BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Tips & advice from people who have lived and worked in London

If you’ve considered uprooting yourself and living and working in London, perhaps this will be the year you finally take the plunge…

But what do you need to know to ensure that your move is the simplest, easiest, least stressful it can possibly be?

We chatted to some expats – a few still living in London and some who have returned home after their London stint. We asked them which one piece of advice they could offer for anyone wanting to live and work in London, to bring you a list of tips and advice from people who’ve got the t-shirt.

APPLY FOR THE RIGHT VISA FIRST TIME

“Make sure you apply for the right visa – I wanted to change my visa type during my stay and had to go back to South Africa while it was

processed. It almost cost me my job and my parents weren’t too happy with supporting me for months while I waited!” Jane

FIND A JOB BEFORE YOU ARRIVE

“Ok I know this might not be possible, but at least make sure you have some good leads. I sent emails to every person I knew who knew people who knew people in the UK and I landed a job within a week of arriving – through the email I sent out 3 months before I left Australia!” Rachel

USE LINKEDIN AND RECRUITMENT AGENCIES

“I find that folks are much better about using LinkedIn here. So, if you aren’t active on it, you’ll become active! Also, very few companies hire directly – most use recruiting agencies. So spend some time finding out which agencies are active in the industry you want a job in, and reach out to them.” Kristina

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

“Try to get as much information as possible BEFORE you move – there are some nasty shocks waiting for those who don’t do their homework. Even though I had researched London I was woefully unprepared for a lot of things like banking, NHS, where to buy baby supplies, etc. There are some terrific blogs out there that can help.” Erin

USE A DECENT LONDON GUIDE

“There are a few e-books and printed guides to London available, which help a lot when it comes to understanding the price of things, where to buy what, attractions, accommodation and so on. I found the best was the London Guide I downloaded on the 1st Contact website – it’s really informative and up-to-date and best of all – it’s free!” Reuben

JOIN A LOCAL COMMUNITY CENTRE!

Join your local community centre the minute you get off the plane – those folks know everything and everyone.” Erin

GET YOUR NI SORTED ASAP!

”Getting your NI number can be a mission of note and you are charged emergency tax if you don’t have one, which is way

higher than it should be.You can’t claim the overpaid tax back unless you have an NI number – so best to get it done soon. 1st Contact have a Kickstart Package that helps – Craig

SORT OUT A BANK ACCOUNT FROM HOME

“Buy a package like 1st Contact Kickstart because, trust me, I’ve done it the hard way the first time I lived here and it’s an absolute nightmare. This time I bought the package and had my bank account set up the first week I was here.” Bec

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES!

“I moved to London because I wanted to travel as much as possible. So I put all my energy into that. I ended up finding a job as a child minder for three years with a family who lived in Spain 6 months a year and London 6 months a year. That way I worked for 6 months and saved as much as I could and then spent 6 months travelling every year until “my family” returned! One year I spent 6 months working as a volunteer in an animal park in Peru, and another I literally hopped from country to country, staying in backpackers and eating bread!” Stefania

HAVE MONEY WHEN YOU GET THERE!

“I made the mistake of not having enough money when I arrived, thinking I would find a job within my first week… Boy was I wrong! If I had to do it all over again, I would make sure I had at least £2000 when I arrived, AND I wouldn’t have spent so much money in my first few weeks!” Aaron

EXERCISE REGULARLY

“Find a local gym/yoga centre soon! The pace of life is fast, you end up eating badly, spending too much time underground and the weather makes you blue. So keep your yummy endorphins in a continual flow!” Vonne

YOU CAN TAKE YOUR PETS!

“My main concern when I moved was leaving my two beautiful dogs behind. After much research I found out I could take them, but they would have to stay in quarantine for 6 months. The time went by pretty quickly and today they are with me and happy! I have since found out there are easier ways if you plan in advance they can be with you immediately. Check out http://www.defra.gov.uk.” Ryan

TRY TO ARRANGE YOUR ACCOMMODATION QUICKLY!

“Finding the right place to stay was the hardest part of my arrival. Even real dives are expensive. Try to find somewhere really cheap until you know where you’re working and then do your best to find a suitable place in a good neighbourhood that’s close to your work or really close to transport! Try gumtree, loot, the tnt magazine or community centres.” Eleanor

GET AN OYSTER CARD

“You can save a bundle from day 1 if you get yourself an Oyster card. Also, don’t get stuck underground – use the buses and see the city!” Kate

SEE AS MUCH LIVE MUSIC AS YOU CAN

“Do yourself a favour and buy tickets far in advance to go and see your heroes on stage. 30 quid’s worth of pure fun, wonder and loud radical music, so worth it and you’ll never have the opportunity to see so many cool artists again!” Vonne

READ BLOGS

“Look to the blogging community to get a personal perspective of what it is like to live and study in London. The details like visas are easy to manage but it is subtle day-to-day things that people capture in their blogs that I have found to be the most helpful and continue to find helpful living here.” Melissa

MAKE FRIENDS SOON

“London is not the friendliest place in the world and I would suggest you set up some sort of support system from the word go. Join a group – whatever you’re into…be it yoga, or photography or an art club. There are also pubs and shops that cater specifically to Saffas and Aussies etc… find them! Use the internet to make your world smaller too!” Jenna

SAVE YOUR MONEY!

“I saw many people living in London squander their money only to return home years later with nothing. I saved as much as I could, every month, without compromising on having fun or buying great clothes! After 6 years, I was able to purchase property in London and on my return to SA after 11 years in London, I sold my London property and bought a beautiful home in Cape Town – cash!” Nicola, 36

We hope you find these tips valuable and that your move to London is a happy, stress-free one!

Remember, 1st Contact Kickstart and Visa consultants are here to help with any questions you might have. Most have done a London stint themselves and can offer first hand advice! From formatting your CV for UK requirements and organising your Visa, to facilitating your UK Tax Refund!

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  • Andrew

    Save your cash by not having fun??? You kidding me??? Go work on an oil rig then. This is the most amazing city in the world, so make sure you use your time to have as much fun as you can!

  • gloria obrien

    have been accepted for nursing job with agengy in belfast waiting for police check 8 weeks have past need one from nz jersey and uk jersey one holding me up something is wrong agengy no help i would have thought after 8 wks they would have been chasing it up but no i think young travelers need to be aware more of this especially if they havent got much money to keep them selves going at present you have to get new police checks if you move to another job with different agency or hospital i understand why especially as ill be working with young and older people thought this might make a good journalistic investigation gloria obrien