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Life in the big smoke

The why not to move to London post

About two years ago I wrote a post about how to move to London. I wrote it because a friend of my mother had a daughter who was moving to London and I thought I’d share what I knew about this on the blog. Back then I had no idea how popular the post would become, that people from all over the internet would find their way to this site, ask questions and offer their own advice. I love what that blog post has become, because everyone who interacts with it remind me of why I moved here in the first place, many share the same passion and love for the city that I have. I didn’t just move to London, I fell in love with the city.

But over the last six months or so doubts have crept in. I look around me and I question if London really is such a good place to move to now. The city has change and my perspective has changed as well. If you’re seriously considering moving to London now there are a couple of things you need to know.

1. This city is becoming very expensive, people spend more than half of their salaries on rent and transport. House prices are going up, rents are going up, one bedroom flats can cost you £2000/per month and that’s before you pay any bills. Affordable areas are being pushed further and further away from the centre.

2. If you move to London to start a well paid job then you will probably enjoy the city. If you’re independently wealthy then you’ll also get a lot out of living here. If you move to London because you’re following a dream, because you want to live freely and creatively, then you’re in for a bit of a let down. See point 1… it’s becoming very, very expensive to live here and that is pushing creative people out.

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3. Why London? This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. Why break your back so you can afford to live here when that often means you’re working so hard you can’t really ever enjoy your life in the city. You could have a better work-life balance somewhere else. There are plenty of other great UK cities. Look at Glasgow, Manchester, Brighton, York, Birmingham and Cardiff. If you feel drawn to the UK you don’t have to live in London. If you’re British and you want to move to a big city, London isn’t the be all and end all anymore. According to The Guardian lots of people are moving to Birmingham. If you want to live really cheaply there is the Kent coast, Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs, cities that are now attracting creatives pushed out of London. This is a poor part of the UK and rents are low, like they were in London’s east end in the early 90s, when all the creatives moved in.

4. Why move to the UK at all? There are so many great European capitals to look at, Berlin, Barcelona, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, places that can offer you the same things London had a few years back (which is not crazy expensive rents, a creative scene and likeminded people from all over the world).

Maybe I’m writing this because I’m older, because my love affair with London is coming to an end. I still enjoy living here, I still love many things about the city and I still occasionally want to hug myself when I cross the Thames on a bus and whisper “I actually live here”. But mostly the rosy coloured infatuation has faded and I see the city for what it is, expensive and unforgiving. And sometimes I think, wouldn’t life be a lot easier somewhere else.

For more about this
Cool London is dead and the rich kids are to blame
Living in London on a low income – a great break down of living costs in London by the Londonist

Images by Luis Llerena.

Comments

kuggekugge says:

Vi funderar på att åka några månader till Berlin på våren, haka på! 😉

Lotta says:

Jej, kanske det. Ha det så bra i Berlin! Vi funderar på att kanske ta en sväng dit igen i sommar 🙂

Flav_Holman says:

Hi, I read your blog often, but this is the first time commenting. It could be me writing this post, the only thing I disagree is when you said that London is becoming expensive, in my opinion London has always been expensive. My husband and I struggled a lot and decided to move back to the US (he is a Brit from London, but lived in the US for 20 years). I LOVE London and for me it is the best city in the world (it was very hard to actually make the decision to leave), but like you said, if you don’t have an amazing paying job or are not well off, then things will be hard, and you can pretend that they aren’t (I know a lot of people who do), but they are.

Lotta says:

Hi Flavia. Good to hear from you! What’s it been like making that decision to leave? How do you feel being back in the US? I’m asking because I’m interested to hear what it’s like on the other side of having made that choice, as these are questions Gerry and I are struggling to wrap our minds around at the moment. Staying or going. You’re right, London has always been expensive… it’s all about perspective I guess. Perhaps getting older and valuing things like stability, having a nice home with a bit of space, not living pay-check to pay-check, has made me really wake up to the fact that London tends to be quite hard on people’s bank accounts, which in turn has made me think about what I value in life and where I want to live.

But even though it’s always been an expensive place to live many recent news stories seem to point out that this city over the last few years has become even more pricey. Wages haven’t gone up but rents have. House prices have gone through the roof, the city is now a big savings account for people who can afford to buy property here, which makes it very difficult for anyone with a normal wage to get on the housing ladder. Supposedly you have to earn £100 000/year to afford to buy a home in the city, surely it can’t always have been that difficult. Like I said, maybe it’s a perspective thing or maybe it’s a zeitgeist thing, the media is pumping out stories about expensive London, which in turn makes people think about it.

Hello Lotta,
I have spent the last six months in London and now I am back in my country, Italy, and let me say I am so happy! London is an amazing place to be, it really opened up my mind, I feel it has changed me in my perspectives and ambitions. But, as you said, it is too much expensive and adaptation has been a bit difficult for me. In six months even if I was working I could not afford very basic things that I usually do in my country, like going to the hairdresser or to the gym. I have realized that my life style in Italy is much higher than the one I had in London. Here I can afford to eat out more often, I have my own car, I feel like I can really make my choices in terms of purchases while in London it was all about checking prices and contain all expenses. Undoubtedly, London offers much more in terms of job opportunities, culture, events, but I have understood that life is what you do on a daily basis: waking up, have a good breakfast, good commuting, buy the food you want without restrains, attend a yoga course or a gym as part of your lifestyle. Italy is not the state of the art in terms of events or nightlife, but honestly, what really makes a difference?

Lotta says:

Hi there! Glad to hear you made it back to Italy and feel happier being back home! I don’t think you’re the only one who’ve felt good about making the move back. Sometimes moving to London can put things into perspective, what is it that really matters in life, what is it we really want and need. What is it that makes us feel happy.

