Why move to London?
To start a new and exciting lifestyle ✔
To live in one of the most popular and largest cities in the world ✔
To meet more alike and different people ✔
To gain new perspectives and experiences ✔
To personally challenge yourself ✔ for self-development
To secure that dream job ✔
Or perhaps just to be a two hour train ride from Paris and only a short flight away from exploring all of Europe.
Personally for me, moving to London was a mixture of all of the above, plus so much more than I ever could have ever imagined.
Taking that ‘big step’ of packing my life into a suitcase (girls especially will appreciate how difficult this task actually is), going out on my own without the friends I couldn’t imagine life without and traveling halfway across the world, was one of the most rewarding and memorable life decisions I have made to date – and that is exactly why I am sharing my thoughts, experiences and advice with you. This little piece of my personal experience of moving to and living in London is, in hope, motivating and encouraging towards you making the big decision to move abroad yourself – that is if it’s always been something that you’ve wanted to do, or if you’re looking to start anew.
Starting completely fresh (friendships, lifestyle, ‘home’ and work life speaking) can be challenging, especially when you are content in the current life you lead. However, challenging yourself to make new friends, to see the world from a different perspective, to find a house to call home and to secure a job that suits you, can bring feelings of happiness, achievement and fulfilment never before experienced.
For me, my decision to move to London came to me in early 2013, a time when I was almost completely happy in all areas of my life, but still needed that extra something to feel I was living the life the way I wanted to live. Within a few weeks, I quit my current job, booked a one way flight and planned the next days, months and however many years were to come. In all of the excitement, I felt slightly disheartened knowing that making this move on my own meant that I was going to be without what made me happiest, my friends. Luckily for me, some friends (mum included) visited me in London and I was fortunate to also travel other parts of world with some of my best girls. Plus with the help of social media, you are only really as apart from the people most important to you as you allow yourself to feel.
TIP: as we know, true friends will always be with you no matter how far the distance. This is something you will quickly learn so don’t let yourself be held back in making change by worrying about the changes ‘at home’ as you will soon adapt to and enjoy change.
My first weeks in London were exciting and surreal, the same feelings I continued to experience during my two years time. While out with new friends, being a tourist in my own city and even while at home in my flat, I found myself feeling surprised at this exciting change I felt happened so quickly, as well as feeling more thankful than ever for this new lifestyle I loved. I was also lucky enough to have met some wonderful friends, friends now who are far in distance but who added so much to my time abroad and who I know we will always stay in touch. On top of that, London opened up so many opportunities for me and was a time where I learnt so much about myself (the good and the not so good), where I was able to develop as a person to be the best person I could be and where I was also able to achieve more than I ever could have imagined, on a personal and a professional level. Without sounding too shiny and sparkly, my experience definitely had its challenging times, such as not being able to celebrate important events with the good friends I’ve had for years (oh and having all of my electronics stolen and photos lost, that was annoying) but overall, I couldn’t have expected a much better experience. One of the best parts? His name is Immanuel. An Australian adventure and travel lover where of course, we had to travel across the world to find each other. He made London feel like home, (warning to the following cliché) stole my heart and is a part of London that I will always have with me.
So, where am I now you may wonder? Despite being 99% content with my lifestyle in London and London feeling like home to me, early 2015 felt like the right time for Immanuel and I to return home (Sydney, Australia) to be back with family and friends and to return to ‘reality’. The decision to leave London rather than staying for a few years more by sponsorship was personally a very difficult one, but one I feel was right for me. Even now, only three months later, my life in London feels like a distant memory, however it will always be a memory I will treasure.
Now the essentials in moving abroad. Before making the big move, you need to consider these four main things: your visa, accommodation, employment and last but definitely not least travel.
All non-European residences require a visa. If you are between the ages of 18 to 30, have at least £1,890 (approx. $3,861.88) in savings and if you are looking for a temporary two year stay, you can apply for a Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa or if you are eligible you can apply for an ancestry visa where you can stay for up to five years.
TIP: make sure you confirm your intended start date when applying.
You will need to consider the area you want to live and the type of people you live with (don’t underestimate the importance of this). You will likely live with strangers who (mostly) will become instant friends, so living with people you have just met is a great way of making friends! I’d suggest looking for available houses/flats who advertise to have housemates similar to you (e.g. travellers, professionals, partiers etc.) so that you can meet likeminded people that share your interests and can meet more other potential friends through.
