blogger-switching-hemispheres-move-to-london

It’s easy to focus on the highs of travel and moving to another country, on blogs, on social media… but if I’m giving an authentic life update here, the reality for me is that the past few months have been a period of euphoric highs, but also lows (of the “Omg what have I done to the great life I had in Sydney?!” kind). It was a big job moving to another country alone, and I can find it difficult to cope with challenges or setbacks when my support network is asleep on the other side of the world, and I’m out of my routine of doing things I enjoy (due to the time demands of setting up here and working). On good days, I’m so happy to be here, I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to be here, and I’m excited for all of the things to come. On more difficult days, I think about being back at home a lot, and I will admit to making tearful calls to family and friends, but I still know that I made the right decision in coming here and I wouldn’t retrace my steps and do something different.

On finding a job

I’ve been luckier than many who move to the UK, in that I was able to land a job in my field to start as soon as I arrived in London, before I had even left Australia. I was actually able to start my new job in Australia before I left too, since my job is in an international organisation. So that box was very quickly ticked. I landed on a Saturday in London and started work the very next Monday.

That’s probably one of the advantages of moving overseas in your late twenties rather than when you’re younger. I thought about moving to London when I was 25, and about to finish studying. But doing it a few years later and being more established in my career has definitely made it easier to find a good job. The right time is different for everyone, but doing it in my late twenties has had its advantages.

On finding somewhere to live

Finding somewhere decent to live was much more challenging. When I first arrived I was staying in an Airbnb in Clapham Junction, which was very basic and a bit chaotic, but friendly, and included a family of five(!) husky dogs. It was not what I was expecting of a London terrace house, but it sure was nice to come home to some friendly furry faces every evening when I was in a new city and working in a new office. I’d definitely recommend Airbnb over hostels to professionals looking to move to London. My Airbnb wasn’t much more expensive compared to the amount that I currently pay for rent, so it’s fairly cost effective for short term accommodation too, compared to hotels and hostels. I booked a two week long stay at my Airbnb, thinking that would be long enough for me to find a flat share and move in. Oh how wrong I was!

After work cuddles with Cinna the baby husky in my Airbnb
After work cuddles with Cinna the baby husky in my Airbnb

 

It was really quite difficult looking for somewhere to live while working full time, and for weeks when I first arrived I felt like all I did was go to work and then look at disappointing flat shares in the evening. I quickly learned that what I was aiming to pay for rent was unrealistic and needed to be increased, and that if an advertisement for a room looks too good to be true for the price listed, it probably is.

Many of the properties I went to see turned out to be on council estates once I arrived, which are like compounds of flats occupied by a mix of professionals and people on council welfare. The ones I saw were very separate to the rest of the neighbourhood, and not really visible from the road (which made me feel like they wouldn’t be very safe places to live). I went to see one and was actually considering it, since I liked the housemates so much and was a bit desperate at that point. But when I Googled the estate (Henry Prince Estate) I discovered that someone had been murdered on the basketball court on the estate grounds last year. Hmmm… no thanks… It’s never disclosed that a property is on a council estate on the advertisement, and I quickly learned to use the Street View function on Google Maps as soon as I got the address of a property viewing, so that I could gauge what the area was like and whether it was in a council estate. That would actually be my number one tip to anyone new to the city and looking for a flatshare in London. Once I learned to do that, the ratio of okay places to disappointing places I went to see really improved and I wasted less of my time. I wouldn’t have the same safety concerns about a converted council building on a normal residential street, but the lack of visibility of the estates I went to and the compound nature of them made me feel uncomfortable.

At another property in Acton that I was interested in accepting, I was presented with a lease that said I could never have house guests. Like ever. No visitors from Australia. No future boyfriends. No. Guests. Ever. I was also asked to pay everything in cash, the bond, the rent, the utilities, everything. Anyone for a rental with rules that restrict your personal life and that comes with a side of tax evasion? No thanks. It was so dodgy that the landlord was very hesitant to give me her surname.

Luckily when I hadn’t found somewhere before my time at the Airbnb was up, somewhere came up through my connections for me to stay for a few weeks.

I’ve now found a two bedroom flatshare and have moved in. It’s more than what I had originally been hoping to pay, but it’s working for now and is pretty nice.

Apparently August and September are the worst times of the year to be looking for a house share due to the influx of students looking for accommodation, and I really found it tough to be looking then, so my advice to anyone moving to London would be to try to arrive and set up before or after August/September.

On making it work and keeping the magic

I remember the day I touched down in London from Australia. I was wandering around East London while waiting for a friend, and just had this incredible adrenaline rush and was high on being in LONDON. Forget jet lag, I ran around and did a million things (delayed jet lag hit me the next day).

It can be easy to lose that feeling of excitement in the every day and the hecticness of setting up a life here. But I still feel it when I see the bright autumn leaves, or spot a squirrel (we don’t have them in Australia), or when I visit a new special place, or even think about how much I’ve achieved this year. One thing that has helped me keep the magic of being in London is tourist Sundays. I have this thing I do now where every Sunday I try to do something touristy, to make sure I keep embracing the amazing things about being here. Last Sunday it was visiting the British Museum and seeing “Drawings in Silver and Gold”, an exhibition of metal point drawings, including works from Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli. The previous weekend I went to Greenwich to see the “Astronomy Photographer of the Year” exhibition, visit the historic ship the Cutty Sark and learn about time and space in the Royal Observatory.

Greenwich is pretty amazing.
Greenwich is pretty amazing.

 

The next few weeks for me hold some events with friends, a trip to Krakow, Prague and Budapest (I’m not sure where else too yet, so if anyone has any recommendations for things to do around those areas in early November let me know with a comment!).

And then in December, after a month of Christmas parties, visiting Christmas markets, outdoor ice skating and rugging up, I’m headed home for two weeks for some time with family and friends, and some sun, sand and salt water.

A beach day in Australia last year.
A beach day in Australia last year.

2 Comments on Getting settled in London (a life update)

  1. Fantastic post Dom! I know that London life is going to keep on getting better and better for you, and you will create so many memories that you will cherish forever!

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