So you are one of the lucky ones! Somehow, you have managed to arrange things so that living in the beautiful city of London is no longer a dream. Soon, the reality will be, that for whatever reason, whether it’s a new job, family reasons or university place – you will be calling London ‘home.’
But what if you’ve never been to London before? What if the prospect of living in a foreign city fills you with dread?
Do not fret. Read on for insider tips on the three most important areas to get sorted to make your London transition super-smooth.
A Roof Over Your Head
The first thing you will need to decide upon is where you are going to live. As in all cities, London has its gorgeously elegant areas and its less salubrious corners. With any real estate, you get what you pay for. High end (high rent) locations such as Belgravia, Chelsea, Knightsbridge, Notting Hill, Marylebone, Westminster and Primrose Hill attract ex-pats due to their central location. But you certainly pay top money for prime hotspots.
Let’s assume you haven’t won the lottery and aren’t planning to buy a London residence during your extended stay. The London transport network is far reaching and largely efficient so you could consider living further out of town in some of the leafier boroughs. Richmond upon Thames, Barnes, Greenwich, Hampstead, Battersea and Wandsworth are all worth a peek, especially for family houses with easier access to parks and green spaces.
If you have children, London is one of the best places to live. With so much great public (independent fee paying), international and comprehensive (free) education available, you’re sure to find the perfect place for your kids. Free schools vary from area to area and it’s a good idea to check out their Ofsted ratings for further insight into individual establishments. London has its fair share of international schools too, so if you want your children taught alongside their compatriots or need flexibility on curricular matters, they may be the best choice. London has some excellent fee paying independent schools which can be pricey and competitive to get into – but the standard of teaching is high, facilities are good and class sizes smaller.
If your children are too young for school and require care while you work, finding a nanny in London and making the right connections quickly enough can be tricky. Many parents secure childcare services following recommendations from others, but when you are in a new city with limited contacts where do you start? For finding a nanny in London it is best to approach established agencies with solid reputations that are familiar with placing staff with ex-pat families.
One of the most exciting aspects of living abroad arethe new foodie discoveries you make. Although not traditionally famous as a world cuisine, British cooking in recent years has really upped its game. London hosts a string of multi Michelin starred restaurants and top international chefs have been making a bee-line for the capital for some time now.
For everyday food shopping you’ll find all you need at the general supermarkets which offer huge range and choice and have long opening hours – usually 9am to 9pm during the week and until 5pm on Sundays. Being a twenty four hour city there are supermarkets that never close their doors, so if you really want to pick up a trolley-load in the small hours, you can. Online grocery shopping is very popular in London and supermarket deliveries to your work or home are commonplace. Most supermarkets provide halal or kosher options and if you can’t find what you need there are many specialist outlets.
London is a fusion of multiple small towns with each different area having its own High Street full of individual shops. If you are missing food from home, try local delicatessens – if they don’t stock it, it may be possible to place an order. When the weekend comes explore some of London’s markets for different tastes and flavours. Borough Market is a gastronome’s paradise offering delicious artisan products. Local farmer’s markets are popping up all over the place as Londoners become more savvy about where their food’s origins. And if you want to savour a mouth watering salt beef bagel or an authentic curry, Brick Lane market on a Sunday is hard to beat.
So, that’s three of the most important things sorted for your move to London. The house, the kids, the meals; all taken care of. That means when you arrive you can hit the ground running and start enjoying the endless pleasures of London that much sooner…