– aka that time I travelled to the UK and decided to stay.
All my friends ask me how I did it. I’ve always been that kind of girl that does crazy things, but something like moving to another country? Not at all. I travelled a lot, that’s true, but always in safety and comfort without taking a risk. So, probably people that knew me started to think: “how the hell did a girl like her do something like that?”
Many others are just tired of their routines and want a big change to shock their lives and see what they are capable of.
So… I decided to share my experience in the shape of a “to do list” for anyone that would like to make the same experience, step by step.
- RENT A ROOM. You can easily do it online, but first of all you need to be in the UK to see it in person. Most of the times, people online will try to make your future room look way more appealing in pictures than in reality. Also deal with the fact that cheap in most of the situations means far from the city centre AND quite small. My suggestion is: go for an Air BnB accomodation and spend your first days looking for your next, possibly final destination.
- CHANGE YOUR MONEY. Changing money from your currency to sterling pounds can be quite a pain. First of all, places like the Exchange offices in airports have high commissions and you’ll end up losing quite a lot of your savings. Use your credit/debit card when allowed, and change some money when you arrive in the city or in local exchange offices in your city before going to the airport.
- GET AN OYSTER CARD. If you can, start with a monthly subscription. I know it’s quite expensive but it will make you free to roam around, and believe me – your first days you’ll be home just to sleep and have a quick meal and shower.
You can get an Oyster card basically everywhere in the tube stations. Whenever you jump on a bus, you tap your Oyster card on the reader (usually located next to the driver), the light goes green and you go take a seat. In London, you enter the bus from the first door close to the driver and you get off from the central doors or the ones at the end.
When you use the underground, things work a bit differently. You tap your Oyster card when you get in AND when you get out. London Underground is quite expensive, but it’s way faster than a bus and if you’re in a hurry this can be very helpful.
- PAPERS. To have a bank account, you need a job. To have a job, you need your papers to be on point. Go to the closest JobCentre and sign up there. Also, call to obtain a NIN (National Insurance Number), which will be essential to have a job. It will take around two weeks to arrive, but times can vary. You will receive a letter confirming your NIN, and you can then communicate it to the company that’s hiring you.
- JOB INTERVIEW. When you’re called for a job interview, ask them if it’s possible to have a letter confirming you’re being hired. You need to give it to the bank you chose. Sometimes, they will write more than one for you, specifically written for different kinds of bank.
So! Hooray! You arrived in London and successfully found where to sleep, how to move around, you changed your money and probably already found a good job! Now, let’s get down to pro tips for your survival in the city before your first paycheck arrives! 😉
- YOU NEED TO EAT. Basically, there are three big chains that will sell you everything you need in your kitchen: TESCO, SAINSBURY’S and my favorite: WAITROSE. Their specialties and prices are all quite different from each other, so the perfect combo for you will be price vs distance from home, and also your personal taste.
- YOU NEED HOME SUPPLIES. Most of the times, a room for rent comes with a bed, a wardrobe, and something like a mirror, a shelf and/or a desk. But you’ll probably want to have your own clothes horse, pillow, bedsheets and so on. Lucky you, there’s ARGOS! Argos has an innovative way to shop: you visit the closest store, and choose what you need from a tablet.
- YOU NEED CLOTHES. If you’ re not provided with branded clothing by the company you work for, you will need some specific clothes and/or shoes. The cheapest place to find what you need when it comes to clothing is PRIMARK! Also, I highly recommend a nice walk down Oxfort Street though. Won’t regret it! 🙂
- YOU HAVE A HEADACHE. I personally never had any serious injury in here, but sometimes I can be attacked by headache. You can find bland painkillers or aspirin at the supermarket.
- YOU NEED TO COMMUNICATE. English folk is LOVELY! I’m not even joking. They’re a bunch of friendly people. Or at least, this is my experience with them.
Understand that even if you consider London your home, this is their country. Communicate with people. If you get lost, ask infos. If you need help, say it. Just like in everywhere, communication is key. Speaking a good english is an appreciated skill. There are a lot of english schools to learn the language or just get a better pronounciation.
If you think you’re ready to have a fluid conversation just because you watch Hollywood films with subtitles, just stop. British English sounds completely different. Spend a lot of time in watching British TV, chat with everyone: flatmates, coworkers, random people you meet at the pub, even the waitress if she’s not too busy flying from table to table working. This will also help you in making new friends. Break the ice!
Last but not least, be yourself! Be spontaneous, have fun, explore the city, seek online for events and parties. My friends found on Facebook the pictures of a throwback to the 90’s party in Shoreditch, and we went to the next one. I’ve spent the whole night playing jenga with strangers and we also got a polaroid in which we’re all smiling and hugging!
Stay tuned for my next post about the 5 best breakfasts you can have in London!