The agents just want to make sure they get their money. After 6 months we were able to remove my folks as guarantors.
Let’s be Roomies….
We moved together and were looking for a 2 bed. If you are moving alone, flat shares is the best option of you. When looking at a potential flat share, don’t be surprised if they ask to interview you. They just want to get a feel of who you are and if you’ll mix well with those already there. Use this as an opportunity to vet them to! You may love the place but the people could be a nightmare! Make sure they tick your boxes as well as you ticking theres! Gum Tree and Spare Room will be your best shout!
Fresh of the boat are ya?
Once you have your place set up, the next step is to get your National Insurance Number. This is the U.K equlivant of the PPS number or social security number. If you get work before you get your number, that’s ok. Work places can set you up with a temporary one. My work even let me take a half day to go to the appointment I had for it. Employers know the drill as you’ll need this number if you plan to set up shop in the U.K. Also for the NHS, Dentist and voting. You should also register yourself to vote! Never a bad idea 🙂
Bills, Bills, Bills
We had some bills we didn’t have in Dublin, Council Tax & Water. Council tax differs place to place. Greenwich council can charge one price, Hackney council charges another. There are also different bands depending on the property. Water also depends on the size of your place, how many bathrooms etc you have. On a brighter note though, unlike Dublin, the NHS is available to you here which is amazing, no nasty doctor bills. The transport system works too! Back home the buses run to their own beat. Here they are like clockwork! Pros and Cons to every city!
Baby I Got your Money….
Banking! We went to Newry and opened an Ulster Bank account there. When opening an account you need an address and proof of that address. If you don’t have that in advance, this option may be easier. Check if any banks in your home town are also in the UK, like Santander, they may be able to help set you up before you move. We used our Dublin addresses and had our bank cards live and ready to go before we moved. We STILL use our Ulster bank accounts. They come in handy when we go home, we don’t have crazy charges for swapping between pounds and euros. At home when using an ATM they dispense €50 notes nearly every time. Here not so much. £50 notes are not that common. If you don’t see them it’s not weird! Breaking them can be tricky as some places would prefer not to have them, especially small places / businesses. A random one but one we have come across a few times.
Get used to PUBLIC transport….
Transport here is unreal in comparison to Dublin. Get yourself an oyster card and a tube map. There are a number of apps you can download for this. TFL Journey Planner is your friend!! We do monthly tickets but some work places do offer you the option to buy the yearly ticket through them and pay it off in your wages before tax. These work out cheaper so do look into it if available. We have a car after being here for 5 years but it isn’t needed. We also have a car space with our flat. It get’s used mostly for day trips out of London and IKEA. If you have a car, bear in mind you may not have parking with your new place. Speed cameras are also everywhere! Mind the yellow boxes too. London traffic cameras are always on the hunt to catch you doing something illegal. Those fines are not a nice surprise to find in your letter box. We both had one each within the first 6 months (Yikes!). Parking spaces are also very expensive to rent. Driving into central London has congestion charges. Plus the price of parking in the centres is mental!! Also, with the Night Tube and night buses, staying out late isn’t as expensive as you think.
To me, to you, to me, to you….
Everything in London has a middle man. Want to rent, you need an estate agent. Want to get a job, best bet is a recruiter. At home, you can go directly to landlords or companies. Here, when you’re new, you need these middle people! Also every CV needs a cover letter. No cover letter, no call back! Seriously! Recruiters are a big help in getting you ready for this.
Thirsty Thursday is a thing!
London can be a really lonely place. Say YES to every work outing, get to know your work colleagues. Join clubs…. Find places were people gather and get involved. In the first 6 months you’ll need this. I joined a book club and my local weight watchers class. That was 2 nights of the week sorted! He joined a Sunday football league and in the last 2 years joined a golf club. We knew we would be here for a while so developing a new London family was something we wanted. Interact with people and you may find yourself making news friends 🙂 Londoners are just as friendly as the Irish, if not more! The Irish in London are amazing to! We have met so many Irish here. The minute you hear the accent it’s as if an automatic friendship is cracked up. I’ve been on the bus reading RTE news and had people speak to me when they saw this. Oh… your Irish to? Ye buddy!! Some of the best Irish people we know here have been meet on random nights out!
Apples & Oranges, 2 for a £1….
Find you local market! We have a few around us and are very lucky. These are great for the weekend. Especially when you’re short a few bob. It’s a day out without spending too much.
I think it’s this way…..
Explore your local area. Get on the buses and see where they bring you. You can’t see anything on the underground. By mapping it out above ground you find your feet a whole lot quicker!
Don’t eat in the same place twice! There are sooooo many places to eat there just may not be enough time!!
Food I find is waaayyy cheaper here. Asda, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, food markets, they all want your custom. Price wars are always going on. With so many people here they cater to all needs and styles. Shop around and find the places that stock what you need. When family and friends come over they just love the drug aisles. Paracetamol for 30p, yes please 🙂 (P.S Tesco has an Irish section in their foreign aisle…. winning!)
You will get use to the tube in rush hour. You will get use to always being in a crowd. You will love being in London.
If you’re thinking of moving here, do it. As my Mom said just before I left our house to come here, nothing ventured, nothing gained. London is so big and diverse, I can’t imagine you not finding something you love!
If you need any further help or answers on moving to London, please do get in touch! Would love to help in any way I can.
Lots of Love