Thinking of a professional overseas experience? Here’s our guide to living in London
London is a world-renowned tourist attraction, but what is it like to actually live there?
Like most people on the planet, Australian and New Zealand professionals are fully aware of the great tourist attractions the UK’s capital has, with thousands of people descending on Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Tower Bridge and The Tower of London every day. But very few get to experience the real London, the one experienced by over 6 million Londoners every day. In this blog, we’ll share what it’s really like to live in one of the world’s greatest cities.
London’s really expensive, right?
Wrong. This is probably the first myth to dispel. As thousands of MyOErs have discovered over the last 20 years, London can be as expensive or cheap as you want it to be. You can find really cheap accommodation, you can shop very affordably as the UK market is awash with low-cost supermarket chains, and there are a plethora of pubs and restaurants offering good food and drink at great prices. Equally, if you’ve got money to burn, you’ll certainly find ample places in London to do just that!
The reality is that most MyOErs live a very comfortable lifestyle in London. It’s true that accommodation can be expensive, however most Australian and Kiwi professionals look to share a flat or house with like-minded people to build on their network of friends and business contacts, explore the capital and travel around Europe. Some look to spend spend spend, whilst others look to save everything they have. Most find a balance by taking the time to save for European weekends away, whilst also allowing themselves to enjoy everything London has to offer whilst they are here.
Check out our blog on how Aussie and Kiwi life compares to get a clearer idea of how your new lifestyle may look.
Most MyOErs find there’s not much difference to working in London vs working at home. Working hours are very similar, and whilst the culture of long hours can be found, it’s not as prevalent as it is in say America or Japan. In terms of working culture, whilst the UK is faster paced than say southern Europe where our friends in Spain and Italy take a slower and more laid-back approach to work, it still recognises the importance of work-life balance and employees getting the opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends (and to adventure around the delights of Europe).
The biggest difference people notice is the busy commute, which can sometimes take a bit of getting used to, and also the impact of the different seasons. Cold and often wet winter can bring sometimes only 7-8 hours of daylight, whilst long hot summer days can bring close to 17-18 hours of sunshine, meaning the working environment can feel very different dependant on the season.
London also prides itself on being inclusive and receptive to all workers regardless of age, gender, sex, race and sexual orientation. More recently there has been a huge focus on addressing mental health and stress-related illnesses at work, putting London and the UK as a whole ahead of many of its rivals in dealing with these important life challenges.
As you would imagine, London is an extremely well-connected city. The underground tube network is the most popular way of getting around the capital, and it’s 11 tube line links not only connect the inner areas of London but also extend out to the far reaches of the capital, ensuring those living further afield are still easily able to get into town in 30-40 minutes. Tube services usually run from 5 am until midnight, with Night Tube services running 24 hours on some lines on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Using two legs to get around central London is also very popular, especially as the distance between tube stations is often very small, with many tourists not realising they’re only a 15 minute walk away from somewhere which might take two changes to get to on the tube.
Cycling is extremely popular and London’s public bike-sharing scheme is available 24/7, 365 days a year. There are more than 750 docking stations and 11,500 bikes in circulation across London to help you get around quickly, easily and cheaply (£2 for 24 hours) – simply hire a bike, ride it where you like, then return it to any of the hundreds of docking stations across the city – and your first 30 minutes is free.
Like the tube, the bus and train networks are also extensive. Australian and New Zealand professionals find either using their debit/credit card to tap through, a pay as you go Oyster card or buying a weekly or monthly travel pass as the most cost-effective way to get around the city. Most MyOErs find they have zero requirements to get around by car. Driving is probably the least time-effective way to get around the city and most find that once acclimatised to how it all works, the fantastic multiple options of London public transit, with costs very comparable to getting around at home, an absolute winner.
Evenings and weekends
London really does come into its own when work has finished. Most districts in London provide all of the essentials and more, so whether you’d like to simply go to the gym, grab a bite to eat and head home or go out on the town with friends and stay out to the early hours, then you don’t have to venture far afield. Equally, whatever night of the week it is, if you fancy doing something different, there’s always a mountain of things to do – from watching bands at some of the worlds best venues, to exploring some of the planet’s greatest art galleries and exhibitions, or playing/watching the sport of your choice, London really does have it all.
Come the weekend, London appears to get even bigger, meaning you can take in as much or as little as you desire. A typical weekend maybe dinner and drinks after work with friends or colleagues on Friday night, a full on day on Saturday taking in a host of cultural opportunities followed by a Saturday night out on the town with friends. Sunday often brings a stroll in one of London’s beautiful parks, followed by a Sunday roast aside a roaring log fire in a great London pub…….heaven!
A change of season
One of the biggest parts of living in London is getting used to how life changes as the seasons change. This may sound obvious, but London life really does differ throughout the year. The onset of Winter can bring cold, dark and wet days, but just before everyone gets fed up, the excitement of Christmas arrives and London gets truly spectacular. Following the celebrations of New Year, Londoners do a little bit of hibernation before Spring brings new colour and light to the capital, and people and families start to enjoy the great outdoors again. Heading into summer the days start getting really long, and MyOErs head out to the rooftop bars and parks of London with their picnics, wine and friends aplenty. There really is no better place on earth like London in the summer – buzzing, vibrant and always so much to do! Autumn arrives and the city changes colour again, with cold but crisp sunny days to enjoy.
So a big part of life in London is getting to know how best to enjoy and embrace each season, with each one bringing a host of new activities and things to do.
A never-ending bucket list
One of the things many MyOErs enjoy the most about living in London is the sheer amount of things available that they are guaranteed to want to add to their ‘must do’ list. We’re a social bunch, so a week doesn’t go by without news of a new show, restaurant, gallery, activity or pub to visit. And if you’ve ever wanted to try something new or improve your skills in your hobby of choice, then London is a mecca for learning from the very best on the planet. So it’s up to you. If getting into a familiar routine of enjoying your favourite haunts is for you then there’s plenty for you to choose from, or you can make every day a new experience and an education with a host of new things to discover and do.
In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing first-hand real experiences of some of our very own MyOErs, so watch out for those. In the meantime, for a more in-depth guide into everything an overseas experience entails then download our handbook here. Or if there really is no time like the present and you would like to have an informal chat through your plans immediately then please do contact one of our OE experts in Australia or in the UK for advice on what your next steps should be.
We look forward to welcoming you into London in 2019, you most definitely won’t regret it.