There are a few reasons why people are drawn to move to London alone. They might be frustrated or bored with their current life, they might be young (or not so young) and ambitious and see their future in a busy hub like London or they might just want to strike out alone and get to know themselves. Whatever your reasons, understand that you are not alone in wanting to move to London alone!
Preparation is the key
Are you moving to real London or to your rose-tinted vision of London? To make sure you know what you have let yourself in for, you should do as much preparation as possible and research the boroughs, the types of accommodation and their prices, the work scene, the culture and anything else that will give you insight into what to expect. You cannot ‘over-plan’ a move to London. If you have heard scare stories about London prices believe them! London is incredibly expensive, even by UK standards.
If you have the opportunity, the best way to prepare for the move is to come to London for an extended time as a visitor. If you are from a non-EU area, a General Visit Visa (current cost £83) will allow you to spend up to 6 months in the UK.
Unless you are a millionaire or are planning on taking up full-time studies in the capital, you will need to find some way to support yourself. Finding work in London is very competitive at the moment and with 2 million people unemployed (which, by definition, means actively seeking employment to start within a fortnight), even low paid jobs are not as plentiful as they once were. Add this to the notorious cost of living in London and your safety money can quickly be gobbled up if you don’t secure work. You will need at least six months worth of money for accommodation, food and travel – at London prices – before even contemplating basing yourself in the city while you look for work.
The two best options for job-hunting in London are to stay with friends or family (offer to pay them at least £5 a night and help with running the house if you are staying for more than a few days) or to use the online jobsites to secure interviews; Reed and Monster are two of the most popular.
If you are a non-EU citizen, your route to work will be that bit harder as you will need a Certificate of Sponsorship from an employer before you can work in London. If you are fortunate enough to work for a multi-national corporation with offices in London, research the possibility of an intra-company transfer, but don’t expect this to be plain-sailing either. Even if your employer agrees to send you to London, there has to be a bona fide position for you to be there (e.g. specialist skills or a role that can’t be filled by a local). There is more on securing a Work Visa on the UK government website.
Finding somewhere to live in the capital is generally easier than getting a job, but experiences vary. You should expect to spend a number of weeks or months searching before coming up with something suitable. For a flat/apartment of your own try the property websites (e.g. RightMove, Zoopla, Prime Location, etc.) and popular classified sites (Gumtree, Loot, etc.), or for a shared flat look at Flatshare.com, Spareroom or Gumtree.
Crucial to your whole experience is to find a balance between price, convenience and comfort. Most expats are unable to afford the central areas like Chelsea, Knightsbridge, Mayfair or Fulham while the dirt cheap locations are probably not advisable for someone striking out on their own. Public transport links are excellent, with easy access to the centre via tube, rail or bus. Some expats choose to live in the Docklands area and use the automated DLR service to get to work.
Expect the unexpected when it comes to being interviewed as a prospective tenant or flatmate. Competition for rooms is so fierce that it is a seller’s market, and some landlords/landladies and co-tenants are not shy to ask probing questions before deciding whether to take your money.
One of the worries for people moving to London on their own is how they can find friends. Fortunately, despite the reputation Londoners have for being stand-offish, most people find they make friends quite quickly after the inevitable settling in period. Often these friends come through work (London’s affinity for the ‘pub lunch’ is one of the more accurate stereotypes), but even if your colleagues all communte from different areas there are plenty of evening classes and interest groups that you can join to meet like-minded people. The internet and social media has made finding these groups much easier, and sites like Meetup are gold dust to lonely newcomers.
Safety & Security
London is an exciting, vibrant place to live but the reality of crime should not be understated. Always carry a mobile phone with you and avoid poorly lit and isolated areas, especially late at night. Be aware that the tube stops running around midnight, so you may need to take a night bus or a taxi back if you are out late (which is not advised unless you are in a group of friends). Keep security in mind when deciding on what flat or house to move into and always lock your doors and keep personal possessions secure.
It’s all in the attitude
Probably the most important key to your success in London, apart from the planning, is your attitude to the move. If you adopt a confident mentality and a positive “can do” approach – as well as being street smart – you will join the multitude of expats who love London life and have never regretted the moment they made the decision to move to London alone.