Things I’ve learned about London

In my mind, the transition from Sydneysider to Londoner should’ve been a piece of (tea)cake. πŸ«–πŸ°

Both cities are roughly the same size in terms of commuter belt, but Sydney’s population is half that of London, and appear quite similar at surface level.

But dig a little deeper and you might uncover a culture clash or two! We may share a monarch and language, but life as an Australian expat in London will teach you that football means a very different thing in this corner of the world! ⚽

Weather

Photo of a rainbow above King's Cross Station in London

London is known for its moody grey skies and drizzly weather. This is true to an extent but after living here for a couple of years, I find “moody” is the keyword.

From stifling heat waves to blink-and-you-missed-it flurries of snow, it’s no wonder Londoners resort to drastic measures like swimming in ponds and sunbathing in parks.

Autumn and spring are by far my favourite months in the UK as both seasons boast stunning natural beauty, and they tend to have more stable weather. πŸŒΈπŸ‚

Before signing a lease, make sure your new room or flat has double glazed windows and heating!

Work

Aerial photo of Monument

London a land of opportunity. No matter how niche, there’s a role for everyone in varying degrees of seniority in almost every industry.

Competition is fierce and this can sadly drive down wages, particularly in industries like marketing and events. Finance and tech roles are paid well but be prepared to compete. βš”οΈ

Recruiters are important for getting your CV seen. In London, recruiters form close working relationships with companies and can advocate for you once you’re in their system.

Recruiters are so commonplace that they specialise in different industries (e.g. marketing for not-for-profits), so be prepared to do your homework in approaching the right ones.

Renting and expenses

Photo of houses facing a Hampstead Heath pond

Renting in London is equally, if not more, competitive than job searching. Spareroom is your best bet for finding a room in a flat share, and Rightmove or Zoopla for leasing your own place.

Key considerations

  • Plan your budget around rent, bills and expenses as a whole to avoid any nasty surprises. For instance, council tax and transport fares vary depending on the area
  • Ensure there is central heating (wall mounted heaters) and that potential flatmates are in agreement on usage as electricity costs do tend to go up in winter
  • There are no power sockets in bathrooms, so a mirror in your room is useful for drying your hair
  • Check the TV licence situation. If you don’t plan to use it, make sure you’re able to opt out
  • Areas without a Tube station are generally cheaper. If you can bus, walk or cycle to work then consider living in an area like Crouch End or in South London
  • Hard water, limescale build up and mould are sadly part of the fact of life in London. Keep on top of your cleaning schedule and consider splitting the costs of a cleaner for a deep clean
  • Some flats don’t have living rooms! If you plan to entertain at home or enjoy a sociable living environment, factor this in. πŸ›‹οΈ

Transport

Photo of the Tube roundel at Piccadilly Circus

London transport is world-famous. It gave us colourful Tube lines, red double-decker buses and “Mind The Gap”. πŸš‡

The city is a maze and there’s absolutely no shame being a Londoner for years and relying on navigation apps! The most popular ones are Citymapper, Google Maps and TfL Go.

Transport in London is also notoriously expensive. The Tube (London Underground) fares tend to be the highest, while buses, Overground and cycle hire are much more affordable. And scenic! The front seats on the top deck of the bus offer the best views.

Everyone’s in a rush, so knowing where to walk and stand is important. Walk on the left, and stand on the right of escalators. It’s a bit nonsensical, but you’ll get used to it!

The network is old and particularly susceptible to weather; autumn leaves and snow can cause delays. Having multiple routes available for where you need go is advisable.

Food and eating out

Photo of a Borough Market food stall

Traditional British cuisine can range from warm and hearty, like Sunday roasts and homemade pies, to downright dull i.e. a different sandwich for every day of the week. πŸ₯ͺ

But London’s food scene draws inspiration from all corners of the globe and offers huge variety to impress every foodie and gastronome. Check out my guides on where to find the best Australian brunch and pizzerias in London! 🀀

Some iconic menus to sample in London are Dishoom, Padella, Kanada-Ya, Duck & Waffle, and Nando’s (no kidding). πŸ—

Food markets and food halls are also a great experience all round. My favourites are Seven Dials Market, Brixton Market, Broadway Market, Borough Market, Mercato Metropolitano and Mercato Mayfair.

Eating out (and ordering in) can be an expensive habit. Here’s how you can save without missing out.

Health

Photo of a thank you NHS banner in a tree

While comfort and convenience in terms of food choices may be appealing, it can lead to a phenomenon called the Heathrow injection, so remember to strike a healthy balance. πŸƒ

The NHS (National Heath Service) covers almost all your healthcare needs and is free (once you’ve covered the IHS payment as part of your visa application).

NHS wait times can be long, so if your employer offers membership to private health insurance I recommend opting in. Keep in mind the NHS doesn’t cover all dental, eye and contraception care.

To register with a local GP, you’ll need proof of permanent address (utility or council tax bill or tenancy agreement) but there are walk-in clinics to tide you over until you settle in. 🏠

Socialising

Photo of two girls at an art gallery in London

With so much going on in London, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Once you’ve ticked the main attractions off your list, check TimeOut for what’s coming up. 🎭

While London is full of millions of people, most people experience loneliness. With people coming and going all the time, it can be difficult to make friends. This is especially true as an adult.

Thankfully there are so many options for socialising and meeting new people. Bonding over a common interest like sports and hobbies or joining expat communities are often the best foundation for lasting friendships.

In terms of finding someone special, having so many fish in the sea can be tricky. On the one hand, people don’t feel pressured to settle; on the other hand, they might keep swiping. Being open and upfront about your expectations is the best way to avoid the tedium that is online dating. ❀️


Whether you’re here for a gap year or for the long haul, London will bring you a wealth of life experience. What advice would you give to someone thinking of making the move? πŸ‘‡


More in London

Photo of a squirrel in London in autumn

Fall for London in autumn

London in warm autumnal hues coupled with fun activities and events will make you think twice before swapping hiking boots for slippers. πŸ‚

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