Alyssa says:

Dear Lotta,

I read your blog regularly and I am still very determined to move back to London, even its for a short time.

I’m from the US and it’s been a struggle trying to find work over there from this distance. Do you have any advice on how to get a job for Americans? Do you think I should just go over to travel for a bit and then look for a job? Do you have any friends that struggled with this?

I’m looking forward to your next post! Thank you for your help.

Best!

Lotta says:

Hi Alyssa, glad you like the blog! It’s difficult to give advice on these things, everyone has to find their own path I guess. I know a few Americans who’ve moved over. Some of them stayed after finishing their degrees in the UK, back when it was still not so difficult to apply for extended visas. Some have married a British citizen. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to move here if you’re from the US. Unless you hold an EU passport, you will need to somehow get a visa. One way of getting one is to come here as a student (which will be expensive), another is to find an employer who will sponsor you. Applying for jobs here would be the same as applying for jobs anywhere, but one way for a US citizen to get a job in the UK is to find a US company willing to send you over to work in the UK or to work in the UK based offices of an American company.

You should be able to come here on a three month tourist visa though. Perhaps that’s a good place to start, it would help you get a feel for the place, perhaps talk to potential employers and figure out if you’d like to take that big step and actually relocate to London.

Hope it works out for you! Good luck! x

Oh and if there are any other Americans out there reading this… if you have any thoughts or advice on how to move here, pitch in and share your thoughts! Thanks!

Denice T. says:

All of these thing are true! London is really a wonderful city but is is just so overcrowded and expensive! Thumbs up for the post! Greets!

Sarah says:

I also don’t understand why so many people want to live in the UK! There are so many other great European capitals that offer great opportunities! I think it is mainly because of the language. Everybody understand at least a little bit of English… Thank you for the post!

Chloe says:

Hi Lotta! My first time posting!

I’m really glad to have stumbled upon this post because my boyfriend and I are moving to London (for 6+ months, hoping for longer…if not forever haha). We’re partly moving there because of the music scene and opportunities in the creative field. So far, everyone has told me London is fantastic for artists like us (especially compared to Sydney, AU, where we come from). There’s this rosy coloured view of London that does not exist for Sydney – if you make it in London, you make it in the world.

I was wondering if you had any more opinions on trying to establish a successful creative career in London. Or maybe we’re better off establishing permanent base in another city (as you said, there are plenty of other amazing cities in the UK that are cheaper and still offer an amazing platform for artists). What would you say is the best city for musicians? Are there any well-known or awesome musicians community somewhere in London or in the UK that you would know of?

Sorry for all the questions! Don’t worry if you don’t know the answers to my uber specific questions. I’m just excitedly nervous about the whole experience to come.

Your blog is super awesome! xx

Lotta says:

Hi Chloe. Good to hear from you, glad you like the blog! I’ve never been to Sydney, but would love to visit at some point. I’ve heard many good things about the weather :).

I agree with you… I think a lot of people come here with a rosy coloured view of life in London. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because this city can still be quite an amazing place with many opportunities for those of us who want to make art. Unfortunately I think it’s becoming increasingly difficult to move to London, the rents are going up, the city is more expensive than it was just a few years ago. You might end up spending a lot of time on working to pay your rent and not much time making music.

The good thing about the UK is that it’s a small country. It’s definitely possible to live somewhere slightly cheaper and travel around to different cities. I’m probably not the best person to ask about where to find communities of musicians outside of London, but I’ve heard good things about Bristol. Manchester is another place to check out. Perhaps look at where artists you admire hang out and play gigs, where did some of them get started, where are they based? Where are the best open mic nights in the UK? Where do people go to study music? Sometimes a google-binge will set you on the right path.

Good luck!! xxx

Kelsey says:

Hi Lotta!
I realise this blog post is old now, but I just want to say thank you for posting it. It’s great to know I’m not the only one that feels like this in London.
I’m originally from Northern Ireland and moved to London in December 2014 to start a new job in my industry. I thought London would give me a lot more career opportunities/cultre/arts and events than my small hometown did. London has lived up to these expectations. However, what I wasn’t prepared for was:
1. How lonely and isolating London is. I attend Meetups/group activities but because London is so big /people are busy with their own lives you never see them again- very difficult to make connections here not unless you have a partner/were born here.
2. The soul destroying tube commute on a daily bass is draining after a while
3. The crowds I hate crowds- feel like I can’t breathe in them.
4. Flat share and expenses. I’m at the point in my life where I don’t want to put up with some else’s mess or their house parties, I want my own space.

Would I rather than have a vast range of stuff to do (sometimes in London I feel the choice of stuff to do is overwhelming!) and have no one to do them with or have to battle crowds to get to the places?
Or
Would I rather have a smaller niche of things to do (like in Belfast) but have friends/family nearby?

Living in London has made me reevaluate what matters in life and it’s not all the stress and expense London brings. What really matters (to me anyway) is having friends/family near by and a good quality of life in the form of: being able to afford to live, friends and family nearby and quality of life/life satisfaction.

Lotta says:

Hey Kelsey! Thanks for your comment. I know how you feel. I still keep swinging between love for and annoyance with this place. At the moment I’m reminding myself of all the good things. There are so many opportunities here, so many things to learn and see, so many interesting people. Not many cities in the world offer your the same range of opportunities and possibilities London does. But as you mention above there are downsides. Long commutes are hard (and then the tube workers start striking!). I wish I had a magic key to finding deep and meaningful friendships in London. I don’t. But I think perseverance and putting on your extrovert shoes helps. That’s easier said than done though, especially if work and a commute takes up a lot of time.

On the whole I guess I still have enough love for all the good things in London to make up for the not so good bits.

Have you decided if you’re staying or leaving?

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