Moving to London can be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. If you’re into bustling nightlife, Hackney and Shoreditch have more of it than you could ever ask for; if you’re into nature, the London Wetlands Centre will get your boots muddy and the London Zoo has more tigers than you can shake a marmoset at; if you’re into history, you’ll walk past plenty of it unintentionally– the other day, we accidentally found a building that George Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf both occupied at different points in history.
There’s something for just about everyone – but if moving to London is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make, it can also be one of the biggest ordeals.
Packing up your life and starting over in a new town is already complicated when you’re going somewhere quiet and normal – and it becomes exponentially harder when you’re moving to the capital.
Here are some top tips from our London-based team members.
Finding somewhere to live
Naturally, the first item on your agenda should be finding somewhere to live. If you can stay with friends or family for a week or two while you look, it will certainly help; if not, you’ll need to pay for a hotel or an Airbnb.
When it comes to actually finding a place, prepare to compromise. You may have ideas about the level of discomfort you are willing to endure, the amount of rent you are willing to pay, the distance to work you are willing to travel, the kind of company you are willing to keep, and the kind of area you are willing to live in. Some of these ideas are bound to be challenged.
If you want to live by yourself, expect to pay through the nose for the privilege. If you want to live in a nice area, prepare for it to be 50 minutes away from where you work. If you want to pay as little rent as possible, then enjoy living with six strangers who never clean anything and play loud techno music at 3:30am. Work out how far you’re willing to travel, how nice you need your place to be, and how much you’re willing to spend before you move.
Finding your way around
London’s public transport system is one of the wonders of the modern world: if you want to do something, there’s almost always a tube that’ll take you to it – and if there isn’t a tube, there will be a bus.
If you’re having trouble finding your way from place to place, download Citymapper – it can help you identify the quickest way to get to your final destination. The complex web of tube lines and bus routes can still get to your head, though, so it’s often worth going above ground and getting your bearings that way. You can use Uber, but it’s not cost-effective enough to be reliable in situations when you’re sober and close enough to a tube or bus to get home that way. London’s also small enough that you can cycle to work wherever you live, and we heartily recommend doing so: it’s good for the environment and it’s good for you (so long as you wear a breath mask).
When it comes to paying for public transport contactless card is the quickest and most effective way to pay: fares are capped according to a daily maximum, so you’ll never pay more than you have to unless you forget to tap out. You can also buy monthly travelcards in paper format, but don’t carry them next to your phone: the card will de-magnetise, and you’ll spend the next month asking gate staff to let you through.
Finally, at peak times on certain lines, the tube is an unholy mass of writhing, sweaty flesh. Commuters will defy the laws of physics and contort themselves into all sorts of positions just to get onto a carriage that is – by any reasonable definition of the term – completely full. So, travel earlier or later if you can.
Finding ways to have fun
There’s plenty of tourist stuff to do in London, but chances are you’ll burn through all the stuff that interests you in the first few weeks. You’ll need to think about how to make your own fun in the long-term.
A top priority should be finding a good local pub with reasonable prices, and clinging on to it for dear life. One of the best things about London is that there will be one wherever you live – and it’s usually a great place to meet people and make friends. It’s also worth joining clubs and societies: if you have a hobby – whether it’s geeky, sporty, or otherwise – there’s always a way to indulge it.
If you’re really struggling, sites like Design My Night, Resident Advisor, and Londonist can help you figure out what to do with your weekends. There’s always some event or festival going on: some involve rich intellectual and cultural exchange; some involve fine dining; some are thinly-veiled excuses for excessive drinking. We told you: something for everyone.
Moving to London is a highly specific experience that varies for every person: the only real ironclad rule is ‘don’t go to Oxford Street in December’. Depending on your cash reserves, your lifestyle preferences, and your temperament, it can be exciting, nightmarish, or both.
If you prepare for it properly, though, you’ll see why so many people consider it the greatest city in the world. For better or worse, there’s nowhere else quite like it.
If you’re moving to London, it’s definitely worth securing gainful employment with a leading integrated marketing agency first.