Your first few months in the Big Smoke might be pretty daunting. Image credit: Hieu Vu Minh/Unsplash
The months following graduation are some scary times, particularly if this involves leaving the cocoon of your university town to trying and make it in the “big smoke”. I moved to London fresh out of university, and even though I’d been living in the UK for the three years previous, nothing could have prepared me for the culture shock.
No one told me that taking my time to view apartments was pointless, as they’d be gone before I’d even got back on the tube. No one told me that you should always, always give yourself an extra half hour to get to interviews, just in care. And no one told me that getting an appointment at a bank in the centre of London was about as likely as being able to waltz into the MI5 headquarters unhindered. In this quick-start guide, I’ve tried to gather together some of my wisdom from over the years, so you don’t have to repeat my mistakes.
First things first, you will need a place to live
The easiest way to get yourself established in London is either by sleeping on a generous friend’s sofa, or failing that, by getting a short-term flatshare. Most flatshare tenancies will last around 6 months, which is the perfect amount of time to get your bearings and figure out where you want to live. Flatsharing in London is a big deal, and many groups will hold multi-round interviews to find the right person. If a house doesn’t feel quite right, don’t worry about letting it go, as there will be countless more to choose from. It’s important that you find the right mix of people, as you’ll be seeing a lot of them.
If you’re moving for work, congratulations!
You’ve jumped the biggest hurdle that many people moving to London never manage to scramble over. Although there are a lot of jobs in London, there are also a lot of people, so competition is as fierce as anywhere else. If you have a job, spend your first few months taking any and every opportunity to get out and explore the city with your new workmates. Even if your new colleagues have lived in London for a while, they might enjoy being a tour guide and helping you to get your bearings. You’ll also be surprised at how many Londoners have never visited some of the big sights, so they’ll probably be more than happy to come along to your guided tour of the Tower of London.
On making friends
London can feel like a lonely place, particularly when you’ve just left the hive of social activity that is university. Fortunately, there are social opportunities around every corner, you just have to be a little proactive about it. Moving to a new city is the perfect opportunity to start a new hobby, pick up a sport or learn a new skill. Your people are out there, you just have to look for them!
London is well served by public transport, so the first thing you want to pick up is an Oyster Card. This will allow you to make huge savings on your travel and is essential for any commuter. There’s a daily cap on how much you can spend, so once you’ve reached a certain point, you travel is pretty much free. Also – when riding an escalator on the tube, be sure to stand to the right or risk having an irate commuter jab you in the back with their umbrella.
If you’ve switched from a student visa to a work visa, you will need to make sure you stay within the requirements. For many people, this means you might need a new visa if you move jobs. If you’re unsure about anything to do with your status, contact an immigration service advisor, as the punishments can be severe. Many of these will offer a free consultation, so you can find out what steps you need to take.