Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Moving Advice FAQ

I seem to be getting asked for advice via email and comments quite a bit lately so I thought I’d compile the Frequently Asked Questions and post all the responses in one place.

Q: Did you find the move was a good life move?
Definitely. Since moving to London nearly three years ago, I've satisfied my travel bug (I've now visited over 35 countries!), met a bunch of new people I now call my friends, gotten promoted at work, fell in love (with a German), started learning German, and have really grown as a person. It's been a highlight in my career and life in general. I think anytime you do something big and bold and outside your comfort zone, add a positive attitude and cross your fingers for a spot of luck – you generally don’t have regrets. I don’t. 

Q: What are the pros & cons of living in London?
Let’s be honest, it’s not all roses. Every city has its pros and cons.

Some of the cons:
  • The weather - it really does rain as much as they say. Maybe more. And it can become really depressing and un-motivating. 
  • Public transportation (or ‘Transport’ as they say) – This is both a blessing and a curse, but after a few too many morning commutes jammed under a smelly armpit, I’ve had enough. I miss my car! It’s not fun lugging groceries home via train.
  • It’s also wildly expensive, at least compared to Chicago. I currently live in a one-bedroom apartment and the rent is more than the mortgage on my 2-bedroom Chicago condo. You get used to being house-poor and if you’re just starting out, it’s not uncommon to live with 5+ other people.
  • Convenience - London is just not a very convenient place to live. Shops close early (Thursday is ‘late night’ when stores stay open til 9p –woohoo!) Which means your weekends are inevitably spent running errands. Grocery stores close at 5P on Sundays.
  • The Service – Don’t get me started. Just be prepared, it's nothing like you're used to.
  • The food – Traditional British food isn't so exciting: Fish & chips, steak pies, bland sandwiches. It just doesn’t seem to matter where you go or what you order, the food is just always average.

Of course you get used to most of this and it just becomes way of life. And it’s only fair now to mention the positives:
  • London is a great base to travel around Europe. With five fairly close airports, you can get just about anywhere and it usually won’t set you back to badly as there are plenty of budget airlines to go around.
  • London is a true melting pot – Due to the European Union and agreement with Commonwealth states, many people (Americans an obvious outlier here) are able to immigrate to the UK. As a result, there’s huge diversity, which makes life & work very interesting.
  • London is an A-class city – You can do just about anything in London huge music festivals, sports, top-notch theater, great sites - whatever you want, you can find it.
  • The markets 
  • The pubs
  • The parks – For a major city with a dense population, London has some pretty outstanding parks and green spaces. 
  • The architecture & the sites – There’s something to be said about being surrounded by old, beautiful buildings no matter where you go. 
  • The safety – Guns are nearly non-existent and for such a massive city (8M people), I’ve never once felt unsafe.
  • Vacation Days – 25 is standard!
  • The Royals – This isn’t really a “pro” per say, but it is unique and has been fun to experience the Royal Wedding, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and the soon-to-be new addition.

Q: How’s the dating scene?
I haven’t been in the dating scene for quite a while, but all my friends and I have done very well so I wouldn’t be too concerned. It’s worth stating that in general, the dating scene is very different than back home. The concept of ‘hitting on’ girls while out and about doesn’t exist whatsoever unless it’s the late hours and the guy has had hours of liquid courage.  Brits are reserved and as such they tend to meet at work, via friends or online. Online dating is alive and kicking here with lots of sites even beyond the standard match.com and eharmony. My favorite is www.uniformdating.com “for anyone who works in uniform or fancies those who do”!  But with so many cultures mixing in London, it’s hard to pin down any set rules.

Q: Do you have any tips on how to make the move? I know it’s really hard to get a job there as an American.
Getting a job in the UK as an American is almost as difficult as being a European trying to get a job in the US. I was lucky enough to move over on a Tier 1 visa which gives me the freedom of not being tied to a company – I’m allowed to stay in the country even if my job lets me go. But they’re not even offering this type of visa anymore as they’re trying to keep UK jobs for the native-born. Youth unemployment (for people under 25) is nearly 25%!

Based on my exposure to a large group of Americans living in London, the single best way to make the move is via a Tier 2 Company-sponsored work visa.  Almost all the people I know in London have secured this work visa via an internal company transfer – they started out somewhere in the US and got that company to move them over. If you’re looking to move to the UK, this is your best shot. Find a multi-national company and put in for a transfer a couple years later.

