It’s been about a year and a half since I made the big move to London from Sydney (a fact I’m not shy about advertising all over social media). Which means, in addition to all the other arena’s in which I’m a huge know-it-all, I’ve become the resident London know-it-all for friends back home who are moving to London.
However, a year and a half ago I was struggling big time. I didn’t know where to live, how to open a bank account, how to get a job, how to make friends and how to really enjoy my life in a new city. So here’s my guide on how to succeed with all those things when you make the big move to London.
Where to live
As the wise Channel 4 show once said, it’s all about location, location, location. The first thing to do when moving to London is to be realistic about the price of your rent. The saying is ‘spend 30% of your monthly pay on rent’, but the statistics have found that London residents spend 49% of their salaries on rent alone. If you’re going into an entry-level role in London, which on average pays about £25,000 (average in fashion is between £18’000 – £22’000), you’ll earn around £1,700 a month. If you only want to spend 30% of your pay on rent – you’re looking at a room going for £510. Being realistic, you’ll have to go higher in London. If you aim for 40% (which is what I pay on rent!) – that’s £680 – which is more realistic.
If you choose to live on the outskirts of London, that will cut your rent considerably. I have a friend who pays less than £400 on rent a month. However, by the time she calculates commuting costs, it ends up costing roughly the same as it is to live in central London (with commuting). If you choose to live further out, there are railcards available for 20-25 year olds, and one introduced for 26-30 year olds that can cut ⅓ off your prices. But be mindful, you won’t be able to get a railcard discount on a weekly or monthly season ticket.
If you’re new to London and don’t have anyone to try and find a whole house to rent with, your best bet is Spareroom. If you want to divvy up London into areas, the general consensus is that West is posh, North can be a bit grimey but well connected. South has no tube but lots of nice green spaces and East is a bit rough around the edges but up and coming. YouGov did a survey in 2014 and found how Londoners viewed each area – and each area had numerous adjectives that apply. The best thing is to ask around and give yourself enough time to look around. Always explore what public transport options are like in your area. I live in Battersea, which is known for not having a tube station. However, there are two 24-hour buses at the end of my street, so I manage just fine!
How to open a bank account
To open a bank account in London, you pretty much have to sell your soul and your firstborn. I used my Australian bank account for months in London before moving, as I didn’t have proof of address. This is a non-negotiable with banks – they need a proof of address. This includes utility bills (gas, electricity, water, TV), bank statements, council tax, or a tenancy agreement.
An easy way to get around this is to open an online bank account with someone like Monzo or Monese – it works like a regular bank account, and you can be paid by your work into this. All you need is a passport! If you want a bank with a physical location, open an account with an online bank first, and ask them to mail you a bank statement, then, use that to open a proper account. You can also ask your roommates to add your name to the council tax bill after you move in, or any other bill. Another option is getting a UK drivers licence – that’s what Lloyds recommended when I was enquiring.
How to get a job
Before moving to London, refresh your CV, reach out to recruiters on LinkedIn and sign up for alerts on relevant job websites – I did Cision, Mediargh and FashionWorkie. And when you first arrive – don’t be picky! There are so many temp opportunities available, and it takes minimal turnaround from getting in contact with an agency to working in an office. It can be basic, mindless work at times, but at the end of the day, it’s money that will pay your bills and allow you the peace of mind to look for your dream position!
How to make friends
Why didn’t anyone ever warn me that making friends as an adult can be so difficult? The best way to make friends involves just putting yourself out there. From joining and posting on ex-pat pages on Facebook (search <your nationality> in London, and I guarantee you’ll find something), to joining sporting groups, to talking to strangers at concerts, to scrolling through Bumble BFF – I’ve made friends in so many different ways – and you can too! Don’t be nervous, because the majority of people you meet are going through a similar situation. Also, make an effort with your colleagues and your housemates – having a good relationship with the people you spend most of your time with makes all the difference.
How to enjoy life in London
I’m going to sound like my mother by saying this, but one of the best ways to enjoy life in London is to budget! Figure out what you actually have money to do and put it towards experiences that you’ll genuinely enjoy (which isn’t always the pub!). There are so many beautiful museums (V&A, Natural History Museum, British Museum), parks (Richmond Park, Hampstead Heath, Battersea Park) and walking trails (Thames Path, Wandle Trail, Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk) that you can do for free.
The Tate offers the Tate Collective for 16-25 year olds, where all exhibitions are £5! Time Out is your go-to if you need inspiration – with great offers and constant ‘things to do’ listicles, you’ll definitely find something to suit your budget. TodayTix is great for finding musicals with cheap tickets and lotteries – if you download the app, you can enter lotteries daily (I’ve won great tickets to both Aladdin and Matilda!). See if your work offers any employee schemes – my workplace offers Perkbox, and I was able to see ‘The Favourite’ for £7 – which in London, is very rare, believe me. Groupon is another great one for experiences, food and travel at cheaper prices.
Hopefully, this helps to convince people on the fence about moving to London. As much as I struggled in the beginning, it’s been such an adventure and an experience I’ll cherish forever (cheesy, but true!). Just remember, there is someone out there who has gone through the exact same thing and is willing to lend out a hand – and if they’re not, just email me!
Words by Kate Evans