Living abroad is one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences of my life. Moving to the northern hemisphere away from my support network with no income, no car and no home hasn’t exactly been easy, but living my dream and seeing the world has made it more than worthwhile.
Matt and I had been talking about moving to London since we met, and in the middle of 2010 we decided that it was time to put our migration where our mouths were and make it happen.
We arrived in London after spending 1 month in Bali soaking up sun, swimming in crystal clear water and drinking alcohol out of coconuts and were greeted by 2 degree temperatures, blistering winds and the upstanding citizens of the Brixton tube station.
Immediately, we were both slapped in the face with a big dose of reality! The next 5 months were incredibly hard, so here are some tips and information for any Australian’s or Kiwi’s out there thinking of making the move to London.
We had nowhere to live when we arrived, so we stayed with some very generous friends of ours. Staying in a hotel while flat hunting will burn through your savings, so if you have friends in London, ask them if you can stay on their couch for a few weeks, everyone does it!
Having a place to stay when you first arrive and while you are job and flat hunting is a huge help so don’t be a freeloader! You should pay the house minimum £5 a day to stay there to cover rent, electricity and gas.
A good dosser must not arrive empty-handed (i.e. bring a bottle of booze with you), must keep the house clean and tidy at all times ensuring it doesn’t look like they live there, must not invite random people back to the flat and must not out stay their welcome.
There are a number of ways you can find a flat, the best is to find people who you know or friends-of-friends to live with. This way, you can rest assured that you aren’t being scammed and that you won’t come home to find someone rummaging through your underwear drawer.
Make sure that your flat is close to a tube station, girls should ensure the street is well-lit and close to a main road if possible. Break-ins aren’t uncommon, so make sure your flat is secure and that you will feel comfortable leaving your valuables there all day.
You will be able to buy very affordable towels, linen, pillows and blankets from Primark. Avoid the store on Oxford Street where possible!
There are a lot of great areas to live, though you will find most Aussie’s and Kiwi’s tend to live in Earls Court, Shepherd’s Bush and Clapham.
Finding a job can be tough, it took Matt and I three months. It is important to start looking before you leave home, so you know what the market is like and what jobs are available that meet your skills.
Recruitment agencies are the norm in London and there are a lot of agencies specialising in different fields. Do some research and contact them to arrive interviews before you arrive so you hit the ground running.
I would say the average income for an office job would be around £20k – £25k. If you live in a share-house and budget well you will find this wage sufficient to live and travel on, as always the more you can earn the better. You can view a list of average salaries here: http://www.reed.co.uk/average-salary
Be sure to keep your options open with recruitment agencies, remember that you are number one in this situation so always put your needs first and if that means telling a white lie here or there, you may have to do it.
Reed have a great calculator on their website which can help you work out what your take home pay will be after tax: http://www.reed.co.uk/tax-calculator
Cost of living
The cost of food in London is lower than it is in Australia and if you take the time to go to ASDA instead of Waitrose you will find yourself saving money on groceries. Matt and I take our lunch to work each day and eat at home most nights and tend to spend £70 per week on groceries.
Don’t pay full price for anything! There are a number of websites that have great discount vouchers and deals available, and there’s no shame in using them because everyone here does it! Check out moneysavingexpert.com, quidco.com and toptable.com
You will undoubtedly get around on the tube, so your first port of call should be to an off-license to buy an Oyster Card, which is used in place of paper tickets for the bus, train or tram. It will cost you £5 for the card (which is refundable) and you can put credit on it or buy a weekly, monthly, yearly pass.
The great news is there are a lot of people in the same situation as you, so it is easy to make new friends. Of course you will meet people when you start working, but a few other great ways are to join a social sporting team, head to a local pub for drinks and attend local events.
Make sure you pick up TNT magazine each week – it’s published on Monday and gets snapped up fast! You can pick it up along the street and outside tube stations. Or check out the website here: http://www.tntmagazine.com/
Of course you have moved to London to see the world, that’s what you’re here for so don’t hold back! Start planning and keep your eyes peeled for all the amazing last-minute deals that come up, these could see you running away to Sweden for a weekend or booking a last-minute trip to Turkey.
The TNT travel show is a great way to score discounts on travel deals, but you can sign up to different websites like travelzoo.com as well.
The winter months can be tough and you may find yourself very homesick at times, so use travel as your life line. Always have something planned and be working toward your next holiday, don’t let your time in London go by and not do all those things you wanted to do while you’re here.
My top five tips for moving to London are:
1. Organise to stay on a friends couch for the first few weeks after you arrive – this will take a lot of pressure and stress off you.
2. Arrange interviews with recruitment agencies before you arrive
3. Always have your next travel planned and be working toward more
4. Get into a routine when you get here, don’t just sleep on the couch all day and watch Jersey Shore. If you can afford it, join a gym to stay active!
5. Use all the resources available to you and get a budget in mind. Work out how much you need to earn to live and travel, there’s no point moving here then realising you don’t earn enough to do the travel you came here for.