Here are a few things I had to get used and wish someone would have told me about London before I moved here. I’ve spent seven months in London and I’m still getting used to how the city works.
1. Communicating- Everyone whispers so bring your hearing aide. If you’re from New York or New Jersey, everyone will think you’re screaming or yelling at them.
Everyone says “sorry” for every reason you can think of. Sorry? Sorry! Sorry: Sorry. Sorry, Sorry;. Sorry should really just be a pause.
You’ll be insulted in the most dignified way and you won’t even know it. Awful thing is that the most rotten folks use the daintiest language.
There is no such thing as one British accent. There are so many accents spoken in London sometimes I don’t think they’re speaking English. Like the US, there are many regional differences that matter a lot. Southerners and New Yorkers all sound different and may not understand each other but all speak English.Same for London. Northerners and Southerners, Wales and so forth.
Don’t try to have a British accent. It’s the same as someone trying to have an American accent. It sounds ridiculous.
2. Transportation and Getting Around – Don’t try figuring out the pricing system of the Tube. Just get an unlimited Oyster Card or get a Contactless card connection. Contactless cards have changed my life! The US is way behind debit card technology.
London is not laid out in a grid system like Manhattan. It’s more like a maze intended to utterly confuse you. I had no idea what the Romans were thinking when they built London. Maybe they were thinking invasion defence. A foreign army will get lost in one of the trillion roundabouts or 10 way intersections before they make it to the Tower.
Look both ways everytime before you cross the road. I kept looking right when traffic was coming from my left. Norrowly dodged getting run over by a few double decker buses before I started looking both ways. That would be an awful way to go. ” Girl gets run over by double decker because she looked the wrong way.” Comical!
Google maps are not drawn to scale. Streets appear further apart than they really are. Like images in the rare view appear closer than they really are. Streets and alleyways are closer together than they appear on maps.
Learn the bus system or download the bus map. You’ll need it – especially when the tube has a strike. Other alternative transportation modes during strikes- walking and biking so get a bike helmet and be prepared to fight the traffic.
Uber is a much better options than traditional taxis. Take Uber whenever you can to save money. Just make sure they don’t take you on a longer ride than is necessary.
3. Banking and Finances – You’ll need a few bank accounts depending on how you want to live. Most Londonites have at least three. Bill Pay, Savings, Investments, and Foreign Travel. Shop around.
If your employer relocated you and you’re in corporate housing, have your employer draft you a seven point letter detailing your permanent employement status, addresses, employment history, and salary. You’ll get a bank account much quicker if all of that is in place. The banks and many other places need someone to verify your identity in writing.
Good Credit? Get an HSBC passport account when you arrive in the U.K. so you can transfer your credit score. Way easier than starting all over.
If you’re working for a company, take advantage of the pension saving program. They’re much better than US 401K schemes.
Employment is the key to getting everything if you’re not a student. So make sure you have a good relationship with the HR people in your company. They’ll know the procedures to getting a bank account, mortgage, and even an apartment.
4. What to Wear – Invest in quality rain gear! A good pair of water proof leather boots, wind proof umbrella, and lined rain jacket to keep out the damp and a hat.
What Not to Wear – Don’t wear 4 inch heels to work. You’ll quickly realize that comfortable shoes are a must. You walk way more than New York and switching from flats to heels in the street is just not practical.
5. Cell Phone Service – Get a local UK number as soon as possible. Most carriers offer SIM only plans if your phone is unlocked. Leaving on your US or foreign phone will drain your pocket. European cell plans are so inexpensive compared to US cell plans. You’ll save yourself hundreds of dollars that you can spend on that rain gear. I locked in a sweet Black-Friday deal that paid my phone bill for 3 months.
You need to switch your AppStore to the U.K. Version. It matters a lot for Bank apps, maps, and bus schedules.
6. Housing – Don’t start searching for your flat until you know when you want to move, have full move in monies (6-8 weeks rent + 1 month rent), and have a specific area where you want to focus your search. Apartments truly go fast. Once you see an apt you love lock it in with 1-2 weeks rent and start the application process.
Share housing when you can. I wish I had the courage and personality to share my space but I really don’t:(
7. Healthcare – Get your NHS card as soon as possible then register with your local GP/Surgery. Free healthcare is great but the lines and wait times are awful. If you think I’m exaggerating watch I Daniel Blake. He literally died waiting for an appointment- sorry for the spoiler alert.
British germs are not the same as NY germs. If you arrive in the winter, for the first few weeks get lots of sleep, vitamin C, echinacea, ginger, lemon (have I forgot anything)? In other words take it easy because you’re bound to come down with some British flu thing. Everybody gets it.
8. Food – Food is cheaper than New York. And you can get food from everywhere in Europe. Well that is the case for now until they shut the Brexit borders.
You’ll learn to love meat pies, fish and chips and beer. I haven’t transitioned to loving beer or fish and chips yet but I love meet pies.
9. Travel – Take local walking tours to get a sense of the history of the city. London is a modern city that is filled with thousands of years of history. Everyday I walk past 16th century buildings or the London Wall built by the Romans.
Day trips to Kent, Dover,Cambridge, and the Cotswold are also pretty accessible by train.
Travel as much as you can to continental Europe. Either with your hubby, alone, with friends or with travel groups – which there are plenty of.
10. Utilities – TV sucks and the Brits agree with that so don’t feel bad if you find yourself watching Hulu or Netflix.
Internet service is not bad once it’s set up. It took BT 3 months to set up a consistent broadband connection. It’ll be tough so shop around if you can.
11. Weather – Learn to do the Celius to Fahrenheit conversion quick so you don’t underdress or overdress in the morning. But in any case don’t trust the weatherman. Be prepared for every type of weather when you leave the house in the morning. Think layers and water proof.
The sun really does dissappear in the winter so hunker down and take your vitamin D3.
12. Hair Care- Hair salons just don’t measure up to my Brooklyn salons. There is however a thriving cottage industry of hair dressers that make house calls or works from their house. Find one through your network and get to know their schedule. London desperately needs black hair salons for natural hair and loctitians.
Finally – Expect the unexpected. Be patient and don’t assume just ask. Looking forward to summer in London!