March of this year marked exactly 12 months of living in this glorious city I am both proud and honoured to call my home. As I mentioned in this post, London can be a cruel mistress. She is a city that will either make you or break you, but while she has sent her fair share of challenges my way I am pleased to say I remain as whole and enamoured with her as I was when I moved my worldly belongings the 354 miles here full of love and hope and excitement for the future.
That said, I wasn’t wholly prepared for life in the big smoke, and therefore I thought that I’d put together a little list of things I wish I’d known before I made my move for anyone else considering the same.
1. The “London Living Wage” – I’m a Northerner, let’s get that clear from the outset, and if there’s one huge difference between the North and the South, it’s money. Up North, I was earning just under £20,000. A decent wage indeed – so when I was offered a further £7,000 a year when I moved down to London I thought I would have some serious money to burn. I understood the London living wage was to aid with the higher costs of living, but I misguidedly didn’t realise just how much more everything down here would cost. I expected rent to be higher but it’s the little things that have got me – the price of drinks, the cost of food, the cost of travel. While your wage may go up do not expect it to go much further (unless your increase is around £20,000 – then you may be alright ha) – make sure that you budget accordingly and be sensible until you’re settled and have established where your costs will lie.
2. Escalators. You will never know fear like it than when you accidentally stand on the left of an escalator on the underground at rush hour. You have been warned.
3. Property. Unless you are lucky enough to have parents able to buy you a property, have a large sum in your savings, or you are earning upwards of £60,000, the likelihood of you being able to purchase a property in London is currently very, very slim. I work in the real estate investment sector, and therefore I spend my days reading a lot about property and prices in London – currently the national average for a first time deposit is approximately £33,000 however in London this rises to £100,000. The rental market in the city provides many different options, however its worth really considering how you want to live and how much money you’re willing to put towards your housing. I spent over £765 a month for the past year in order to live in a room in a house share in a fairly central location – it was only after I’d lived here for 6 months or so that I realised how much less I could be paying if I was willing to compromise on location. I’d advise you to shop around a lot before you put a deposit down anywhere, and be aware that the property market in London moves quickly.
4. Location Location Location – two of my main priorities when I was looking for my first London flat were the proximity to work in Zone 1, and being in an area I felt safe to walk round at night on my own. I’m pleased to say I achieved both these things, however as I mentioned in the above point I could have quite happily moved further out once I knew London a little better. While living in Zone 1 or 2 does minimise your commute, it also massively increases your rent. Considering Zone 3 or 4 will usually only add between 10 and 15 minutes to your commute if you remain on the tube network and is well worth considering.
5. Pedestrianism. There is a special circle of hell reserved for those who don’t look where they’re going on Oxford Street – and trust me, Oxford Street is one place you will want to avoid like the plague on weekends, bank holidays, in good weather, at Christmas or pretty much any other time of the year really. While the shops are undoubtably amazing, the crowds, irritatingly rude shoppers and pickpockets really aren’t worth your time.
Are you considering a move to London? Do you already live here and have something to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.