The 10 things I wish I’d known before I moved to London.
Growing up in suburbia in Sydney, I’d always fantasized about living on the other side of the world. I was obsessed with any accent from the UK, dreamt about Big Ben constantly and found myself willing red double decker buses to appear on the streets of Sydney.
It’s one thing to think about moving overseas, but it’s another entirely to actually do it. Chances are you know someone (or a hoard of people) that have made the move to London – it’s become quite a normality amongst young Aussies looking for a change.
At first I’d only planned on visiting for a month, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to see everything on my bucket list in a mere 30 days. That’s when the once dream of moving to London became a physical goal.
It’s exciting, terrifying and the most incredible adventure of your life, but there are still things I wish I’d thought about before I moved. Some are more about mindset, whereas some are just common sense that your brain forgets because you’re so damn stressed/excited/exhilarated at the thought of the big move day.
1. It’s okay to feel homesick. I’ve lived out of home since I was 18, and I’ve never really experienced homesickness before. I’ve travelled extensively and have gone months without seeing my family, yet as soon as you land on the other side of the world, it all changes. Something about knowing you can’t jump in the car and drive a few hours to see your family really hits home in the first couple of months, and it’s A-OKAY to feel this way.
2. Think carefully about your visa. If you’re planning on travelling as soon as you arrive in the UK, pick the start date carefully. Believe me, I figured it would just be easier to begin my visa from the date I landed, and I really regret it. I travelled for four months before properly settling in London, which meant I used four months out of the two year visa unnecessarily. Do your research and make sure that start date correlates with when you’re ready to settle down and start actually working.
3. Job or home first? I really struggled with this when I finally decided to move to London, and if I could re-do it I would. Getting a well-paid job is crucial to living in London – it’s a bloody expensive city and rent ain’t cheap. If you can’t line up a job before you land, organise a short-let somewhere. People sub-let out their rooms while they travel, and it’s the perfect time for you to set up a base, attend job interviews and not have the stress of rushing to try and find somewhere.
4. Location is key. Do your research on where you want to live. It’s well known that heaps of Aussies & Kiwis live in SW London (Clapham, Balham, Tooting, Wandsworth), but other lovely areas to live include Camden, Shoreditch, Angel and Shepard’s Bush. I originally moved into a VERY central flat in Barbican, but soon realised I lived near none of my friends and no big parks. I’ve recently made the move to Clapham South and I’ve never been happier. Though my commute has increased, it means I see more of my friends and find it easier to exercise and enjoy my spare time.
5. Don’t overthink your packing. It happens to the best of us, but honestly don’t freak out about forgetting things when you pack. Anything can be posted in case of emergency, and a lot of people forget… London is another gigantic city and sells everything and anything. If you’ve forgotten something, a quick trip to Primark will cure 99% of forgotten items. Pack your absolutely favourite clothes – that dress you look stunning in, that blazer that fits like a dream or those yoga tights that make you feel a million bucks. These are all items that you won’t be able to buy again, but you can repurchase basics.
6. To storage or not to storage. I get this question a LOT – where did you store everything when you moved?! The answer is simple, I didn’t. I’ve got one box of special mementos and clothing I loved too dearly to get rid of stored at my parent’s house but besides that, everything else went. Believe me, as soon as you move overseas you’ll forget about what you’ve placed in storage at all. I sold most of my clothes and makeup using the Carousell app, and whatever I didn’t sell on it I sold at my market stall or gave away to friends and family. There’s something incredible freeing knowing that you’re a woman of little possessions – the ability to pack up your life into a few suitcases and move anywhere you desire in the world.
7. Life is different in London. I’ve been trying to think how to craft this, but there is no easier way to say it than life is just different. People are different – life goes at a faster pace in London, and there is less time for the normal niceties you may be used to. Simple ‘good mornings’ can go unreturned, and people freak out when I smile at them for the sake of smiling (maybe they just think I’m a creep, ha!). The silver lining is that London is easily one of the most social places on Earth. You’ll never struggle to find a pub for a pint, a café for a coffee or a club for a boogie.
8. Get involved. What’s the point of moving to the other side of the world if you’re going to stay holed up in your bedroom the entire time? Put extra effort into forming friendships, joining sports teams (Wandsworth Demons are unreal) and add yourself to a few Facebook groups like Aussies in London and leave your comfort zone behind. I’ve written an entire guide on how to make friends when you move countries which you can read here.
9. Have a purpose. Don’t move just because everyone else is, do it for you and ask yourself why you’re doing it. Is it to excel in your career? Is it to have the ability to travel more often and see more of the world? Is it to have an incredible life-changing experience? Whatever it is, always keep this at centre of mind. On the bad days when you’re feeling homesick or a little down, remember WHY you’re here.
10. It’s a big bloody deal. Though it seems almost normal these days, remember to be proud of yourself and give credit where it’s due. People will talk about moving and say they’re going to do it, but for some it’ll only ever be talk. It’s no easy feat to pack up your entire life and move to the other side of the world, but it’s also the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself. Be proud, be passionate and remember you’re bloody unstoppable.