London attracts millions of tourists and expats every year. Many of them decide to stay or return to London sometime after. It is not a surprise to know that nearly 37% of London’s population consists of foreign-born citizens. This number shows only the so called “locals”. London with its relatively strong economy and great entertainment would take the first place in the UK of migrants, who live, study or work there.
And now comes you question – how do they manage? Life in London is not as expected to many of the expats. In our article, you will learn more about the atmosphere, transport and Londoners habits. You will also have your hints, where to look for accommodation and we’ll give you a brief overview of the culture and nightlife in London.
One of major reasons why London is such an attractive place for foreigners is the language. It is quite easy to blend in English speaking country. However don’t forget, British English is different and more complex than American. Adding the different accents of people that came from all over the world and the UK as well, it gets difficult. Don’t be surprised, when you cannot understand what others are saying. London is famous for its slang language, you will hear sentences like : “Stop talking bollocks”; “It cost me bare” or “Get me a pack of fags”. Fortunately for you, no one cares of your accent, no matter how bad it is.
Bank Account & NI Number
The first and most important thing to do when you move to London is to open a bank account and get you NI (National Insurance Number). Whether you’re student or intend to work you must go through these two annoying steps. You will need your ID, a proof you’re employed or student, and address registration. When you open your bank account, you’ll be given a card you can, unfortunately, used only in the UK for the first three years of your stay. Anyway, having a card is necessary for you, as drinking water – everyone pay with cards for everything – groceries, transport, common services. Remember – getting a bank account is a slow procedure.
National Insurance (NI) number is a unique number allocated to you to identify you while you are in the UK. It ensures that the HM Revenue & Customs and the Department of Work and Pensions are able to track the contributions you’ve made to the UK social security and state pension system. NI Number is mandatory for starting a job. To have you NI number you will need many identity documents, such as ID, marriage certificate, driving license, birth certificate and so on.
London has great transport net. It is very easy to move around the city and you have plenty of transport choices. Depending on your location in the city you might have up to seven different transportation options, but we will focus on the most common.
These the famous red buses. Buses in London are a slow type of transport, due to the never-ending traffic. Remember, that not all buses go the center, so you better check your route and stops before taking the bus. At every bus stop, you will have a map, so you can do this even while waiting. There are two major advantages of buses They run even through the night and 2. They are less crowded. Check out the TFL website to plan you journey with the bus.
London’s overground net is complicated, the journey is a little bit more expensive, than with the bus. But it is faster and overground trains have great connections with the Underground major stations. In London are operating three big carriers – DLR, National Rail, and Tfl Rail. All three operators have different schedules and prices. Again the best way to check and plan journey is to use TFL website.
Underground / The Tube
Finally, the Tube is your best and most expensive option to travel. The Tube is really preferred by the locals, as it reaches almost every single point of this huge city. Once you get on the Tube you can make connections with other lines or with trains. The Tube is always very full of people and especially in the rush hours – mornings from 7AM to 9AM and evenings from 5PM to 8PM. In Friday and Saturday night the Tube is full as hell, as everybody go out and hurry. The Tube remains the best and easier way to move around London, in the beginning, is the Tube.
*Tip: You can use a bicycle to move around. In the recent years, even more Londoners started to choose bicycles instead of public transport. It’s great exercise, it’s healthier and surely it’s faster in many ways.
Tickets and Payment
Tickets prices vary between £1.50 to nearly £8.00. You will probably wonder why prices for the same type of transport are different?
How prices are defined? This depends on the hour of your journey, the type of payment and the zone within you travel.
Where to buy tickets? We don’t recommend to actually buy tickets, as they are more expensive this way. You can buy tickets from ticket machines for the trains and the Tube and remember you cannot pay in cash either in buses or in trains/trams.
The best way to pay. You best option is to use contactless cards or Oyster cards. Just tap the cards on the reader when you enter the vehicle/ station and when you go out. The amount of money will be charged to your card. Travelers with cards receive a discount from the ticket price.
Taxi and Minicabs
London’s black taxis are expensive and luxury way to travel. You can wave for a taxi on the street or take it from the taxi rank. Minicabs are also licensed taxis, but you can’t hail them on the street. You should always book your minicab online or on the phone. Minicabs are more affordable, than taxis and they offer solid price per travel.
Finding a place to live is always a hard job, especially in London, where every day someone is leaving or coming. Your first thing to do would be staying at hotel or a hostel, suitable for lower budgets. You can find hostels for 14.00 per night, with a great location in the perfect city center. Choosing a good hostel is quite important, as you might find yourself living in a hostel, longer than you thought.
We should say, it is difficult to find appropriate accommodation at a good price. So you can try shared living. Many people rent their houses, which can accommodate more than from 6 to 8 people. The best way is to use estate agency or search in a popular site like Gumtree.
What to check before you choose accommodation?
First is location, location, location! Very, very important – don’t hire anything far away from you job or school, as you will spend twice more for transport.
Second – learn more, how bills are paid. Are they included in your rent or you have to struggle alone, calculate the spent recourse and argue with roommates.
Third- The condition of your accommodation. If it seems old and it hasn’t been renovated for ages- don’t hire it- never mind the price. The chance anything could break is big and you’ll have to repair it or buy it by yourself.
A lot can be said about London’s cultural environment, but we will give you just a brief overview of the most interesting cultural aspects.
London is not ending with the Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. There are many interesting museums to visit. Starting with The British Museum and National Art Gallery and ending in small contemporary galleries for installations, video art, and hand-made objects, London is on the cutting edge of the art scene. Now, when you intend to live there, don’t rush it as a tourist, take your time. You can start with the most popular Museums in London.
Again musical and stage culture is on a high level in London. You can see live shows every day, no matter if you like rock, pop or classical music. Some of the places every music lover should visit are The O2 Academy, The Barbican Centre, The Royal Opera House, Royal Albert Hall and so on. Music shows start usually at 7PM and almost every venue has a bar/ or couple of bars/ and a restaurant.
As for the stage shows, use your free time to meet famous stage and movie actors, performing on London stage. Only in London a person has the chance to see both classical and modern plays and musicals. London’s West End has become international theatre hub, with a theatre at every corner.
London bursts out every summer with more than 20 summer festivals every year. Psychedelic, dance, D&B, rock, indie, Dub, jazz, every style you can think about is presented in the festivals. Don’t turn your back to the festival and you’ll be surprised how many people you can meet in just one day. Some of the popular events are Camden Rocks, Junction 2, Field Day, British Summer Time, Lovebox and much more.
Every foreigner feels his personal culture shock when he moves to a different country. This is led to minimum in London because you can find any, and this is serious, any type of international kitchen. It’s full of local restaurants, easily found online, which offer quiet atmosphere and tasty dishes. You can try Japanese, Indian or Thai kitchen. Or maybe Mediterranean mild meals, yummy Italian specialties at every corner.
This city is so amazing in its diversity of nationalities and meals, so you’d better start your workout today. However, once you’re in London, give a chance to the local cuisine, it will surprise more than you expect. Finally, always visit the farmer’s markets, they look like a small fair of delicious products and foods. You can buy a bowl of everything just for one pound. In any other day, you can jump to one of the London Markets – Borough Market, Camden Market, Covent Garden.