Now that I’ve been living in London for over a month (where did the time go?!), I’m finally feeling totally moved and comfortable in my new city. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still learning every single day. But I feel like I’m now at a point where I’m able to share some of my learnings with you all.
Before we moved, I did tons of research on moving to London from America. Surprisingly, I found that there really wasn’t a lot of information out there! I hope to be a go-to resource for anyone interested in making the move from the US to London, or anywhere in Europe for that matter. While it may sound glamorous to move to another country, the transition really is anything but. Here are my top 5 things you need to know before you move to London.
1. Choose your new bank wisely. Chances are, you bank somewhere that is primarily based in the US (i.e. Chase or Wells Fargo). Do some research on the top banks where you are moving, and see if it’s possible to open up a US account with that bank before you leave. For London, we chose to use HSBC as it’s very commonly used here, and they also have a few branches in NYC. We set up our US account, and moved the majority of our money from Chase into HSBC US before we left. When we opened up our HSBC UK account here, we could easily link the two together. This means that for no cost we can move our money between the US and the UK – and it happens instantly! This is so important because global transfers can be expensive and also take several days. Unless you’re moving over here with no plans to return back home (which is not the case for us), then I highly recommend keeping your US account open. It’s always nice to know that in an emergency, we can easily and quickly get our money back into America.
2. To secure a bank account, you need an address. To secure an address, you need a bank account. Are you confused yet? Because we sure were! There is no way to open up a UK checking account without having a UK address – and as we learned, you can’t use a company address. It has to be a residential address where you can receive personal mail. If you’re moving over for work, see if your company offers temporary housing. That would solve this problem as you can use that address to open the account, and then once you move into your own place you can simply update it. Connor’s company did not offer housing (they put us in a hotel), which meant that something had to give. My best advice is to come over with a few thousand pounds in cash. This should be enough to secure a lease, and once a lease is signed you can head straight to the bank and open the account with your new address. We got really lucky with our flat – our letting agency, Douglas and Gordon, offers a credit card payment for tricky situations like ours. We were able to pay the first months rent on our credit card, get the lease signed, and open up our bank account.
3. Do your research on neighborhoods. Just like any other major city, London is divided up into several different neighborhoods. Each one has it’s pros and cons, and you’ll want to be familiar with them before coming over. Figure out what’s important to you – do you want to have the shortest commute to work possible, live in the best neighborhood for schools, be close to a park? Every neighborhood offers it’s own unique feel, and it’s so important to find the place that will work best for you. Luckily for us, Connor has a few coworkers in New York who lived in London for a few years, so they were able to guide us in the right direction. We knew that we wanted to be in either South Kensington or Chelsea, and this really helped to narrow down our apartment search process. We first toured a flat in South Ken, and we got really bad vibes all around. Then, on our way to tour our flat in Chelsea, we drove past Sloane Square and down Kings Road and immediately fell in love with neighborhood. Luckily the apartment was amazing too! It was a huge help to come over to London with a pretty good idea of what areas would be right for us – so do your homework and it will make the search process a little less stressful!
4. Figure out your phone situation. If you’re moving to London (or any other foreign city), you’ll obviously need to get a new SIM card / service provider once you’re over there. There are few different options you can take, and it will depend on where you’re at in your current US phone plan. Connor and I both used Verizon, and we had both just upgraded to the iPhone 8 Plus this year (insert palm-to-face emoji). As I’m sure you already know, most phone plans are now on a monthly payment structure, so instead of getting a discounted “upgrade” rate and paying it off upfront, you now pay off your phone over a few years with each monthly bill. Since we had JUST gotten our new phones, we had barely paid off $100 on them. Unfortunately there is no way around this situation – you have to buy your phone out of your contract. Yes, it was very expensive. If you’ve already paid off your current phone, you do have the option of upgrading with a new plan in London. Just keep in mind that you’ll receive the UK version of the phone. It’s mostly identical, but you’ll notice that the pound sign is where the dollar is on US phones, and the language is different as it’s UK English vs American English (i.e. colour instead of color). If you think that might bother you, then it’s worth keeping your US phone. We very easily got set up with a UK SIM card through O2 (although if I could do it again I would choose Vodafone – O2 is only in the UK and Vodafone is all over Europe), and are all set up with our new numbers. Last piece of advice: once you get your new number, remember to updated all of your apps! Learn from my mistakes – I was locked out of Instagram for nearly an hour because I forgot to update my phone number.
5. Understand that you are moving to another country. Things are going to be very different. A common misperception is that London and NYC are quite similar. Yes, both are global cities and both speak predominately English, but that’s honestly the only thing that London and NYC have in common. I’ve found even the simplest of things, like buying laundry detergent and shopping for allergy medication, to be incredibly frustrating here. They don’t carry the same brands as the US, so honestly a lot of things might as well be in a foreign language. This is of course a learning curve, and the first 2-3 weeks were really hard, but (thanks to some very nice people who I literally stopped in the middle of the grocery store to ask what the heck bio and non-bio detergent was) I feel like I’ve finally got a grasp on the basics here. Just be sure to understand that there is a learning curve, give yourself time, be patient, and know that it gets better!
I hope you found this to be helpful and informative! I plan to write a lot more about my experience in London so if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out 🙂