I’m surely not an expert of everything London.
As much as I call myself “Londoner at heart” on various social media platforms, I would never call myself a proper Londoner. Who can call themselves that, anyway? I’m pretty sure even after living in London for years and years, no one will ever truly grasp the wholeness of London. It’s a comforting thought to have while sitting in Germany, not knowing when the time will come at which I will be able to move back.
However, even when you only move to London for a short period of time – like I have -, you still need to do your research and plan things in your mind (and then, after all the research, realise that you’re going to make mistakes anyway and that you’ll never be fully prepared). This post is supposed to give you little tips and tricks which I wish I had known before I moved and it might help some of you, no matter for how long you decide to experience the Big Smoke for yourself (or any other city, for that matter).
1. Always go for proper viewings
Finding a room or flat in London can be mayhem and a little bit frightening, too. You’ll find the worst stories online, from people living in cupboards and super dirty mini-rooms while paying a small fortune, from commuting for hours on end in the mornings because it is impossible to afford anything within zones 1-3… you name it. Truth is: it’s not that bad.
My initial plan was to book into a hotel for a week before my first day at work and go for as many viewings as I can in that week. I wish I had stuck to that! But I was so afraid that I wouldn’t find anything nice that I looked for rooms whilst still living in Germany and settled for the next best thing – don’t do that. I mean it. It is so easy to squeeze quite a few viewings into one day, most of the time you can give them a call and go for a viewing the same or next day. Give yourself some time and go into every viewing with an open mind – you’ll know when the right room/flat has come!
2. Know your budget – and your way(s)!
What you obviously have to keep in mind is that London is expensive. Very expensive. And depending on your budget and salary, you’ll most likely not be able to afford a 3-bedroom-flat in South Kensington by yourself (and if you do, congratulations, I officially envy you!). But there are so many nice alternatives out there, you just need to compromise a little. Think of what is more important to you: having to leave the house a little earlier in the mornings but coming home to a house you feel homely in (=longer commute) or being able to sleep longer but not really wanting to come home at night (=shorter commute)? I personally very much prefer the first option (and if you can find a combination for either positive aspects… again, you’re lucky).
So you really need to know your finances. Keep in mind that, even when you moved a little outside of London and your rent is not as high, your commute will get more expensive. Also, consider where your work place is located and research a little about how to get there the quickest. Sometimes a commute from North to South can be quicker and more relaxed than one within the West End!
3. Trust your gut
Self-explanatory but very important in my opinion. If something doesn’t feel right about a place, there’s probably something that isn’t right about the place. Even if it’s your 25th viewing and you’re slowly getting frustrated – don’t go for something you’re not feeling good about. It’ll save you much drama and discomfort in the following months.
4. Don’t be afraid to wander
Now that you’ve found your room or flat, you’re most likely still new to your area. Take a stroll around your neighbourhood, find the nearest supermarket and explore the high street shops that are near you. Walk to the train or bus station to memorise the way – you’ll soon need it when you run out the door in the mornings! If you live in a flat share, don’t be afraid to talk to your mates, they can give you tips on short cuts or anything else in the area, and small talk like this is a great ice breaker, too!
5. Talk to people!
I have experienced very different types of people in London. Some are very talkative, some aren’t. Some will come right up to you and chat you up, some will walk past you as quickly as possible. But if you walk around with a positive attitude and a smile on your face, it’ll be so much easier to settle in. Everywhere you go for the first time, you will feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t know where they’re going – but it doesn’t hurt to friendly ask people and you’ll get to where you want to go much quicker. I’m not saying you’ll get an equally friendly response every time… but do it for yourself. It’ll make you feel better.
In summary, as long as you go into everything with an open mindset, London will welcome you. This is obviously written by someone who’s deeply in love with the city but trust me, I’ve had times where I really was not happy with my situation. London will always find a way to cheer you up, though, if you let it.