There’s no denying it, London is a fantastic city in which to live. However, depending on where you’re moving from, be prepared for a bit of a culture shock on arrival. Nothing horrible, just different from what you’re used to. Here’s our list of the 5 things Expats should know about London before moving here…
1. Unpredictable weather
There’s a reason the Brits are obsessed with the weather. And that’s because it can change in a blink of an eye.
In London, it’s possible to experience all seasons within a day (or within a couple of hours, to be honest). One minute it might be bright sunshine, the next snowing or raining. So the way to cope with this is to be prepared. Consider carrying an umbrella, this will become your best friend.
2. Be prepared for subtle language differences
Depending on where you come from, you’ll discover that certain words have different meanings in the UK. For instance, you put petrol in your car, not gas. Pants here are not trousers, they’re underwear. Chips in the UK are French fries, and a coach can mean a type of bus…
The list goes on, and there are some good places to check out various differences online. One such site is The Very Best of British, which provides an excellent list of words that have different meanings in the UK to other countries.
3. Commuting is a way of life
It doesn’t matter how much money you have, being able to live within walking distance of where you work in London is extremely unlikely. This means the inevitable commute every morning and evening.
You have a choice how you do this; most use London Transport, which consists of the Tube, the infamous red London Buses and Overground Trains. Others use pushbikes to get around the city (only recommended if you’re not of faint heart! The traffic in London is very busy).
A top tip here… Remember you’re going to be doing this trip 5 days a week for most of your working time. So it needs to be a trip that you can cope with. And whilst a 1 ½ hour commute at the beginning of the week might feel okay, by Friday evening you’re going to be pretty fed up with it.
The Tube is a great transport system, but in rush hour it’s seriously busy and can take some getting used to. If you can negotiate any way of working from home, or not travelling during the rush hour into work, then this will be a major plus to your work-life balance. Otherwise, be prepared to get used to it, and choose a place to live with the easiest commute possible to your place of work.
4. Driving in London is a crazy experience…
… In fact, the best advice is not to drive in Central London. The roads are crammed, there’s nowhere to park (and if you do find a space it’ll cost the earth), and to top it all off, you have to pay for the privilege. Yes, to drive in Central London you have to pay a congestion charge 5 days a week of £11.50 per day.
These are the reasons so many Londoners don’t own a car. And, to be honest, with such a great transport system, easily obtainable London Black Taxis and the fact that London is a great walking city, means that the need to own a car is practically obsolete when living in London. If you do choose to buy a car whilst here, make sure you understand the intricacies and costs of car ownership before you take the plunge.
5. You have to buy a Television Licence
Yes, really. In the UK, it’s illegal to have and watch live TV in your home without the required licence. This is easy to purchase and you can pay for it in a lump sum or in 12 monthly instalments.
You only need one TV licence per property, and can have as many televisions as you like. And just in case you think you can get away without having one?
If you’re caught, you risk a court appearance, a fine and, in worst-case scenario, even a spell in prison. And just a heads up, watching live TV on your laptop also requires you to have a licence.