If you’re an American wanting to move to London, you’re certainly not alone. Especially in the wake of the Royal Wedding and just before all the impending attention London will surely get for the 2012 Olympic Games, Yanks are looking to relocate to London in droves. I recently received a Facebook message from a former student of mine asking me all about how I liked living here; she’s still in college, but seriously considering a London move after she graduates and has gone so far as already researching London apartments to see what they’re like and how much they cost. This is so often the enquiry we can receive at the London Relocation agency and on our social network – someone eager to live in London, but very green about how to make that happen. It’s certainly not as easy as pointing your finger to the UK on the globe and starting to box up your belongings; as I often blog about, there is a critical chain of logistics to put into play to determine if moving to London from the US is feasible.
I imagine a lot of students interested in working or studying abroad are chewing on the idea of a UK relocation these days with London such a focus of media attention and royal glamor, so this is what I have to say in terms of what this university student in particular was curious about…
To start, she’d asked how I enjoy living here and whether I like it better than the US. Not that I think anyone needs selling on London, but I’ll admit that, yes, London is absolutely awesome. I won’t say it’s better than America as there are trade-offs wherever you move, but the aesthetic, history, and culture here have been aspects I’ve truly loved. The expat community is also something special–a lot of people who are eager to embrace what’s new and different while still having that tie to home, so expats are really proactive about social networking with each other. This is something that could put a young grad first really striking out on their own more at ease, especially with the younger generation being so savvy with online networking.
If, like my student, you’ve already been checking out London rent prices, you’ve probably noticed that they’re quoted on a weekly basis. That’s because people here used to be paid weekly, so it synced with their paycheck…why it continues now that people are paid monthly, who knows, but that’s England. They love their traditions. Anyway, multiply those weekly prices by 4.33 to get the monthly rent and you’ll likely see that London is super expensive. A typical one bedroom will cost around £1,300 per month, which is closer to $2,000. If ever you do try to live here, the way visas work these days, it’s your best bet to find a job here with a company that will sponsor you; otherwise, if you’re a student looking into higher education or even a brief study-abroad program, you could apply for a student visa.
One last point my student was considering is London neighborhoods. From her cursory research, she’s discovered that the London borough of Westminster seems very nice. She’s got that right, and this is a name that’s even more familiar given the recent royal events held there. Centrally located, this borough captures the city’s most posh and expensive areas—essentially including London’s renowned West End and affluent residential neighborhoods like Marylebone and St. John’s Wood. Covent Garden and Regent’s Park areas attract students with their proximity to schools, but I generally don’t recommend commercially bustling urban neighborhoods like the former for a young expat no matter how close it is to the action—it’s a little too close for comfort. And, in general, for a single expat moving to London right after college, Westminster is probably the least feasible of options (unless younguns have parent backing) simply because young grads haven’t had the time or experience to accumulate the funds necessary to secure an expensive London flat on their own, and landlords will look at them with a more wary eye—students are often required to pay a three to six-month deposit upfront, and if you’re moving to London with a job right out of school, you’ll need to show proof of your income and savings.
Unless student housing in Westminster is an option, the borough of Kensington & Chelsea just next door is a popular choice for American expats. While still expensive, it’s relatively more doable in neighborhoods like Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grove, or Fulham that would appeal to a younger expat. If money is not an issue, though (thanks, Daddy! ;)), Chelsea and South Kensington are even more central to the popular shops and venues—I imagine a number of female students are fancying Chelsea right now after all those photos of Kate Middleton shopping on the King’s Road (and I don’t know if it’s accessible at all in the States—maybe online—but the UK just started airing its own version of The Hills called Made in Chelsea to follow London’s twenty-something socialites).
Moving to London is a wonderful dream to have, and I have to say I’m excited that recent events are attracting the younger folks’ interest in the city and motivating them to consider at least a short-term life abroad. It’s all very mind-opening, which I don’t think a person can experience too soon in their life. So, to those students considering a move to follow (or continue) their studies, my best to you. Bear in mind, though, that the United Kingdom is not Disney’s Magic Kingdom; it may all seem very fairy-tale right now, but make sure to research, research, research so you understand the realities involved, too, as you wish upon that star…