London works in area zones; zone 1 being central London city and zone 6 being close to greater London. Travellers are known to live in zones 1, 2 and 3. For each year of my two years in London, I lived in zone 1 and zone 2 which meant I was only minutes walking distance from the local Westfield, bars, restaurants and cafes, pubs and supermarkets – this was definitely a bonus! This also meant more pricey rent, so expect to pay anywhere from £450 – £600+ a month.
TIP: sharing a room with a friend or boyfriend/girlfriend usually gives you a bigger room for a lesser price than a single room.
Considering the area you want to live while thinking of the area you work is always ideal, but transport in London is so easily accessible that you’ll be able to get around quite easily by bus or tube.
TIP: just make the walking distance from your house/flat isn’t too far from busses or the tube as walking in the freezing cold in winter in the early AM and late PM is not pleasant.
Ideally (to ensure you aren’t overtaxed) before you start a job, apply for a National Insurance number. To apply, contact Jobcentre Plus (0345 600 0643).
London’s employment is mostly sourced through job agencies which makes life a little easier with an agent that sets you up with an interview and/or a job. This however has the disadvantage of the agency taking a slight cut from your wage.
TIP: if you have a particular profession or trade, register with an agency that specialises in this field as they will be able to help you find the position that is best suited to your skills, experience, interests and location.
You may also need to register with the relevant professional organisation to be recognised as a qualified worker in your field in the UK. For Social Work, Psychological and Health professionals, you are required to be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council. As a qualified Social Worker, I was lucky enough to be signed up with a helpful and well-linked agent who secured me two interviews and those two positions during my two year stay, both where I chose my start dates, one including starting the very next day!
TIP: If you are a qualified Social Worker wanting a position in family support and child protection, I’m happy for you to contact me if you would like to be linked with the agency that I was signed up with.
Most popular UK job sites include; Jobsite, Monster and Reed, plus many more. Try and look for jobs that suit your reason for living in London, for example being career progressing if you are wanting professional development and/or being flexible if you’re main interest is to travel.
Living in London gives you the luxury of easily and cheaply accessing Europe! Skyscanner will soon become your best friend, making planned or spontaneous trips being as easy as a click of a few buttons.
While living in London I travelled to Greece, Paris, Croatia, Jersey, Spain, Dubai, Iceland, Sweden, Malta and Thailand. My favourite and most memorable holiday experiences were Greece and Croatia for the summer months (paradise) and beautiful Iceland and Sweden for the winter months (magical).
Living in London also gives you the luxury of traveling to some of the England’s most popular towns and oldest cities to explore England’s historic streets, buildings, castles, university’s and pubs and to visit England’s beaches (surprise, there are actually rock beaches only a train distance from London). My favourite cities and towns are Oxford, Windsor, Bath, Stonehenge, Brighton and Southend.
For travel in London, an Oyster card will get you bus and tube (underground train) travel, which on the weekdats come by literally every few minutes. Traveling around London is simple, with buses and tubes easily accessible for most boroughs (suburbs), and with mobile apps like Citymapper and Tube Map you’ll always know your way around London.
Between all of the European countries and England cities you’ll visit, don’t forget to explore the most vibrant city of all, London! In London, there is always something to do so you will always be able to find a new event, market, festival or pop-up store to go to, plus you will never run out of bars, restaurants, cafes or pubs to visit! TimeOut London will be your ultimate guide to what to do and see in London.
Here’s a list of my favourite places to visit in London that hopefully you will love just as much as I do! I’ve also put together a list of the details of locations, transport and opening times for these locations which I’m happy to share if you’d like this.
London To-do List
The Tower of London
Sightseeing and dining/bars:
Regents Park (be sure to go to Primrose view for a skyline view of the city)
Markets, shopping and eating-out:
Notting Hill Markets
Brick Lane Markets
Columbia Road Flower Market
Victoria and Albert Museum
Natural History Museum.
So, my final advice to you?
We all know the quote “quit your job, buy a one way ticket, travel” but seriously, make a lifestyle change for an experience of a lifetime, see the world and fall in love with a new place and new people – make your dreams, your reality!
Written by Kathryn Thomas
Kathryn Thomas is a lover of life, friends and travel.
She is a Social Worker who is passionate about positively changing the lives of others.
Her interests include adventures, wine and making the most of life’s every moment.