I can name one case where a girl came over for a week, interviewed like crazy and secured a job that would supply the visa. But this is hard to come by and I wouldn’t bank on this. I have seen several people transfer jobs into new companies who were willing & able to supply the visa, proving that once you get here, you do have some options. But on the other hand, I’ve seen a couple people who had to move back home because they weren’t able to find anything new.

If you have grandparent relatives from the EU, you can possibly finagle something too. I know two Americans here on an EU passport after proving their grandparents were Italian. I don’t know much about this option but it’s worth looking into if you’re a first or second born generation in America.

I believe there are programs out there that help people work abroad when they’re students or new graduates. Many of these programs stipulate that you have to be under 25 or have graduated less than two years ago. I don’t know all the details since I didn’t participate in these personally, but if you’re young, you may have more options available.

Best of luck & please keep the questions coming!


  1. Your blog is very informative. Well I am a great fan of Liam Neeson. I have seen his movie ‘Taken’. I know it’s just a movie. But is the city safe?

    1. Great question - I find the city very safe. Guns pale in comparison to the US...the police don't even carry them! I've never had an issue or even felt unsafe though of course common sense must always prevail.

  2. Hi! I have a couple questions for you. It is a dream of mine to move to London. I will be 25 in a few weeks and I graduate in 2015. I am going to school to be a personal trainer. I was checking to see what American gyms have locations in England. Gold's Gym has locations in London. How hard is it, though, to do a transfer internationally?

    Also, how long do you have to live there and work there before you can finally apply for citizenship to officially become a citizen of the country?

    My last question is what cities fairly close to London are more affordable? I really doubt that I would be able to afford London living when I first move there. As long as I am not too far away from the city, I'll be happy.

    Thank you!!

  3. Hi!

    I am moving to London in two months actually and just wanted your opinion when it comes to what you saw as being the average cost for rent and areas to live?

    You post was very helpful by the way and great to read...I am a fan of pro + con lists :P


  4. I moved to London 5 years ago and still found this interesting to read. I have a similar blog myself (acrossthechannel.org), although my tips perhaps applies better to the Italian culture :)

  5. Hi Shannon! I just stumbled across your blog and I am so excited to read more. I too, have been considering a major change in my life and London was something I thought about these past few months. Of course, I won't be ready (mentally and financially) any time soon but your FAQ had great info to start.



  6. I'm seriously considering an end of '13/beginning of '14 move from NYC to London. I discovered your blog today and have since spent a few consecutive hours reading along with multiple cups of coffee and saucer-shaped eyes. I think your blog may have given me that final "push" and I'm that much more excited about my potential future in the UK.

    I'm wondering if it might be possible to connect with you via email to "pick your brain" about some other London/move-related questions. In exchange, upon my anticipated move, afternoon tea on me. :)

    Hope this isn't too strange, I just think you'd be a great person to know/talk to about this. Let me know.

  7. Just wanna say that this is inspiring. I live in a little suberb called Round Lake, about 40 min away from Chicago. As yourself needed, I need change. London sounds.. Perfect. I like it cold, dark, and rainy, lol. Sounds difficult... But it sounds like something I'll have to look into. Thanks for this.

  8. Thanks everyone for your comments! Love hearing from you!

  9. Hey! I love your site, its really insightful. Im thinking of setting up something similar or even offering a series of videos for people relocating to london with this kind of information. would any of your readers be interested in something like this? would it be something they would pay for? if so, how much? just looking for some feedback really! well done again.. inspiring stuff

  10. Hi Shannon, great blog! Wondering if you are still in London. Has a lot changed since you arrived? I'm planning on relocating there within the next 2 years. I'm an American citizen with an MBA and some experience. Thanks!

  11. So interesting story. I've can't even imagine that it was like you described. When I moved from Chicago, I go to LA, such a beautiful place. For that moment I had a lot of things, even my lovely bed I was taken with me. On that moment I had no vehicle for all my stuff, but even if it was, I dont think that I was able to put it in one car. I take a help from https://www.moveprola.com/west-hills-movers/ very good guys. I am advising it to everyone who want to move.

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